Diego Luna‘s biographical film Cesar Chavez (2014) depicts the struggle of the agricultural worker population in California during the mid-1960s’-1970. The film demonstrates how Mexican American labor Activist Cesar Chavez, played by actor Michael Peña, united the farmworker community in efforts to gain better wages, working conditions, and benefits for all agricultural workers. This Biographical film reflects the type of employment seen in Director Luis Valdez’s, film La Bamba (1987), during the opening scene when Ritchie Valens‘ family is depicted working in agricultural fields in California with other migrant farmers. Both films although biopics depict similar struggles Mexican Americans faced in the United States with social equality.
Fegroso’s article explains how filmmakers have been recognizing the Chicano/a history, politics, and social struggles through filmmaking in the past thirty years (Fregoso, p.127).
The film’s portrayal of the late Cesar Chavez focused on his involvement in “La Causa”, what’s admirable about the films is how it does not just emphasize on Chavez efforts but on his wife Helen Chavez and Dolores Huerta contributions as well.
Rosario Dawson‘s performance as Dolores Huerta is an inspiration to hopeful actresses by portraying a powerful historical Latin American figure, they can relate to and gives Latin women visibility in the mainstream film industry. Dawson’s role as the young activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers was gratifying to watch because it demonstrated the struggle Huerta faced alongside Cesar Chavez.
It is also inspiring to see actress America Ferrera once again portrays a strong Latin Figure in American films. Although it’s a supporting role, Ferrera’s character of Helen is portrayed as a supportive figure who stands by her husband’s decision to move to a farming community in efforts to get the farmworkers to mobilize. However, she is not just as a wife but an activist as well, demonstrating how the civil rights era helped empower women and minorities.
The film was also set in a predominately agricultural setting which perfectly depicts the working conditions that migrant agricultural workers faced.
The film serves as an overall acknowledgement to all who fought to attain better working conditions that were attained through tactical nonviolent approaches such as strike, boycotts, walkouts, marches and hunger strikes, which at times led to violent backlash from law enforcement and industrialized agricultural employers that made the movement more visible to the consumers and public and political figures.
Fregoso, R. L. (1993). The Bronze Screen: Chicana and Chicano Film Culture. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Luna, D. (Director). (2014). Cesar Chavez [Motion Picture].
Valdez, L. (Director). (1987). La Bamba [Motion Picture].