Blending archival footage and riveting performances, Cesar Chavez focuses on Chavez's rise to prominence in the 1960s, when he cofounded the United Farm Workers union with Dolores Huerta.
Rosario Dawson stars as the inspiring Dolores Huerta in the upcoming film directed by Diego Luna. We spoke with Dawson to get the scoop on what went into playing Huerta, what it was like meeting the inspirational civil rights activist and more!
Check it all out in our exclusive interview below:
The last time we spoke it was some years ago during a Voto Latino event in D.C.
Oh dope! Yeah, you know it’s Voto Latino’s 10th anniversary this year!
That’s right. You must be so proud of your baby!
Yeah, we’re really pumped. It’s gonna be a big year. We’re going to do four summits. It’s an election year. It’s awesome.
It’s interesting, but this film is so powerful and in a way there are some commonalities in terms of mission with this and what you do with Voto Latino.
Oh my God! It was incredible. When we were filming, America [Ferrera] came on board to do the “America for America” campaign for Voto Latino. She had worked with us before. And for me as well, I had met Dolores Huerta twice, before doing the film, because of Voto Latino. She had joined us for our immigration town hall that Maria Teresa had done with Lawrence O’Donnell, so the first time I had met her was actually a couple of years earlier, so it was really… You know, there was so much about it that was so big. And obviously, when you watch the Mandela film, when you watch our film, it’s showing you people from very humble beginnings. You would never think this guy growing up in this dirt hut would end up being the president of South Africa and ending apartheid. The same thing with this Mexican-American man and this woman, Dolores, born in Dawson, New Mexico — I get a kick out of that, that she was born in Dawson. And them coming together and meeting each other, and this group of people that all came together to do something historic. For them to collaborate to organize people who were marginalized, who were disenfranchised, they had to understand their power — that they were no less American just because they were Mexican-American. That they still had rights and the Bill of Rights applied to them. And to see that that bit of noise that they were making…. Basic quality of life stuff: fair wage. You know, you’re out there working in 100-plus degree weather, with no water breaks, and then you’re still not able to feed your own family. Ridiculous stuff. The ridiculousness of all of it. To think that to have a little bit of shade or to take a break, that those could be things that could be argued against, that’s just preposterous.
And to be able to see what that struggle was like and to see people come together… I grew up and I come from a history of… You know, my mother walked in marches for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. My grandmother used to take my mom to marches, marching for labor rights. At the exact same time that Cesar Chavez and Dolores were coming together and marching for these things, Martin Luther King and all of these people in all of those years… So that was my grandmother’s influence and she passed that on to my mom and my mom took me to marches when I was little. And all these years later I got Voto Latino and I’m working with Dolores, who my grandmother was inspired by. It’s just so powerful. My grandmother passed away two years ago, but she got to be such a big part of it and she was so proud—especially coming from Puerto Rico. Being from there, she couldn’t vote for the president. Being there and living in a commonwealth, she was part of the States but she couldn’t participate. One of the prideful things for her was that coming here and living in New York, she could vote and she voted. I feel like when you watch Cesar Chavez in this movie, it’s like Activism 101.
You see it’s not just about getting people together and complaining. It’s not just about organizing people in a march or doing a petition. These are all important things, but they need to lead to something: to a conversation. All of those decades and decades and decades of women coming together and marching and making noise and changing people’s minds and forcing them to consider something that they’d refused to consider before, to change their minds about something when they thought their minds were made up. Now, it’s ridiculous to be like…. As a woman myself and as empowered as an American to be like, “These are my rights and this is what I can do,” and then I go around the world and there are still girls and women who are fighting for those same basic rights that we take for granted very often here in the States. And so it’s wonderful to have a film like this that can show that you don’t have to be rich and famous or have a Ph.D. and all this kind of stuff to make a difference. Cesar showed that you could come from very humble beginnings and make an impact that will be felt all around the world. That boycott reached Europe and it resounded around the world, and that’s a really big deal. And I think it’s very exciting to have an organization that can help support that and vice versa. It’s not just the storytelling but also the lesson of it. Like, okay, it’s an election year this year. Make sure you vote.
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