1. After napping for almost two-and-a-half hours on the press bus, I woke up to find this outside my window:
We were in Delano, Calif., approximately 150 miles north of Los Angeles. This was definitely Farmland, USA.
2. As we arrived at Forty Acres, the location of the premiere, loads of people walked off buses waving red flags and chanting “¡SI SE PUEDE!”
The flags were from the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), the union that Chavez helped build at the Forty Acres site.
3. La Campesina 92.5 FM played some old-school Banda music.
The DJ encouraged people to dance, but no one really took to the dance floor. However, the general feeling of the people in attendance was one of excitement. Between the anticipation of seeing actor Diego Luna, watching a film about their struggle, or getting a taste of the free food, there was a fun vibe in the air.
4. “Everybody, the food is ready!”
Free food was served. Wait, no. It was even better: Free MEXICAN food was served.
5. As there was still time before the screening, I embarked on a mini-tour of Forty Acres, the heart of Chavez’s farm worker movement.
It served as the original headquarters for the UFW and the location of Chavez’s first 25-day fast in 1968, in an effort to promote non-violent strikes. It was quite surreal for a Hollywood film about Chavez to premiere here.
6. This was the room where Chavez remained for his entire 25-day fast.
7. This was where the farm workers attended mass.
Originally built as a storage unit.
8. And finally, this was the room where UFW signed the historic contracts that would affect the lives of more than 70,000 farm workers and their families in 1970.
Reuther Hall was the location where the UFW succeeded in reaching a collective-bargaining agreement with Delano growers.
9. I came across Josefina Flores, who joined Chavez’s farm worker movement when she was 26 back in 1965. She told me an interesting story:
10. “Back in my day, mijito, women had to fight for their right to use a proper toilet.”
“The women had to form a circle in the fields. And then one by one, we would do our business in the center of the circle. We had to create a sense of privacy. There were men, children, families working in the fields and here we were doing our business in the open air… It was humiliating.”
11. “Being part of a union is more than protecting your benefits,” Flores said. “It’s about protecting your dignity and the dignity of your family.”
“We have to suffer. We have to sacrifice. We have to keep fighting for our children. And their children’s children. It’s all part of life.”
12. I asked people to write on a whiteboard what Chavez meant to them. Here were some of their responses.
13. “For me, Chavez was a farm worker who helped us fight for our benefits.” — Luis, Farm Worker
Luis told BuzzFeed, “I work on the farm. I pick onions, celery, whatever. There’s no shame in it. I’m a proud man.”
14. “Leader to all farm workers.” — Valentina, Farm Worker
15. “Motivation to me, because he fought for Mexicans’ rights and never gave up. It means so much because without him, I wouldn’t be living in a house or eating.” — Andrea, 15
16. “Cesar Chavez is a Mexican who fought for our rights and succeeded. He means a lot to all Mexicans.” — Rudolfo, 14
Rudolfo’s friend kept saying, “Just write down that Chavez was the shit. Can you say ‘shit’ on BuzzFeed?”
17. “An important man in the lives of all farm workers. He fought for us to get better working conditions, better salaries, and paid vacation time.” — Rafael, Farm Worker
18. “Equality.” — Lupita, 19
19. “Chavez was a leader, a man, and a father for all farm workers.” – Josefina Flores, alongside other UFW Veterans
20. “Never give up! Si se puede!” — Paul Chavez and family, son and grandchildren of Cesar Chavez
21. As the sun set and the seats were filled, people waved their red flags in the air.
22. The DJ announced a roll call of all the neighboring towns that were bussed in for the screening. People went wild.
Bakersfield and Fresno got some of the biggest props. But everyone was in a cheerful mood.
23. Someone mentioned Diego Luna’s name and ran. This caused a bit of commotion.
“IS THAT DIEGO? OH MY GOD! GO GET A PICTURE!”
24. After the DJ calmed everyone down, Paul Chavez said a few words.
“I was hesitant. How could [Diego Luna] a director from Mexico City possibly tell this story? But he listened and he successfully portrayed the conflict between the worker and the ranchero… He managed to capture the humanity of Cesar.”
25. Finally, Diego Luna was introduced and spoke to the farm workers in attendance.
“This film has been four years in the making. This story is about you… We could not find the support for this film in the U.S. so we had to find support elsewhere to tell this American story.”
“I hope you feel represented in this film,” Luna said. “We’re celebrating you. We’re celebrating your struggle for equal rights, because it’s unfair that those who pick the food can’t have the same rights as those who eat the food. So I hope you spread the word and go see this film in theaters. Let America know we want to see more Latino stories told in film.”
28. And then took a photo of the audience.
29. Then, a Spanish-dubbed version of the film was screened to more than 1,000 farm workers and their families.
30. A tweet from the UFW summarizes this film in the most succinct way possible:
There are plenty of reasons why people should go see this film. By the end of the night, I couldn’t help but feel part of the campesino movement. This film did an extraordinary job of showcasing a side of America that desperately needs attention.
32. Paul Chavez INSISTED on taking a photo of me holding the white board, wanting to know what his father meant to me. The photo came out blurry, but I thought I should include it anyway.
33. “The first man I learned about in school who looked like me.”
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