New community columnist Richard Rios responds to my column about the Cesar Chavez movie’s omission of his indispensable Filipino allies — an omission of Stockton, too — in his delightfully named blog.
“The film was a biopic of the man, Cesar Chavez, and not the History of the Farm Worker Struggle,” Rios writes.
This is a common defense to Filipino criticism of the movie. A movie about Cesar Chavez is a movie about Cesar Chavez. Well, yes. Still, the notion that a biopic about Chavez need not depict the farm worker movement accurately strikes me as an odd concession. I wonder how Latinos would respond if Hollywood did a movie about Larry Itliong and left out Chavez and Latinos.
I have nothing but respect for Chavez. If anybody deserves recognition for social change in California and beyond, he does. Nor is the omission of Filipinos (and Stockton) from the story some irredeemable black mark; it is just an area in which a good film could have been better.
As a Stockton journalist I just have a heightened sensitivity to the peculiar invisibility of Filipinos in American culture. They are always overlooked. That’s one way racism plays out against Filipinos.
Besides, overlooking them omits one of the most powerful aspects of Chavez’s accomplishment: reaching across racial and cultural barriers to ally with Filipino farm workers to forge a stronger social movement.
“To me as a historian of Filipinos,” said historian and author Dawn Mabalon, “the power of the strike was about these two groups who had always been pitted against each other coming together in this historic alliance.”
I imagine Chavez would appreciate acknowledgement for that.
Read Tule Vato’s blog here. His response to my column is several items down.