Herbert Biberman directs this film, and it stars Rosaura Revueltas, Juan Chacon, Will Geer, Henrietta Williams, Clinton Jenks, Joe T. Morales, and Clorinda Alderette.
This movie is based on real events of the strike from zinc miners based in New Mexico, and it focuses on the Quintero family. Ramon Quintero (Juan Chacon) is a zinc mine worker, who decides to go on strike to protest for better working conditions and equal pay in comparison to other mine workers. Esperanza (Rosaura Revueltas), the wife of Ramon, finds herself in a difficult position as she tries to raise their kids and live day to day with the little income they receive. As the strike continues, the men are prohibited from continuing protesting and are ordered (by the court) to stop the strike or face the consequences.
As many may know I’m currently working on my Film and Media Studies degree and a film I had to watch was this one. This is the first film in film history to have Mexican Americans as protagonists and to have their struggles portrayed in a movie. It’s normal for some to think that I’ll have a bias towards this film, but believe me when I state that this film should be seen not only because it has Mexican Americans in it, but because the overall story is remarkable and deserves to be known. This movie was independently made, and it addresses many non-traditional themes and issues. It was made with professional and non-professional actors (the leads) and showcased the discrimination Mexican Americans faced (not only racially but gender-wise too). The film industry and many major studios did everything possible to stop the production, distribution, and exhibition of this movie. Immigration officials harassed the lead actress, Rosaura Revueltas, and eventually deported her before the film was finished filming. The close-ups of her at the end of the film were shot in Mexico. This film wasn’t well-received since it was considered a communist propaganda because the majority of the filmmakers behind this film were blacklisted. Before giving my thoughts and review on this film, I’d like to inform, anyone who wants to watch this film, that it’s available in its entirety on YouTube and also on Amazon Prime.
I usually don’t do spoilers reviews, but this will be the exception. So here is your last warning there will be spoilers in this review.
I went into this film without reading the synopsis and knowing that it was controversial due to its filmmakers being blacklisted. Let me start by stating that I loved this movie. I was expecting a film about Mexican American miners protesting for better working conditions and higher pay. I got more than that! This film is about civil rights, conformity, and the notion of family. This movie starts with Esperanza (7 months pregnant) being concerned with the condition her family lives under and her frustration is such that in a moment of desperation she prays to the Virgin Mary for her unborn child to be born dead. Ramon soon comes home, also concerned and frustrated of the situation, and takes his frustration out on Esperanza accusing her of being selfish. For which Esperanza replies, “I have to think of myself because you don’t,” which placed a smile on my face. Ramon goes to the mine and works he then goes and has a few drinks with his coworkers. They all speak of a possible strike and discuss the pros and cons of doing so. In the case of the Quintero family, Ramon is planning to begin a strike for equal treatment (in comparison to other miners), better pay, and humane working conditions, yet he goes home and treats his wife similarly unfair. It’s well known that women in those days had only one purpose; to create and take care of their family. I wasn’t expecting this movie to be as feminist as it is, but boy was I pleasantly surprised while it was unfolding. When the other miners’ wives start to talk about what they can do to have a voice in the union and to improve their sanitary conditions, Esperanza can’t help but to silently agree as she is well aware that being vocal won’t go well with Ramon. After an accident occurs and a miner has severely injured the miners, with the support of the union, decide to go on strike.
The mineworkers are at the picket line and the wives go out to support them by taking them food and such. Eventually, the injunction will stop the men from protesting; otherwise, they will have to suffer the consequences. One of the wives of the miners reads the order carefully and notices that the rule states “men” and says nothing about women. It was at this moment that the women begin to speak up about their demands to stop the strike and they also ask to have a vote in the union. Now the women are at the picket line, and the men are on the side, just looking. Eventually, the men must take over the house chores and parenting. It was at this part in the film that I completely fell in love with it. The men have to do the laundry and cook for the family, and they experience first hand why the women are demanding for sanitation and commodity. The owners and police officers are now faced with a new problem and decide to arrest some of the women, particularly the wives of the men who were the leaders of the strike. Esperanza gets arrested with her newborn baby and youngest child. The women that get arrested continue to protest as they are all placed in the same cell and have no bed, food, and no space to move. The women are released and begin to have their meetings to discuss what to do next. Ramon continues to disagree with the women being involved and argues with Esperanza, where he nearly hits her and stops himself after seeing Esperanza strong and expressing no fear towards him. The last resort of the mine owners and police is to evict the Quintero family for which the community gets together and prevent the eviction. I loved that the film ends with this situation because it sends the message of unity and how working together towards the same goal will end with a positive result (the majority of the times). This film is more than a minority group asking for better wages and humane working conditions; it’s also about family and how the traditional family can function with the gender roles reversed (based on the norm). Also, this film showcases how a community has the power to demand and therefore make changes.
Please feel free to DM me on any social media platform (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook @Rosasreviews) if you’d like to discuss this film further or if you’d like to give any constructive feedback on this review.