Farm Labor Movement a Beautiful Collaboration between the Filipino and Latino Communities, Bonta Says

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bonta Comments on Recently-Released Films "Delano Manongs" and "César Chávez" and their Roles in Telling the Story of the Farm Labor Movement

(Sacramento, CA) - Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) is proud to support the recent release of two films depicting the role of the Latino and Filipino American communities in sparking the farm labor movement in California. Bonta, the first and only Filipino American to serve in the California State Legislature, as a young boy lived in a trailer a few hundred yards away from César Chávez at the headquarters of the United Farm Workers (UFW) after he moved from the Philippines.

"I spent my early childhood in La Paz, the UFW Headquarters, watching my parents organize Filipino and Mexican American farm workers – experiencing firsthand one of the greatest peaceful social, racial, and economic justice movements of all time. There, my parents developed a strong and lasting relationship with Jose Gomez, the Executive Assistant to César Chávez and, I'm proud to say, my godfather.

"My parents taught me at a very young age about the important collaborative relationship that was forged between Filipino American and Latino labor leaders to create the farm worker movement in California. They worked directly with UFW co-founders César Chávez and Dolores Huerta and Filipino UFW co-founders Philip Vera Cruz and Pete Velasco.

"Unfortunately, the names and historical significance of vastly influential Filipino leaders in the farm labor movement are unknown to the general public. The Filipino American population composes the largest Asian Pacific Islander population in California and continues to grow; yet the story of Filipino Americans and their crucial efforts to the farm labor movement is an untold part of California history.

"The Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), led by Larry Itliong and Vera Cruz, was the first to strike for improved wages and working conditions in Delano in 1965 – launching the American farm labor movement. AWOC and the National Farm Workers Association, led by César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, joined forces to start the now internationally-famous UFW.

Bonta has a strong commitment to ensuring that the contribution of Filipino Americans is accurately reflected in California history. One of his first acts as an Assemblymember was to introduce a bill to provide students with a more complete account of California's farm labor
movement and ensure that Filipino American leaders are remembered by future generations of Californians. "I was thrilled that Governor Brown signed AB 123 last year," Bonta said. "Major historical facts have been missing from our history books for many decades, and it's encouraging that the more complete story may now be told in our classrooms. I am confident that within the next few years, the incredible contributions of Filipino Americans will become common knowledge in our state."

Bonta said he is further encouraged by the recent release of two films, one on César Chávez and one on the Delano Manongs, that both shed light on this critically important chapter of history. "A new generation of Californians is on the verge of learning more about the transformative struggle for justice of the farm labor movement and the great historical collaboration between Filipino Americans and Latinos. The timing of the Chávez film and 'Delano Manongs' is serendipitous; it's incredible to have two films premiering just weeks apart that feature one of the most important Civil Rights and Labor movements of our time," Bonta explained.

"While I will be seeing the film on Mr. Chávez for the first time this weekend, I am very aware that there have been concerns from some in the Filipino American community that the film does not accurately depict the critical role Filipinos played in the farm labor worker movement. I want to emphasize that the Hollywood film is not intended to be a documentary-style film; instead, it is an artistic depiction of the life and times of Mr. Chávez, necessarily highlighting his effort in the struggle for farm worker rights. 'Delano Manongs: The Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers' offers a depiction of that history in more of a documentary style, portraying the experiences of Filipino farm laborers and their prominent role and critical leadership in the California farm labor movement through photographs, video footage, and recorded audio from the time. The two films being released nearly simultaneously provides the unique opportunity for robust and constructive dialogue about, and increased awareness of, the farm labor movement, both of which I support and encourage.

"To continue our history of strong collaboration, I am happy to announce that I am working with the filmmaker of the 'Delano Manongs' and leaders of the current Farm Worker Movement to put on a screening of 'Delano Manongs', in the near future, that will underscore the collaboration and celebrate the success of this historic movement.

"With a recent, newly-invigorated political energy, the Filipino American community has had a greater opportunity to organize and express our collective concerns in the state of California. I was honored that, with the support of Filipino American community leaders across the state, in just my first year in office, we were able to pass AB 123, with nearly unanimous support of both houses of the California Legislature and with a broad coalition of support representing our state's full ethnic, geographic, and political diversity. I am excited and proud to be part of this collaborative history and look forward to doing my part to ensure that we continue to progress together going forward," Bonta concluded.

Contact: Amy Alley - (916) 319-2018