The Latino struggle for civil rights in America has a long and proud history, but the story has only recently begun to break into textbooks, literature and film. San Jose filmmaker Adrian Tepehua Vargas intends take a close look at how the saga played out in Silicon Valley.
"Today our local thirst and insistence on cultural diversity and equality generates from the battles fought and won by Chicano and Latino activists and a multitude of supporters," he said.
Vargas is working on a new documentary film, "Impacto!" that will focus on the local Chicano and Latino civil rights movement starting in 1950. He intends to cover groundbreaking voter registration drives, education reforms, community organizing and breakthroughs in electoral politics.
The Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose will host a fundraising event at 8 p.m. Friday to help Vargas raise the estimated $1 million for the film. Vargas expects to complete the film in 2015.
In keeping with Vargas's cinematic and local theme, the fundraiser at the plaza will feature two documentary films produced locally.
One is "Soldados," a documentary about Chicano veterans of the Vietnam War produced by Charley Trujillo, a veteran from the Central Valley who settled in San Jose after the war and became a writer and publisher. In a gritty opening to the film, an indignant Trujillo explains how an immigration official once asked him for his papers. Trujillo answered by pulling an artificial eye out of its socket. He had lost the real one to a land mine in Vietnam.
The other film, "El Gigante Awakens," is Vargas' take on the huge turnout for an immigration rights march in San Jose in 2006. In the film, immigrants and experts on Latino affairs credit the massive demonstration--estimated at about 125,000--as a turning point where undocumented immigrants came out from the shadows to join the political struggle for legal status.
Drawing from his own life and family, Vargas hopes to bring that sort of local passion to "Impacto!"
Growing up in Silicon Valley, Vargas said his parents had achieved the American dream, rising from working class to middle class jobs through hard work and determination. But once his father was severely injured at work, Vargas said, the dream ended when his father was denied medical benefits.
Through his youthful eyes, Vargas said, the experience "had a lifelong impact on my mother, siblings and myself." Like one of his heroes--farmworker leader Cesar Chavez--Vargas began to connect the unjust treatment of his father and other ordinary workers to the ongoing civil rights movement spearheaded by Martin Luther King Jr.
Vargas said his film in the works has been endorsed by the nonprofit San Francisco Film Society, which means all donations are tax deductible. For more information, go to www.casa-vargas.com/impacto.