Maybe you’ve never heard of human rights activist Dolores Huerta. The filmmakers behind Dolores hope to help change that.
She walked with Robert Kennedy the very moment he was assassinated in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. She was an organizer of the Delano grape strike, which began in 1965 and ended five years later with the first labor contract for what had been the most poorly paid workers in the nation. And she was seriously injured in 1988 by San Francisco police during a protest against then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush.
Despite being the recipient of numerous significant humanitarian awards and an induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993, Huerta remains a recessed figure in the public consciousness.
The film was written, directed and produced by Peter Bratt, brother of actor-producer Benjamin Bratt, and has screened at more than 35 festivals in the United States, including the Seattle International Film Festival — where it was named best documentary feature — the Sundance Film Festival and San Francisco International Film Festival.
Huerta appeared with Dolores executive producer Carlos Santana at the House of Blues Foundation Room inside the Las Vegas Strip’s Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Thursday, May 17, to discuss the film and how it relates to today’s political landscape.
“I got involved with Dolores because I admire her devotion and diligence to equality, fairness, and justice,” said Santana, a Grammy-winning musician known for fusing musical styles, including Latin jazz, rock and blues.
“She is like (Emiliano) Zapata, Pancho Villa and Geronimo. She is revolution. But at the same time, she brings a gentleness and clarity. The word that keeps hovering is ‘consciousness’ —spiritual consciousness.”
“In the ’60s, there was an ambience that anything could happen,” reflected Huerta. “That you could change the world. People felt that, literally. And I think we are coming up against that right now.
“We see all the different movements: the Black Lives Matter movement, the #MeToo movement, the young people that are marching to get rid of guns in our society. I definitely feel like this is happening. It’s like the ’60s are being relived again.
“And I like to say that, just like in the ’60s when everything was against us — the Vietnam War, President Nixon, Reagan, everything — we came out with all these great cultural improvements in our society.
“And I do believe that when this wave is over, we are going to come out with improvements also. But it won’t be a cultural revolution. Its will be an economic revolution.”
Huerta was born in Dawson, New Mexico, in 1930. She grew up in Stockton, California, where she witnessed and was subjected to abuse and discrimination based on race and gender. Her experiences led her to social activism, beginning in her early 20s.
She founded the nonprofit Dolores Huerta Foundation in 2002 to support and organize social and political leadership on a grassroots level.
Dolores will be released in select theaters this September.