Why is a movie about Cesar Chavez coming out right now?
Mexican actor and director Diego Luna started on working on the project four years ago. His son was born in Los Angeles, making him a Mexican-American, and Luna wanted to tell a story about an important Mexican-American most of Americans had never even heard of. "I wanted to tell a story about Mexican-Americans so my son could understand where he comes from in a way," Luna said, "and when I started meeting the people who had to do with the movement, I realized there was so much material that nobody was using, nobody was sharing, and I was shocked."
But who was Cesar Chavez and what did he do?
Chavez was a Mexican-American civil rights activists who was born in Arizona and spent his life trying to better the working conditions and pay of farm workers. As a kid he worked in the fields with his family as migrant farm workers, and as an adult he co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962 — which later merged with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and became the United Farm Workers (UFW) in 1972.
He was best known for his non-violent tactics, like leading a 300-mile march from Delano, California to Sacramento, California, fasting for over three weeks, and organizing the famous table grape boycott of 1968.
What do grapes have to do with this?
In the late '60s, Chavez was in the thick of it with grape growing companies who weren't providing decent compensation or labor conditions to their workers, so the UFW went around them and outreached directly to consumers. According to Luna, by asking supermarket shoppers "Why can your kids go to school while mine have to work in fields for your kids to eat those grapes at lunch time?" the farm workers were able to convince many consumers to support their cause.
The boycott is one of the most emphasized story lines in Luna's film and it resulted in several growers signing contracts with the unions, providing better pay and conditions for farm workers.
What made Luna want to share this story now was bigger than the boycott. Chavez' story is of a movement that didn't promote violence, but used ideas as a tool of change, and Luna says there's a need for many Cesar Chavez's in the U.S. today.
Romina Puga is a pop culture reporter and producer for Fusion. You can find her on "Fusion Now," Fusion's daily TV updates, going over new movies, music, apps, and why D'Angelo is still sexy.