Friday, August 1, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Chavez film appears incomplete

navarrette column sig

By
From page A9 | March 23, 2014 |

SAN DIEGO — There is excitement in the Latino community, especially among Mexican-Americans in the Southwest. One of their most beloved iconic figures is at last headed to the silver screen.

More than 20 years after his death, Cesar Chavez has finally been discovered by Hollywood. It shouldn’t have taken this long, in an industry populated by liberals that operates in a city – Los Angeles – whose population is now nearly 50 percent Latino. But there is a difference between not buying lettuce to support farmworkers in the 1970s and being willing to put up the money to fund a film on the assumption that people will go see it.

The life and legend of Cesar Chavez will be plastered on movie screens all over the country beginning March 28, when “Cesar Chavez: An American Hero” opens nationwide. Michael Pena is cast as the United Farm Workers leader.

A group of Mexican filmmakers – including Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal and Pablo Cruz, all of whom run the upstart production company, Canana Films – deserves credit for telling a story that their Mexican-American counterparts have wanted to tell since the 1970s.

For the past few weeks there have been invitation-only screenings in select cities, which are doubling as fundraisers for the UFW Foundation. There was a special screening for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and another at the White House.

I know this story well – sometimes, I think, a little too well. I’ve been writing about Chavez and his union for a quarter-century. I once had a confrontation with Chavez himself, and another with the UFW’s co-founder, Dolores Huerta. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the indefensible.

The good: Chavez and the union helped bring dignity into the fields, and it came in the form of toilets, clean water, collective bargaining, lunch breaks and the demise of (BEG ITAL)el cortito(END ITAL). The medieval and crippling short-handled hoe, once ubiquitous in the backbreaking world of farm labor, was eventually outlawed by the state of California in 1975.

The bad: By the 1980s, Chavez began to believe his own press clippings, became paranoid and distrustful of allies, and grew far removed from the very farmworkers he professed to represent. Instead of organizing workers, he got distracted by the drama of calling for grape boycotts. A movement that started out trying to help workers wound up being about simply hurting growers.

The indefensible: Chavez, his cronies and the union itself were essentially surrogates for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. More concerned with maintaining leverage than protecting human rights, Chavez and Co. would call the INS to demand that they come and arrest illegal immigrants who crossed the picket lines. What the union folks referred to derisively as “strikebreakers” were really just people eager to work to feed their families.

It is no wonder that President Obama, who has deported nearly 2 million people, likes to refer to Chavez when speaking to Latino groups. The two would have gotten along splendidly.

The real story of Chavez and the UFW is full of nuance and contradictions. Judging by the trailer, early reviews and media accounts, the dark side of Chavez and the UFW was left out of the film.

This is one of the reasons I expect to emerge from the theater feeling disappointed and frustrated. The movie’s rendition of Chavez is likely to be more saintly than the real thing – and more one-dimensional. That’s too bad. It would have made for a better story to show how Chavez failed the same immigrant farmworkers that many people think he was supposed to represent.

But I also expect to feel proud that this story is finally being told, even if it is incomplete. Blame it on my roots. As a native of the San Joaquin Valley, I was raised about an hour’s drive from the Central California town of Delano where much of the history of the UFW was written. All four of my grandparents worked in the fields picking fruits and vegetables. So did my parents when they were growing up.

People still do such work today. Even in the age of machination, some crops have to be picked by hand. And guess whose hands. Farmworkers do the hard and dirty work necessary to feed the nation. Whether or not Hollywood realizes it, in this story, those are the real heroes.

Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for U-T San Diego. Reach him at ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

Ruben Navarrette

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

‘Boyhood’ mature on music, moments

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B1

 
Mr. Clean: Dennis Regan offers friendly jokes, with a bite

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

Gemstones shine at Solano County Fair

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Trifecta: ‘The Who’s Tommy’ third play in three months

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Japan Summerfest returns this month

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
 
Solano Tea Party Patriots schedule meet

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4, 7 Comments

 
Highway 12 to close overnight in Jameson Canyon

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

Air district calls Spare the Air alert

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Vallejo police arrest suspect in shooting death

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Stabbing victim dies in Vacaville

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5, 4 Comments

 
Fairfield police log: July 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

Suisun City police log: July 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

A look at the impact of Wisconsin’s union law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Union: California prison staff told to fake checks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Abbas seeks broad support for war crimes charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
US, UN announce deal on 72-hour Gaza cease-fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

As US job market strengthens, many don’t feel it

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Dow plunges as multiple worries vex investors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds 2011 union law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Report: Secrecy enveloped Bay Bridge construction

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Yosemite wildfire weakened, evacuations to end

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Candidate goes homeless to show economic gap

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

California ex-mayor sentenced in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Californians to see increase in health plan costs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

Appellate court overturns high-speed rail rulings

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Investigators reach Ukraine jet wreckage site

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Congress races to finish VA, highway bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

See-through mice reveal details of inner anatomy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

 
CIA spied on Senate, internal review finds

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

Demoted worker shoots CEO, kills self in Chicago

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 2 Comments

 
NASA to test making rocket fuel ingredient on Mars

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Opinion

Editorial Cartoons: Aug. 1, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
To err is human – but not in print

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

Why do so many Americans support Hamas

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 16 Comments

 
Nice guy becomes House majority leader

By Dan Walters | From Page: A11

Should union organizing be a civil right?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11, 11 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History for Aug. 1, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Aug. 1, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

My irregular monthly cycles were a symptom of cancer, not menopause

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for Aug. 1, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Aug. 1-7, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Review: Boseman drips with charisma as James Brown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
‘Godfather of Makeup’ Dick Smith dead at 92

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Starz’ ‘Outlander’ brings novels to life vibrantly

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Dionne Warwick knows her way to San Jose

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Entertainment calendar Aug. 1, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: B4

 
‘Sharknado 2′ whipped up storm of viewers, tweets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

Chekwa taking reps with Raiders while Hayden sits

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Safety Bethea finding a groove with new 49ers team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Expos fall short in 10-9 loss to Leghorns

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B7

 
A’s deal Tommy Milone to Twins for Sam Fuld

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

A’s get Lester, Gomes from Red Sox for Cespedes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Phelps to compete in 4 events at US nationals

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Another decent start for Woods at Firestone

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Ravens’ Rice: His actions ‘totally inexcusable’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Dustin Johnson takes leave of absence from golf

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Commonwealth Games athlete convicted for assault on rival

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Lynch ends holdout, arrives at Seahawks camp

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Nick Watney leads PGA Barracuda Championship

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Rich get richer: Rays’ Price traded to Tigers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Dumdumaya takes third in World Junior/Junior Olympic tourney

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

AP Source: Trump advances in Bills sale process

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Mudcats get 15-7 win in Auburn Classic

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B8

Signups for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B9

 
Derrick Brooks set standard for NFL linebackers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

.

Business

Daimler launches new version of tiny Smart car

By The Associated Press | From Page: C1

 
Target taps outsider as CEO for needed shakeup

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Iliad of France makes surprise bid for T-Mobile US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
In San Francisco real estate, $1M won’t buy much

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Facebook’s Internet.org expands in Zambia

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Debit overdraft fees often exceed cost of purchase

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment

Panasonic, Tesla to build big US battery plant

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
SeaWorld, Southwest Airlines ending partnership

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

.

Obituaries

Clifford C. Hemler

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
.

Comics

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9