Sunday, July 17, 2011

Valley of Tears

Photo Credit - Raul Cabrera

This is an interesting documentary capturing a certain time in South Texas history. This was shot and directed by Hart Perry, who was fresh off of winning an Academy Award for the cinematography of the classic Harlan County, USA. While this isn't on the level of that Academy Award winning film (that film is a masterpiece, no shame in not being as good as that), the 1970's footage of South Texas that Hart Perry shot is invaluable and this documentary offers us some interesting questions to ponder. 

We see a couple of protest songs, one a passionate performance from the great Esteban Jordan (which I'll cover in a future entry). But the one that really catches our eye is the first one, which is a corrido by Maria Guadiana. Here are the lyrics:

El dia cuatro de Abril
Ano de setenta y nueve
Toda la gente disia
Viva la union campesina
La huelga de la cebolla
Tambien viva Jesus Moya

Juanita Valdez les dijo
muchachos no tengan miedo
Nada nos puede pasar
Con estos empleados malditos
Solo estamos defendiando
Derechos del campesino

Pueblito de Raymondville
Tu quedaras en la historia
Como vamos a olvidar
Esto fue en semana Santa
Cuando el chiripe por miedo
Trajo empleados de otro parte

It's broken down into three chapters: Part One - "a different type of law...", Part Two - "one of the biggest issues was the school...", and Part Three - "Nothing's changed". The first part focuses on Raymondville's 1979 onion strike and on the Texas Farmworkers Union. Jesus Moya and Juanita Valdez shine in this first chapter as natural born leaders, with Moya constantly doing his best to lead the way. In interviews far removed from that strike, Valdez remains incredibly optimistic and positive over what transpired in Raymondville. The second frame is concentrated on the school district, and the final chapter is aptly titled "Nothing's changed". The other major character of the film is Juan Guerra, and we observe his highs and lows throughout the final frame of the film. A whole documentary could have been made on him, as he is still in the news. It would take an HBO series and a crew of high caliber writers to tell Juan Guerra's story effectively.

It's an emotional glimpse at the Raymondville community and the racial tension that existed, and escalated during the onion strike. It's also sad to see how hard the city had fallen over the course of the film. Although I would say that this film and the issues it explores do seem a bit more complex than a 79 minute film could cover. Nevertheless, the 1970s footage of Raymondville and the protests during the strike still feel vibrant in 2011. This is something you really want to watch if you have any interest in Rio Grande Valley history.

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  1. where can find this documentary????

  2. It used to be on but they have since removed it. What a shame.