Monday, October 6, 2008

Salt of the Earth

I though this moving was great. It not only provides us with a criticism on American culture and prejudices against Mexican Americans in the 50s but also a criticism on the role of women in American society, whether they be of mexican decent or not. The migrant workers are treated as such, workers that come and go with the seasons, but mining does not require a season to work unlike fruit-picking. These families were not necessarily immigrants, on the contrary, they were born and raised on the tierra they worked. This is how the protagonist Esperanza Quintero introduces the small, mining town, as a town before and after the arrival of the Anglos. All along the Mexico-USA border, in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas there have been disputes about where the border should lie and who belongs on which side. This film criticizes important racial issues the time; rights for chicano workers (or equal rights to anglo workers), discrimination against American-born people of Mexican decent, and finally gender issues as well. 

This film was released in 1954 by Anglo director, Herbert J. Biberman.  Biberman was one of the original "Hollywood Ten", a group of ten directors who released a short film in which they all condemned McCarthyism and Hollywood Blacklisting. All ten were briefly jailed in 1950. When Salt of the Earth was released in 1954, it was banned from being viewed by the American public. This says even more about the state and depth of racism and the government. Even more so because this film was based on a strike that actually occurred in New Mexico. I think that the film was banned for a number of reasons besides the fact that Biberman was blacklisted by the US government such as the the critique of Anglos' racism towards American-born Mexicans, the Marxist movement of the workers revolting and staying strong by fighting together against their employer, lack of rights for chicanos and non-existent support from the American government, early feminist movements...the list goes on. Regardless, the fact that this film was banned is important and interesting and worth discussion. (thanks wikipedia!)

I thought this movie was extremely relevant to our class and chicano culture. Good pick Jon.

1 comment:

beth said...

I also loved the movie. I think it's really important to note the complexity of the Chicano struggle. Mexican Americans were not only struggling against racial oppression but struggling amongst themselves over significant gender issues. I think the struggle of the women to be involved and do their part for the Chicano cause is often slightly overlooked and "Salt of the Earth" did a wonderful job of illustrating the variety of hardships.

I'm also really glad you researched the director. I find it really interesting that Biberman was blacklisted and actually jailed for producing such a significant movie. It speaks volumes about the extent to which racial issues and government censorship were right out of control at that time in the United States.