Dolores Huerta is a woman who revels in the victories she has won over the years, victories too numerous to list here. She is also a woman who, at 87, has not slowed down in her fight for what still needs to be done in her fight for social justice. The legend started as young wife and mother, doing community organizing in Stockton, CA, before co-founding, with Cesar Chavez, the National Farmworkers Association, which would become the United Farm Workers. Their partnership, and tumultuous relationship, would achieve better working conditions for the workers, while also breaking barriers for women and people of color. At age 82, she established the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which brings her full circle as a community organizer.
Peter Bratt gamely took on the challenge of telling her life story in feature-length documentary, his first after two narrative features, so that Huerta’s story, and her legacy, would not be lost. That issue of selective historical memory that he discusses later in the interview. When I spoke to them on Labor Day, September 4, 2017, though, I wanted to start at the beginning, asking Huerta what it was like, back in 1959, to be a Latina in her 20s lobbying old white men in the California legislature
We went on to talk about the fear that provoked Arizona lawmakers to remove ethnic studies from the public schools there; how Carlos Santana sparked Bratt to make the film; who Huerta considers the father of the Chicano Movement; and why Huerta defied the cultural norms of her time.
We finished up with Bratt discussing the decisions he had to make in order to encapsulate Huerta’s life in a feature-length documentary format; how a woman of 87 years has never burned out after devoting her life, 24/7 and still going, to the cause of social justice; the proper response to Trump’s revocation of DACA; and why art is especially important in the time of the current president.
N.B. You can hear the sound of the San Francisco cable cars in the background during some parts of the interview.