By Richard Gonzalez
History has taught us so much about the life of the civil rights icon, Cesar Chavez, but less is known about his United Farm Workers cofounder Dolores Huerta. The new documentary Dolores hopes to not only change that, but to spotlight Huerta and her courageous fights for farm workers, along with her fights for women’s rights, equal rights for the LGBTQ community, and environmental justice.
The documentary premiered to a standing ovation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This coincided with the Women’s March on Washington, which saw huge support in cities across the country. True to form, Huerta took to the streets of Park City, Utah—where Sundance takes place—to march in solidarity. She was greeted with chants of, “Si Se Puede!,” which loosely translated means, “Yes We Can!” This was not only a battle cry for Huerta and the United Farm Workers movement, but also served as the inspiration for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.
All of this is fitting for Huerta, who has never slowed down when fighting for the causes she believes in. She began her life as a humanitarian in the 1960s as a comrade in arms with Cesar Chavez, working for basic human rights of farmworkers such as clean drinking water, functioning toilets, safe working conditions, regular rest breaks, and a minimum wage. Together Chavez and Huerta organized strikes and marches in California, and most notoriously a nationwide grape boycott to protest vineyard workers’ exposure to toxic pesticides. While Chavez has gone on to have foundations and streets across the country named after him, Huerta has still remained largely in the shadows despite never letting up on her fight. Since the ‘60s she has been arrested more than twenty times, been beaten and seriously wounded by police, and famously stood on the podium alongside Robert F. Kennedy just minutes before he was assassinated in 1968.
All of these events are highlighted in the documentary, which Huerta said was hard to watch because she was forced to relive a lot of those tragedies. She mentioned that even though she would’ve preferred the documentary to be less about the past and more about the future, many of the issues like police violence, discrimination against women, and issues with firearms are still relevant today.
At 86 years old, Huerta was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama. You would imagine that at her age Huerta might be slowing down, but with this new administration she says she is ready to fight once again to avoid the loss of things she has worked so hard to protect.
Dolores made its Texas debut February 24th as the opening night film at CineFestival, the nation’s longest running Latino film festival. You can find more info on future screenings at DoloresTheMovie.com. For tickets and more info on the CineFestival, running until March 4th, check out cinefestival.org.