Raices de Sangre (1976) is a film about workers exploitation and unionism, fictional but based on a realistic scenario. It elaborates on earlier American films such as Salt of the Earth or, more recently, Harlan County War and Norma Rae (you may also be interested in my reviews of these films). However, in this case the labor conflict concerns Mexican and Chicano workers, and especially the garment workers of the USA Morris Company in the maquiladoras just across the Texas border in Mexico. In 1991 Raices de Sangre was named one of the top 25 Latin American Films of all time at the 36th Annual International Film Festival of Valladolid, Spain. Director Trevino had set for himself the task "to relate several hundred years of history that is so filled with injustice, manifest destiny, and other forms of aggression against Latinos by the U.S. government". The film also tries to break through ethnic stereotypes. The commercial distributors have shied away from the film, feeling that it contained a militant Chicano philosophy. Therefore it is generally screened only within the university circuits in both Mexico and the USA, waiting for better times. The story is typical of films about unionism: the workers want to organize, whereas the company manager tries to intimidate them with all means, including violence and even murder. The Mexican garment workers get support from a Chicano union in Texas. The union wants to hold a solidarity meeting in Texas, but apparently this is not allowed. Therefore she decides to organize an open-air theater show instead, which will use political insinuations. However, the regional administrator (or is it the governor?) is a friend of the plant manager, and sends in the Border Patrol guards. These end the show, using excessive violence, and in the general turmoil some hooligans hired by the plant manager beat to death one of the union men. Subsequently the factory workers on both sides of the border march together along the border fence, carrying the coffin of the murdered victim. This is where the film ends. Included is a love-story between the young talented Chicano lawyer Carlos Rivera, and a female union worker. And an attempt to illegally cross the border, leading to the suffocation of the whole group in their truck. Regrettably I bought a version, that lacks English subtitles. Since my understanding of the Spanish language is virtually non-existent, my account may contain inaccuracies. I definitely can make no comments on the dialogs. However, the film shots and the acting looked convincing. Also I can give some background information on maquiladoras. They are free trading zones, established with the aim to lure foreign investors. The tax and financial conditions are liberal, whereas the social, environmental and labor conditions are all poor. Wages may be less than a dollar per day. The health protection in the working area is below par. On the other hand, Mexico has the benefit of securing American currency. About 20% of the Mexican industry is situated in these maquiladoras. The foreign plants (mainly USA) have grabbed the opportunity to externalize costs, and poison the environment. Since pollution does not stop at the border, the Texan population also suffers from these dangers. In addition the maquiladoras produce mainly for the American market and have eliminated hundred thousands of jobs in the USA. This construction is clearly to the advantage of very few and to the detriment of many. An interesting theme, but I recommend to get a DVD with subtitles. Please tell me in case I missed something.
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