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The piece of work that I have chose is the, Boycott Grapes, Support the United Farm Workers Union by the artist Xavier Viramontes. It is a poster that represents the struggle for Chicano rights. The Aztec warrior demonstrates an angry and fierce face while squeezing the grapes in its hands viciously extracting the juices from the fruit, which may represent blood and the sacrifices made during the boycott. The garments and headpiece of this Aztec warrior carries significant symbolism as the decorative costume symbolizes the ethnic heritage of the field-workers.
The artist himself, who is of Mexican descent, intended to bring awareness to the Mexican American farm workers in the 70s that were working in poor conditions as well as receiving poor pay for their work. This piece serves as a visual expression of Latin American themes such as history, culture, identity, and heritage. This painted poster brings us back to the history of social movements demonstrated by oppressed minorities and this particular movement had gained leverage and recognition that delivered César Chávez as a world as a leader for Mexican American civil rights. Themes such as culture, identity, and culture exists within the poster as it gives a representation of the identity and heritage of the Aztec/Mexican people. The garments on the warrior shows the culture aspect of the farm workers as well.
Diving into more of the history behind this painted poster, in the 70’s, the grape boycott was a social movement that was led by the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) that created awareness for those farm workers who struggled with rights to receive better pay and working conditions. This group was led by a César Chávez. Many of these workers worked in Southern California’s Coachella valley. This brought great pain and sacrifice for those involved. “Coachella growers had begun signing labor contracts with the United Farm Workers Union in 1970, but cooperation between the groups did not last for long. Just before the 1973 harvest, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (ibt) union moved in to negotiate sweetheart contracts,
with terms favoring the growers and kickbacks lining the pockets of Teamsters officials”(Matthew, 2007). The Teamsters tried to beat UFW challengers into submission by physically intimidating them such violence had become normal for the local people there who struggled to remain peaceful. César Chávez used his now-famous hunger strikes to quell the urge for retaliation among his followers and redirected the union’s energy away from strikes, toward boycotts and the establishment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Board in California” (Matthew, 2007).
César Chávez was able to to redirect the energy of his followers towards boycotts instead of strikes. With this nonviolent strategy, it succeeded in gaining national and international sympathy for the Coachella valley workers that had received a decade of abuse and trauma. The reason for such success was in part of the UFW ability to gain attention through the grape boycott. Although grapes were grown throughout California, the strategic choice of picking the table-grape vineyards as a battleground was due to the climate, labor, geography, and the market. Because the grapes in the Coachella valley were the most important harvest of the season as well as the first harvest to hit the market after a long winter, the unionists and growers thought that their terms of production and conditions of labor would follow suit if they started there.
This work is representative of the peoples of Latin America because it shows a visual expression of those people struggling for their rights in a place where they live as well as expressing what these people identify as. It shows the artist’s pride in where their ancestors come from and their heritage. As one doesn’t like to see their own people struggle, this poster helps bring awareness to those who do not know about the struggle that this certain group has went through.
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