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Dolores Huerta gets personal and political in a new documentary about her life

United Farm Workers leader Dolores Huerta (center) leads a rally along with Howard Wallace, President of the San Francisco chapter of the UFW (left) and Maria Elena Chavez, 16, the daughter of Cesar Chavez (right) in San Francisco’s Mission District on Nov. 19, 1988 as part of a national boycott of what the UFW claims is the dangerous use of pesticides on table grapes.
United Farm Workers leader Dolores Huerta (center) leads a rally along with Howard Wallace, President of the San Francisco chapter of the UFW (left) and Maria Elena Chavez, 16, the daughter of Cesar Chavez (right) in San Francisco’s Mission District on Nov. 19, 1988 as part of a national boycott of what the UFW claims is the dangerous use of pesticides on table grapes.
Court Mast/AP

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At 87, Dolores Huerta has spent most of her life as a political organizer and activist. She co-founded the group that went on to become the United Farm Workers union in the 1960s, and also came up with the organization's famous slogan: "Si, se puede"—yes, we can.

While she's continued to fight for numerous causes in the decades since, her legacy has often been overshadowed by her UFW co-founder and collaborator, Cesar Chavez.

"Dolores," a new documentary about her life, aims to change that, by putting her story in the spotlight:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Unzr9kiFScQ

Huerta told KPCC's Alex Cohen about her work, and the toll it took on her personal life:

On her relationship with Cesar Chavez:

"I think it was a healthy relationship, because we did disagree. The thing is, I think that we as women, we have a different way of looking at things, we have a different intuition. And I think people sometimes say, 'Do you have any regrets about your relationship with Cesar?' Yes, I do—that I didn't fight hard enough! There were times ... when there were decisions made and I kind of gave in, and then afterwards it wouldn't have the outcomes that we have. And I thought, 'I should have fought harder for my position,' and Cesar agreed with me."

On raising 11 children as a full-time activist:

"The kids really didn't have any choice, because they kind of grew up in the movement, so this is all that they knew, this is our lifestyle. One of my sons ... would have made a wonderful actor. And my daughter, Juanita ... probably could have been a track star. But these are things that were really weren't able to develop in the children. And I feel doubly guilty because, growing up, I had music lessons ... dancing lessons, all the things that middle class kids have, but my children weren't able to have any of that." 

On protests and demonstrations in the digital age:

"The one thing is this this: marches are great, protests are fantastic, but you've got to take it to the ballot box. Because if you do not, nothing changes. Because policies are made by the people that are sitting on these different city councils, or school boards, or state legislatures and in the Congress. So we have to elect people who are going to fight for the people of the United States."

"That's the thing that I love about ... the documentary, is that it shows that farm workers, who were the most denigrated and discriminated people—to the point where they didn't have water or toilets in the fields for them—could come together and take on the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, the Farm Bureau Federation, and win! And so, if they can do it, then all of us can do it. But all of us, we have to get engaged with the local level."

Labor activist Dolores Huerta in the KPCC studio with
Labor activist Dolores Huerta in the KPCC studio with "Morning Edition" host Alex Cohen.
Rebecca Nieto/KPCC

You can learn more about the documentary and find screenings at https://www.doloresthemovie.com/

Click on the blue play button above to hear the rest of Alex's extended conversation with Huerta.