On October 9 (The Day of Indigenous Resistance), I had the opportunity to view the documentary film Dolores, about the life of labor leader Dolores Huerta, and the privilege to join Fran Rodriguez and Carrie Carranza in a panel discussion organized by Salina Almanzar following the movie. The combination of film about a strong Latina leader and the learning about the work of powerful women in the local Latinx community made for a very inspirational evening.
Dolores is a unique portrayal of an all-too-often overlooked historical figure. Although I had read about Dolores Huerta and her work as co-founder of the UFW, I learned much about her personal life through this film. Early in the film, Huerta cites police brutality against Mexicans and Mexican Americans as the impetus for the development of her social consciousness as a teenager. Through interviews with her children, footage of interviews and appearances by Dolores and other members of the UFW, and interviews with some of Dolores’ contemporaries (notably Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, and Luis Valdez), the film tells the story of Dolores’ pioneering work in civil rights. It also gives a glimpse of her personality: a lover of jazz music with unwavering conviction in her cause and a tireless work ethic.
The film sets the record straight on Dolores’ contribution to the UFW, and highlights the particular successes of the farmworkers’ rights movement. For example, although César Chávez is often credited with the UFW’s slogan, it was indeed Dolores who first chanted, “Sí se puede.” Throughout the UFW’s work in fighting for farmworkers’ rights, they also advocated for the environment, denouncing the use of pesticides and poisons in the fields. The overlap between the 20th century social movements–for civil rights, women’s rights, the environment, and farmworkers’ rights–show how true social change crosses boundaries, and the fact that social justice movements do not exist separately from one another.
My fellow panelists agreed that there is a need to advocate for social change across boundaries of gender, class, and race, and spoke about their work in relation to the greater Lancaster community. Fran Rodriguez continues a decade-long project producing knowledge about the Lancaster Latinx community through her Adelante forum, meeting later this month. Carrie Carranza fights for undocumented youth with Church World Services, and her Invisible Americans uses photography to bring awareness about the obstacles that immigrants face right here in our own community. Together with Salina, an artist, scholar, activist, and aspiring school board member, the women on this panel represent the strong leadership here in the city working toward positive change here in Lancaster. It was a pleasure to meet them, and I look forward to supporting them in their work!
To watch the discussion for yourself, check out the live feed from Latinx Lancaster’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LatinxLancaster/videos/1684167224926890/?hc_ref=ARQEKLUtuqf3tJyQV-XZ4qaRoB9QQRrbwNjrVP91jRlYzqz-Iq5EGIaBJa5wWciwzUk&pnref=story