If you associate the name Cesar Chavez with street signs and public buildings more than civil rights activist and labor leader, revisiting the events that took place in Delano, California in the mid-1960s could come as something of a shock. Organizing efforts by the United Farm Workers, a union that Chavez led, were met with dramatic, sometimes voilent, resistance—drama that plays a cental role in Diego Luna’s forthcoming film, Chavez: An American Hero, co-produced by TakePart's parent company, Participant Media.
Staring Michael Peña as the Mexican-American civil rights leader, with Rosario Dawson playing Dolores Huerta and John Malkovich as the less-than-benevolent packinghouse owner, the film focuses on the fight for labor rights in the vineyards and lettuce fields of California. Beyond breaks and water access and day-to-day working condition issues, Chavez and the UFW were fighting for equality, for the right to be treated fairly and equally, rather than as a second-class citizens.
“You can’t opress someone who is not afraid anymore,” Peña’s Chavez says at the end of the trailer. Encouraging that reserve in others, from farmworkers in Delano to urban Chicano activists in the Los Angeles, is what made Chavez a great leader—and an American hero.