Entertainment

A Documentary Is Shedding Light On The Labor Organizer Who Fought For Farmworkers Before Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez are often considered the leaders in the farmworkers rights movement. The two have done a lot to better the lives of those working in the fields, but a new documentary is highlighting a forgotten hero in the farmworkers rights movement. “Adios Amor” is highlighting the work of Maria Moreno, who fought for their rights before Huerta and Chavez continued her work.

Before Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, there was Maria Moreno, the first female farmworker to lead a union.

Credit: George Ballis / Take Stock

 Adiós Amor—The Search for Maria Moreno, is a feature film that examines the life and death of the obscure labor leader. Moreno was a migrant mother who sacrificed everything but her twelve kids in the pursuit of justice for farmworkers. During the late ’50s and ’60s, Moreno’s work led poor agricultural workers into a movement that would later capture the heart of the nation. 

The discovery of forgotten photographs taken more than fifty years ago sparked the search for an unsung hero. A migrant mother haunted by a personal tragedy who rolled up her sleeves, collected signatures, and electrified audiences with her gift for public speaking for a cause she believed in.

Moreno was the first female farmworker in America to be hired as a union organizer. She was elected by her fellow Mexican American, Filipino, Black and Okie farmworkers to represent them. Her charisma attracted crowds, but it also got her into trouble with her labor bosses who fired her for being so outspoken. 

The film’s director and producer Laurie Coyle found photos of Moreno tucked away in an archive.

Credit: George Ballis / Take Stock

Were it not for the Maverick photographers and journalists who captured Maria’s legacy, her story might have been lost. Coyle has said that the idea for the project began after she found the images captured by late farmworker photographer George Ballis. The photos depict Moreno speaking in front of crowds and meeting with workers in the fields of California, racing to events with her children and husband.

“She had this piercing gaze and always seemed to be surrounded by children,” Coyle told Shoot Online. “I couldn’t help but be captivated.”

Coyle began researching about Moreno. But the whereabouts of the activist later in life remains a mystery. The search for Moreno guides the documentary, where characters fade in and out like ghosts. From California’s Great Central Valley to the Arizona desert and U.S.-Mexico border, the journey tells Moreno’s story with passion and humor. The director soon discovered radio journalist Ernest Lowe, who had followed Moreno during her days as a union leader and had also been enchanted by her charisma. 

Moreno and her family were traveling farmworkers following the crops.

Credit: George Ballis / Take Stock

Born to a Mexican immigrant father and Mescalero Apache mother, in Karnes City, Texas; Moreno and her family were nomadic farmworkers for years. Following the crops, their travels took them to Utah, California, Arizona, and Texas. 

In April 1958, Moreno started her union activism following a flood that pushed many workers into starvation. Coyle found that one of her sons went blind temporarily due to extreme hunger. “How do you think that I feel … seeing my son blind only because we don’t got nothing to eat?” Moreno said in one passionate speech. “(Meanwhile), some other tables are full and wasting food.”

In a time of unprecedented abundance, farmworkers lived in dire poverty, and Maria Moreno set out to change that.

Credit: George Ballis / Take Stock

A deeply human drama is brought to the viewers’ attention, Mexican-American farmworkers living in dire poverty at a time of unprecedented abundance. An abundance sustained by impoverished peoples’ faith, family values, and working-class culture. 

Adios Amor – The Search for Maria Moreno pays tribute to the people whose hard work feeds the nation, and celebrates the courageous woman who told their story to the world.

She gained support from Oklahoma migrants, Filipino American workers, and Latino pickers, and was active in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, a union that was sponsored by the AFL-CIO.

“It was so unusual for a woman like her back then to be in this position,” Coyle told Shoot Online. “The first time I understood that she was somebody different was when she went to (University of California,) Berkeley,” Martha Moreno Dominguez, her daughter, said in the film. “I realized who my mother really was … I said, wow, you know. Here’s my mother, a second-grade education doing this.”

Eventually, Moreno was forced out of the union and left California to practice her faith.

Credit: George Ballis / Take Stock

Eventually, in 1962, Moreno was forced out of the fight due to jealousy and disagreements within the union. Documents show an AFL-CIO official accused her of misspending and she was forced to step down from leadership.

“She wasn’t afraid to say whatever she had to say,” Gilbert Padilla, co-founder for the United Farm Workers, told Shoot Online. “I assume that’s why they got rid of her.”

Coyle’s research found that when Cesar Chavez began to form his own farmworkers union, he purposely kept Moreno out of it, seeing her as a “big mouth”, and a possible rival.

Moreno’s children say she left California for a remote part of the Arizona desert, 100 miles west of Phoenix, where she asked God for guidance. Later in her life, Moreno became a Pentecostal minister along the US-Mexico border in San Luis, Arizona. She sought to transform society one soul at a time, instead of focusing on systemic change. Maria Moreno died in 1989, largely forgotten.

Watch the trailer below.

The film is set to premiere Friday, September 27 on most PBS stations.

READ: Dolores Huerta The Latina Freedom Fighter Who Taught Us ‘Sí Se Puede’ Has Been Arrested Over 20 Times

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9 Films, Docs and Series About Latinas to Watch Before Women’s History Month Comes to an End

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9 Films, Docs and Series About Latinas to Watch Before Women’s History Month Comes to an End

Whether you want to celebrate Women’s History Month with a movie night or appreciate media about powerful mujeres year-round, you’re probably looking for a few films, documentaries or TV series to add to your streaming queue right now. Regrettably (and shamefully), most of the lists cropping on entertainment news sites don’t feature projects made for, by or about Latinas. With that in mind, we’ve put together some titles centering narratives about Latina trailblazers and heroines from Latin American and U.S. history. So clear your weekend cal and purchase all of your fave movie theater snacks, because you can watch (most of) these films, documentaries and series right from your computer screen.

1. Dolores

If you’re looking for documentaries about Latina heroines, start with Dolores, the 2017 film about the life and activism of Chicana labor union activist Dolores Huerta. The doc, executive produced by Carlos Santana and Benjamin Bratt, and directed by Bratt’s brother, Peter, delves into how the 90-year-old co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later named the United Farm Workers), her famous “Sí se puede” rallying cry and her role in the women’s rights movement. Including interviews with Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and more, Dolores celebrates the history and ongoing activism of one of the country’s most critical civil rights leaders. Watch Dolores on Amazon Prime.

2. Isabel: The Intimate Story Of Isabel Allende

Isabel: The Intimate Story Of Isabel Allende, a three-part docuseries about the famed Chilean author and feminist, is one of the most exciting new drops. The HBO Max series, directed by Rodrigo Bazaes, premiered on March 12, just in time for Women’s History Month. Like all good biopics, Isabel reveals the person behind the icon, portraying Allende’s path from a young woman fighting her way into a male-dominated industry to the most-read Spanish-language author of all time. As the niece of assassinated Chilean President Salvador Allende, the series also gets political, bringing light to her life under the regime of General Augusto Pinochet as well as her own feminist activism. Watch Isabel on HBO Max.

3. Knock Down the House

Knock Down the House portrays the political rise of a Latina icon in the making: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While the 2019 documentary by Rachel Lears revolves around the 2018 congressional primary campaigns of four progressive women, Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin, the Puerto Rican now-congresswoman is the only one who wins her race (though Bush won in the next election cycle) and thus much of the film focuses on her story. A first-time candidate with a passion for social justice, a degree in international relations and economics, and a job in bartending, the doc shows how a regular, degular, shmegular girl from the Bronx unseated one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress with a progressive platform and a focus on community. Watch Knock Down the House on Netflix.

4. Lorena: Light-Footed Woman

In 2017, María Lorena Ramírez’s name made international headlines when the young woman defeated 500 other runners from 12 different countries at the Ultra Trail Cerro Rojo in Puebla, Mexico. Ramírez didn’t just stand out because of her speed but also because she ran without professional gear. Instead, she donned the traditional clothes of the Tarahumara, Indigenous people in Chihuahua, Mexico, including a floral skirt and a pair of huaraches. Capturing the world’s attention, Ramírez became the focus of the 2019 documentary Lorena: Light-Footed Woman, which was directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo. The short doc beautifully tells the tale of a young woman’s athletic training in the mountains where she grew up to become a celebrated long-distance runner while staying true to her culture and traditions. Lorena: Light-Footed Woman is streaming on Netflix.

5. Berta Didn’t Die, She Multiplied!

In Honduras, the most dangerous country in the world for land defenders, Berta Cáceres’ life was taken because of her commitment to the environmental justice struggle. Back in the Central American country, Berta’s assassination hasn’t been forgotten and neither has her fight. The 2017 short doc Berta Didn’t Die, She Multiplied!, directed by Sam Vinal, shows how her work lives on among Indigenous Lenca and Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people of Honduras, who continue to struggle against capitalism, patriarchy, racism and homophobia, for our land and our water. Watch Berta Didn’t Die, She Multiplied! on Vimeo.

6. Celia

Celia reveals the story of one of the most powerful voices and greatest icons of Latin music, Afro-Cubana salsera Celia Cruz. The Spanish-language novela, produced by Fox Telecolombia for RCN Televisión and Telemundo, starts at the beginning, when Cruz was an aspiring singer in Havana, and takes viewers through to her time joining La Sonora Matancera, leaving her homeland with her would-be husband Pedro Knight and gaining massive superstardom as the “Queen of Salsa.” Watch Celia on AppleTV+.

7. Beauties of the Night

In the first half of the 20th century, showgirls dominated the entertainment scene in Latin America. Their glamorous looks and luxe performances were enjoyed by audiences of all ages and genders. But around the 1970s, as VHS pornos took off, these scantily clad talents started to lose work and, as a result, their lucrative incomes. Oftentimes, these women came from low-income backgrounds and didn’t have a formal education, forcing many of the vedettes to also feel like they’ve lost their sense of purpose and impelling some to take on work they didn’t feel good about in order to stay afloat in the industry. In Beauties of the Night, directed by María José Cuevas, we see some of Mexico and South America’s leading showgirls, Olga Breeskin, Lyn May, Rossy Mendoza, Wanda Seux and Princesa Yamal, and how their lives transformed as the work they were once famous for lost its reverence. Watch Beauties of the Night on Netflix.

8. Frida

The 2002 biographical drama film Frida shares the professional and private life of one of the most famous woman artists of all time, Frida Kahlo. Directed by Julie Taymor and starring Salma Hayek, the Academy Award-nominated film touches on many aspects of the late Mexican artist and feminist’s life, from her life-altering accident in 1922 and her tumultuous relationship with muralist Diego Rivera to her bisexual identity, political affiliations and, of course, her time-defying art and self portraits. Watch Frida on Amazon Prime.

9. Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It


With a career spanning 70 years, Rita Moreno is one of the most famous and beloved actresses of all time. The only Latina to have won all four major annual U.S. entertainment awards, an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony, her own life is certainly worthy of a film; and in 2021, director Mariem Pérez Riera gave the Puerto Rican star what she deserves with Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It. The documentary, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on January 29, 2021, features interviews with Moreno, Eva Longoria, Gloria Estefan, Normal Lear, Whoopi Goldberg and more. More than just a celebration of all the barriers Moreno broke, the film also delves into her personal life, including the racism she endured on her road to stardom, the sexual violence she experienced in Hollywood, her struggle with mental health and suicidal ideation and her fight for multidimensional roles for people of color. While Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It isn’t streaming yet, it is set to air on PBS’ American Masters later this year.

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Coachella Farmworkers Are First In The Nation To Receive ‘Hero Pay’

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Coachella Farmworkers Are First In The Nation To Receive ‘Hero Pay’

Farmworkers in Coachella are the first in the nation to receive “hero pay.” There are hundreds of thousands of farmworkers in California and most are undocumented. Their work throughout the pandemic has kept food on the table for people across the country.

The city of Coachella extended “hero pay” to farmworkers

It is the first city in the nation to extend “hero pay” to farmworkers. According to the LA Times, 8,000 farmworkers live in the Coachella Valley and the ordinance goes into effect immediately. The ordinance gives employees an additional $4 an hour in pay for at least four months.

“We know that COVID has been more prominent in these agricultural communities, and if you look at the mortality rates, a lot of farmworkers have died,” Mayor Steven Hernandez told the LA Times. “You can see the devastation.”

Coachella is also going above and beyond to vaccinate the farmworkers as well.

A UC San Francisco study showed that farmworkers and restaurant workers are at a much higher risk of Covid because of the work they do. As such, the city of Coachella also decided to lead the nation is making sure that the farmworker community is signed up for vaccinations as they become available.

Governor Gavin Newsom highlighted the need to vaccinate farmworkers because of their vulnerability to the virus. Compounding on the issue is that Latinos tend to live in multi-generational houses and work other essential jobs. The risk of spreading the virus to vulnerable people is high within the community and part of the reason the city is rushing to vaccinate farmworkers.

“The heroes we talk about in this pandemic are not just our nurses and doctors, not just our frontline employees … (but also) our grocery store workers, our restaurant workers and our farmworkers,” Gov. Newsom said at a press conference.

People are celebrating Coachella for doing what they can to protect farmworkers.

Farmworkers have been crucial in making sure that grocery stores have been stocked with produce throughout the pandemic. The work done by farmworkers has made life possible for people during one of the hardest and darkest moments in the world. As the nation sheltered in place during the outbreak of Covid, farmworkers joined the ranks of essential workers that kept the economy and life moving.

Coachella’s ordinance comes at a moment when Kroger, a major corporation, shut down locations instead of giving employees “hero pay.”

Cities and states are passing ordinances to increase the pay for certain essential and frontline workers for their bravery. Kroger, which earned more than $121 billion dollars in 2020, chose to close locations rather than pay employees hazard pay for working through a pandemic.

“When large corporations make record profits and double their earnings – they need to share that success with those providing the labor. Period,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia tweeted about Kroger, which owns Food 4 Less and Ralph’s among other brands.

READ: Farmworkers Are Testing Positive For Covid-19 At Record Numbers, So What Are Officials Doing To Help?

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