Activites will help students:
- Write descriptive compositions based on visual prompts that connect symbolically with one of the farmworkers or allies depicted in Viva La Causa.
- Understand and deconstruct the main concepts of the film, including the importance of labor unions, the basic tenets of nonviolence, and the power of collective action across lines of race, class, gender and faith.
- Understand that people from all walks of life have a role to play in social change and that, by joining together to support a just cause, individuals can advance equality and justice.
- What responsibilities do individuals have to society? What responsibilities does society have to individuals?
- Whose responsibility is it to fight for those who are being exploited by someone or something more powerful?
- What factors might motivate you to fight for a cause?
- What causes some social movements to succeed while others fail?
- How can we affect social change in a nonviolent way?
- What does it mean to be empowered?
This lesson is part of the Viva la Causa teaching kit.
Viva La Causa tells the story of a dedicated coalition of people from diverse classes, races and religions who stood together for justice, proving that the mightiest walls of oppression can be toppled when people are united and their cause is just. In this lesson, students will connect with farmworkers and allies who participated in la causa and explore key themes of the film.
Before Viewing the Film
At least one day before viewing the film and before introducing the lesson to students, provide each student with a photo. As an in-class free-write or as a homework assignment, ask each student to write a short description about the person who appears on his or her photo, based solely on the image provided. Prompts could include:
- What does this person do for a living?
- Where were they born, and where do they live?
- What is this person passionate about?
On the Day of the Viewing
Introduce the film to students using the framework above, and ask students to take out their photos. View the film as a whole class.
After viewing the film, discuss:
- What kind of injustices did the workers hope to undo by going on strike? How did these injustices undermine their humanity?
(Workers endured long hours without rest breaks, had little access to water or restrooms, had toxic pesticides sprayed on them, and endured hard labor for very little pay and no health benefits. These injustices communicated to the workers that they were subhuman and not deserving of even the most common dignities offered to others.)
- What is non-violence, and what role did it play in the struggle?
(Nonviolence is a philosophy of resistance where you do no physical harm to others. Those in the movement leveraged nonviolent strategies to dismantle the stranglehold of the growers.)
- Why did the strikers need help from others? What kinds of things did the strikers ask them to do in support of la causa? Why were the actions of these allies important?
(The strikers felt there was power in numbers, and they felt that the more diverse their movement was, the more people outside the movement might listen to their cause. Others were invited to join them in striking, boycotting and picketing. The actions of allies were important because they told the workers they were not alone and that their actions were supported by moral people everywhere.)
- What factors motivated people to get involved in la causa?
(They wanted a fair wage and good working conditions for themselves. They also realized that rights won today for themselves would be enjoyed by future generations. Many people of faith became involved in the cause because it was a way to physically manifest their faith. For many, being involved in the cause was a moral imperative.)
- What did workers gain as a result of the strike and boycott?
(Pragmatically, they won cold drinking water in the fields, rest periods, grievance procedures, pesticide controls, a hiring hall, a wage increase and the right to be represented by a union. Morally and spiritually, they won dignity and the realization that a group dedicated to a cause can make a difference.)
- What did our nation gain in the process?
(Our nation gained a measure of dignity by treating the workers with the respect they deserved. The movement highlighted the need for, and value of, labor unions.)
- The title of the film is Viva La Causa, which means "Long live the cause." What message is the filmmaker trying to send to you?
(The filmmaker is highlighting the fact that worker exploitation continues and that we must remain vigilant in securing justice for workers who continue to be exploited today.)
Ask students to reflect again on their photos and refer to their compositions. Ask volunteers to share elements from their compositions and what they learned about the real individual while watching the film. How were students' first impressions similar to and different from the persons' actual lives? How did the individual support la causa? As a class, discuss how it took the actions of these individuals and tens of thousands more to bring justice to farmworkers.