THE FIGHT IN THE FIELDS: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement by Susan & Ricardo Sandoval Ferriss

THE FIGHT IN THE FIELDS: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement

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A useful survey and pictorial of the extraordinary career of the visionary Mexican-American labor leader and human-rights activist, who died in his sleep in 1993 at age 66. Written by two California journalists who are veterans in covering farm labor issues and agribusiness, this companion volume to a PBS documentary reflects a vivid appreciation of how Chavez's organizing activities, dating from 1962, enabled one of society's most vulnerable worker groups to assert dignity, claim rights, and ultimately change a powerful industry's whole way of doing business. Chavez himself came from a farming family that lost its land and was forced into the migrant farmworkers ranks during the Depression. The book highlights Chavez's unique ability to define issues in a way that linked haves and have-nots in effective coalitions that gained national prominence, a pride in his Mexican heritage that did not inhibit his ability to work in multiracial coalitions (notably with Filipino immigrant workers), and his Gandhi-inspired skill in playing power politics without ceding the moral high ground. Unfortunately, these themes are more often stated than explored and illuminated. But the book's strength lies in its collecting the observations of so many contemporary movement eyewitnesses and presenting portraits of an array of Chavez's lifelong friends and comrades (among them Delores Huerta, the teacher and divorced mother of seven who became the United Farm Worker Union's shrewd and tough lead contract negotiator). In addition, the book acknowledges conflicts within the UFW rooted in the tensions between its nuts-and-bolts functioning as a labor union and its impact as the hub of a visionary social movement. This strives to be candid and intimate, yet ultimately its commentary fails to break through the commemorative into the kind of real analysis that would have revealed more of the man behind the movement icon.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0156005980
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace