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Cinequest Review: ‘Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno’

In Culture
WORKING WOMAN'S HERO: A new documentary about migrant worker organizer Maria Moreno comes to Cinequest.

WORKING WOMAN'S HERO: A new documentary about migrant worker organizer Maria Moreno comes to Cinequest.

Sifting through old photographs, a bold crusader in rubber boots and a big skirt catches director Laurie Coyle’s attention. This documentary searches for the story of Maria Moreno, a migrant worker, mother, and organizer for the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC).

Photos, audio tapes, an array of AWOC records from minutes to paystubs, activists’ memories and a private investigator help Coyle and the viewer start to piece together who Maria Moreno was and why she disappeared. Then a package from one of Moreno’s granddaughters leads the documentary to several of the AWOC activist’s surviving 12 children.

Moreno’s graying children paint an intimate picture of her family life, including how they almost starved in 1958—along with 3,000 other farm laborers. An interview with a Fresno Bee reporter and recordings of Moreno’s speeches uncover how she led a welfare agency to reverse its policy and offer food assistance to farmworkers. Afterward, she began to advocate for AWOC, traveling as a representative despite her second-grade education. She even let her children tag along.

More videos recreate how Moreno restored the AFL-CIO’s support of AWOC after addressing the union’s 1961 national convention—sharing her concerns with the likes of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt. AWOC collapsed under the leadership of Al Green, an actvist who served as director until 1966, however. Around the same time, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Gilbert Padilla started the United Farm Workers, but they didn’t recruit Moreno.

Adios Amor – The Search for Maria Moreno Trailer from Laurie Coyle on Vimeo.

Nevertheless, Moreno continued to speak for the people. She prayed to God in the desert and pursued her new calling as a traveling Pentecostal minister. Touching hearts above and below the Mexican border, Moreno kept working on a mission until she died from breast cancer.

Her family continues to treasure her legacy and, through this documentary, the public can, too. Whether popular history recognizes them or not, this time capsule reminds us that multiple voices made and make movements possible.

Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno
Thu, Mar 1, 7:15pm HAM | Sun, Mar 4, 1:05pm RWC 11 | Fri, Mar 9, 3pm RWC 10 | Sun, Mar 11, 10am 3B

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