Adios Amor – The Search for Maria Moreno

Film Info
Director:Laurie Coyle
Film Category:Local Filmmaker
Latinx
Women
Activism
Running Time:58 min.
Country:USA
Year of Release:2018
Premiere:West Coast Premiere

Description

Before Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, there was Maria Moreno.

In the ADIOS AMOR, the discovery of forgotten photographs taken more than fifty years ago sparks the search for an unsung hero: Maria Moreno, a migrant mother who sacrificed everything but her twelve kids in the passionate pursuit of justice for farmworkers. Haunted by a personal tragedy and blessed with a gift for oratory, Maria rolled up her sleeves, collected signatures, and electrified audiences. Elected by her fellow Mexican American, Filipino, Black and Okie farmworkers to represent them, Maria became the first farm worker woman in America to be hired as a union organizer. Her charisma drew crowds, but her independence got her into trouble with her labor bosses, who fired her for her outspokenness.

Were it not for the maverick photographers and journalists who captured her story, Maria’s trailblazing legacy might have been lost. The search for Maria guides this documentary, where ghosts fade in and out and magic underpins a rawboned reality. In the end, whose stories get told may hinge on memories, coincidence andin Maria’s casean insistence on pursuing a path that touches the lives of others. From California’s great Central Valley, to the Arizona desert and US-Mexico border, the journey yields buried treasure...and stories told with passion and humor.

A deeply human drama also comes to life, of Mexican American farmworkers living in dire poverty at a time of unprecedented abundance, whose faith, family values, and working class culture sustained them. ADIOS AMOR-THE SEARCH FOR MARIA MORENO pays tribute to the people whose hard work feeds the nation, and celebrates the courageous woman who told their story to the world.

Co-presented by Mission Local.


Director’s Statement

The first time I saw Maria Moreno was 20 years ago when I was lead researcher and associate producer for the groundbreaking PBS documentary, The Fight in the Fields-Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers’ Struggle. Searching for images of Cesar Chavez at the Take Stock Archive, I came across hundreds of photographs of a migrant mother, organizing with her children at her side.

Far from snapshots, these were master images taken by the leading photographer of the farmworker movement, George Ballis. Aside from the well- known UFW leader Dolores Huerta, farmworker women were usually anonymous and relegated to the background in press coverage. Who was the remarkable woman in the photographs and why hadn’t I ever heard of her?

As a producer of history documentaries, finding a treasure trove of photographs I wasn’t looking for was tremendously exciting. I wanted to know more, but life as a working mother and freelance filmmaker intervened. Years later, after working on, and in one case directing, numerous documentaries about illustrious men, I returned to the provocative photographs to find their mysterious protagonist. When the search began, I didn’t know what I would find or whether Maria Moreno would still be living. With a measure of luck and a lot of work, I traced her life and legacy.

On a personal note, ADIOS AMOR represents a homecoming for me. The year that Maria Moreno was pushed out of the labor movement, my parents uprooted our family of nine from the East Coast and moved to the Bay Area. In those days there were traces of the farms that had been the heart of the Santa Clara Valley. The public library in our town was built in the middle of an apricot orchard, and we would collect the apricots that fell to the ground. But we knew nothing about the lives and struggles of the workers who grew the food on our table. Not until the California grape strike started and Dad began volunteering at the farmworker clinic in Delano. Mom was busy raising seven kids, taking night classes, and protesting the war in Vietnam. I dedicate ADIOS AMOR to their memory.

Although our lives were so different, I felt an immediate connection when I met the Morenos of having grown up in a big family. The search for Maria became their searchsharing childhood memories, visiting their mother’s birthplace, embarking on a pilgrimage to the desert that had sustained them during their mother’s exile from the labor movement.