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Movie Theaters as Spaces of Farm Worker Domination and Utopian Resistance

by Curtis Marez

As part of perhaps his earliest act of civil disobedience, in 1944 a teen-aged Cesar Chavez was arrested for refusing to move from the “whites only” section of a Delano movie theater to the section reserved for Blacks, Filipinos, and Mexicans. At age 17, during the final days of World War II, Chavez had joined the navy, where he encountered forms of labor segregation among Black, Filipino and Mexican sailors that recalled similar arrangements in the cotton and beet fields around Delano where he grew up. He was on leave from the navy when he decided to resist segregation and get arrested for what would be the first of several subsequent arrests by local police.

The agribusiness domination of Valley social space is suggested by the 1948 informational film Delano, My Home Town, which presents a visual taxonomy of a white dominated city government and police department, civic groups and local businesses. Farm workers are not expressly represented, but  film the represents white and Mexican spectators mixing as they file in and out of a segregated local movie theater.

Farm Workers and Segregated Movie Theaters

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Farm Workers and Segregated Movie Theaters

from Delano My Home Town (1948)
Creator: BDL Productions
Distributor: BDL Productions
Posted by Curtis Marez