Entertainment

A New 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

Well-Known Chilean Indigenous Leader Alberto Curamil Has Been Acquitted

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Well-Known Chilean Indigenous Leader Alberto Curamil Has Been Acquitted

mapuche_international_l / Instagram

After worldwide protest, Indigenous leader Alberto Curamil has been acquitted of charges related to his actions to stop the construction of a dam on a sacred river. Curamil, along with his co-defendant Álvaro Millalén, would have faced 50 years in prison for “raiding a compensation fund,” “gun theft,” and “illegal possession of weapons.” If it weren’t for the four international environmental and legal nonprofit groups who advocated for Curamil and Millalén, it’s likely that the case wouldn’t have received international pressure from the public. The judges assigned to the case unanimously decided to acquit both of all charges last Friday, but that’s not often the case.

The criminalization of environmental defenders, who are often Indigenous leaders, is on the rise in Latin America.

Alberto Curamil’s efforts have earned him this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize, often considered the “Green Nobel Peace Prize.”

CREDIT: @JAIMECUYANAO / TWITTER

Alberto Curamil is an indigenous Mapuche and Lonko (traditional leader) to his people. The Mapuche are the largest indigenous group in Chile, their name translating to “people of the land.” The Mapuche view the natural world around them, including rivers and forests, as kin to their brothers. The Mapuche have long been victimized and criminalized by the Chilean government. In the late 1800s, the Chilean army was tasked with invading their land to privatize and sell it to individual owners. The government forcibly stole the Mapuche land and would go on to privatize water in the entire country. 

In the last decade, Chile’s minister of energy announced a project that would include building 40 dams on the Mapuche’s rivers, two of which would be in the heart of their community. While the project would generate more energy for the country, it would irreparably harm the riparian ecosystems. Alberto Curamil, 45, has dedicated his life to protecting Mapuche rivers and preserving the Mapuche native language of Mapudungun. He formed a coalition with other community members, academics, environmental organizations and launched a massive public, media and legal campaign against the projects. For his work, he earned the 2019 Goldman Prize, also known as the “Green Nobel Peace Prize.” The government acknowledged his work with criminal charges that would effectively mean he’d die in prison.

Police accused Curamil of disorderly conduct and beat him while he was in custody.

CREDIT: @RAYBAE689 / TWITTER

According to the Goldman Prize organization, “police arrested Curamil and two other Mapuche leaders and accused them of disorderly conduct and causing public unrest for organizing protests. Police beat Curamil while in custody, badly bruising his face. Police also attacked his pregnant wife.” Still, his legal battle with the Chilean government proved fruitful. Two years after Curamil was arrested and beaten, his continued campaign yielded a victory: Chile’s Third Environmental Tribunal ruled that one of the two dams would be canceled because the government violated its own laws to consult with the Mapuche or environmental experts on its impacts.

Two years after the victory, police arrested Curamil once again in what many believe was a frame-job to take Curamil out of the picture while Chile approved another hydroelectric project on the same river.

CREDIT: @TWEETLIAM / TWITTER

Curamil was arrested in August 2018 after an “anonymous tip” connected Curamil, Álvaro Millalén, Alberto José Cáceres and Víctor Llanquileo Pilquimán with a $76 million peso robbery. Curamil has spent the last 15 months in Temuco prison awaiting trial. He wasn’t even able to attend his own awards ceremony to receive the Green Nobel Peace award. His daughter, Belén, 18, went to accept the award on behalf of her father, who she called a “political prisoner,” according to NBC News. Many believe the firearms “found” in his home were planted given that his DNA was not found on the weapons.

“I am very happy because we knew that both Alberto Curamil and Álvaro Millalén were innocent,” Curamil’s daughter, Belén, told press outside the courtroom that finally allowed Curamil to walk free, according to NBC News. “If they were imprisoned for so long, it is because they raised their voices and fought for our territory, for the freedom of our ‘mapu,’ the freedom of our rivers and the freedom of the Mapuche people.” Curamil’s advocacy for the environment as inadvertently spurred another advocacy in his daughter: to decriminalize environmental human rights defenders.

Belén has spent the last 15 months of her father’s imprisonment to speak out against the rising criminalization of indigenous leaders for defending their land. In September, she spoke in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the topic.

READ: Indigenous Leaders And Environmental Groups Have Concerns Over President AMLO’s Tourist Train In The Yucatán

Camilla Cabello Appears Alongside Latina Activists And Game Changers For Time Magazine’s Newly Launched ‘Time 100 Next’

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Camilla Cabello Appears Alongside Latina Activists And Game Changers For Time Magazine’s Newly Launched ‘Time 100 Next’

camila_cabello / Instagram

Time Magazine launched the first edition of its TIME 100 Next list. The new list, which is meant to expand upon Time’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, which was first published in 1999, is meant to honor the rising stars of industries such as activism, art, and health.  

Not surprisingly, many of the honorees are Latinos!

Camila Cabello Time’s Big Artist 

Grammy-winning recording artist Alejandro Sanz writes about Cuban artist and upcoming actress Camila Cabello in the TIME magazine profile writing that she “is a pure and magnetic artist. We met a few years ago at the Latin Grammys, and shortly afterward, she told me that she wanted to sing together. In all my years in this industry, Camila was the first artist I’ve ever told that she could pick whatever song she wanted to sing.”

In his piece about Cabello, Sanz reiterates Cabello’s career writing that following her success with Fifth Harmony she began recording as a solo artist and worked to bring the roots of Latin music to a  broader audience. “In times like these, when noise can distort the purity of an artist’s message, Camila has managed to honor her story and her background in an authentic way with her pop music. The impact of her songs—from ‘Havana’ and ‘Señorita’ to ‘Shameless’ and ‘Liar’—has opened the door so that the world can see and hear the massive potential of the Latin music community.”

Vanessa Luna The Big Time Leader 

Writer Jasmine Aguilera explained that Vanessa Luna was working as an educator in Los Angeles in 2014 when one of her student’s parents had been deported. The incident gave Luna “an up-close view of how immigration policy can impact a child’s education. Three years later, the educator and DACA recipient co-founded ImmSchools, a nonprofit that trains teachers to better support America’s millions of children with undocumented family members by creating more inclusive classroom environments. In ImmSchools’ first 12 months, 960 students and their families participated in its programs—which include know-your-rights workshops and college-admissions guidance—and Luna, who was named a 2019 Roddenberry Fellow, says the nonprofit will reach more than 1,000 educators this fiscal year. “It shouldn’t be luck that an undocumented student gets what they need in school.”

Jess Morales Rocketto The Innovator 

@latinbowl/ Twitter 

Former Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton writes in her Times piece that “you couldn’t miss Jess Morales Rocketto during my 2016 campaign: she was the young woman standing on top of a cabinet, leading hundreds of staff and volunteers in a rousing chant. After the election, she used her passion, digital savvy and activist experience to facilitate the protests that cropped up at airports across America. She joined the National Domestic Workers Alliance, tackling issues from economic justice to immigration reform. Faced with the crisis at the border, Jess helped lead efforts to reunite every child with their loved ones. And after witnessing the power of women’s activism, she helped launch Supermajority, an organization dedicated to gender equity. She is not only tireless—she is fearless.”

Silvia Caballero the Innovator 

Senior Time’s writer Jeffrey Kluger describes Caballero, microbiologist and immunologist, as a researcher determined to save lives. According to Kluger, Caballero graduated from Weill Cornell Medical College in 2009 eventually began to work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where she developed a lab mouse with a gut that replicates the human systems infected by drug-resistant bugs. “She then turned the bodies of the mice against the invaders, discovering natural bacteria within the gut that could beat back the infection,” writes Kluger. “Now working for Vedanta Biosciences in Massachusetts, she heads the company’s multidrug-resistant organism decolonization program, whose goal is to do for people what Caballero did for the mice. Her treatment protocol could go into early trials in two years.”

Alexandra Rojas The Advocate 

Time / Twitter 

Writing about Alexandra Rojas, the executive director for Justice Democrats, TIME’s correspondent Charlotte Alter writes that “Rojas and her team recruit and train primary challengers—often young, working-class people of color—to unseat less progressive incumbents. In 2018, they helped elect what’s now known as the Squad: Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. Now Rojas is working to turn that momentum into more electoral power by building a bench of young progressives in Congress. So far, her group has endorsed eight new candidates running for congressional seats in 2020, including 26-year-old immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, who has already raised more than seven times Ocasio-Cortez’s 2017 total. “

Paula Jofré A Chilean Innovator  

As Kluger describes in a separate profile about Jofré,  the Chilean researcher believes humans have a lot in common with the stars. “The sun and other stars are a lot like people: they’re born, they age, and they die. Oh, and they have relatives,” writes Kluger. “Jofré, of Diego Portales University in Chile, had along with anthropologist Robert Foley of the University of Cambridge when the two began musing that stars birthed in particular parts of the universe could be elementally related because they condense out of the same interstellar clouds. Since then, they have studied the chemical spectra of the sun and 21 other local stars, and indeed found the equivalent of genetic connections and even a family tree. With trillions more stars across the universe, there are a lot more ancestral connections to be made.”