Salt of the Earth movie is controversial for the communist-like politics the film portrayed. The United States blacklisted this film in fear of audiences realizing how Mexicans were mistreated. The film is about the 1951 strike Mexicans had against the Empire Zinc Company. However, in the film the setting is still New Mexico but the company’s name is Delaware Zinc. The film touches subjects such as union strikes and how they come to be with a community, equality, resistance, and being unapologetic in order to see change. Another theme in this film other than discrimination and unjustice, is women who are fighters. The women, particularly the miner’s wives fight and picket.
In the film, Ramon is a mine worker who is married to his wife by the name of Esperanza Quintero. Together they have a family consisting of 3 children. The family lives in housing provided by Delaware Inc. The poor housing is not the only problem the miners face, the company also is aware of how dangerous the job is but do not seem to care about their employee’s safety. The company Delaware Zinc gave inequality treatment to the employees and it took time for the Mexican miners to realize enough was enough. The Mexican miners who worked for the company had enough, that is when Ramon asserts a union must be forced. The union would then strike in order for Delaware Zinc to pay well, have better living conditions, and have safety enforced.
When the union organized went on strike, it lasted six months. The company Delaware Zin was able to get a court order and removed the miners from picketing. That is when the movie focuses more on women and how powerful and strong they are. Women including Esperanza step in and take charge. Esperanza is the narrator and is living life like any other women in the 1900’s, at home looking after her children and cleaning. The women in the mining community are treated the same as the miners. Teresa Vidal, a character in the film, forms a group of women and starts to take over the husband’s on the picket lines.
The idea of being and becoming comes from Stuart Hall’s theory belongs to the future as much as to the past. It is not something which already exists, transcending place, time, history, and culture (Sanchez, 1993, pg. 12). I believe Ramon’s willingness for change ties to the idea of being and becoming due to the fact he is aware of the injustice he and other Mexicans are facing. He must have been aware of the impact he had on others by creating the union and striking against the unfair treatment the company was doing. By seeing the closest to you, friends, or even people you work with suffering, you get to a point where you want change to happen. I believe that was the case with Ramon’s change of heart.
- Sanchez, George J. Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945. Oxford University Press, USA, 1993.
- Biberman, H. J., director. Salt of the Earth.