In today’s society the term feminism is not an uncommon term to be heard. I can only imagine how “new” that word might have sounded to people during the 1940s and 1950s, though the concept is not new at all. Some feminist philosophers date back as far as 14th century. The United States has come a long way from those days when women were denied the right to vote or even the right to receive an education. After viewing the film, “Salt of the Earth,” I can understand why some thought the movie was overtly feminist and how it could have been influenced by communist ideas. But what is more inspiring is that the actress Rosaura Revueltas, sister of Silvestre Revueltas, felt determined to complete this film that could have possibly ruined her career. In a culture where machismo ideals are common, this role brought to light feminist issues that were never talked about beforehand.
From a family of twelve children sprang out four artists: a composer, an actress, a writer and a painter. The Revueltas family did their best to cultivate their children into being well-rounded individuals, even though the parents themselves did not have the highest of educations. Silvestre Revueltas, the composer, has been our focal point for this graduate seminar but some of his siblings also contributed to the arts. His sister Rosaura was an actress, his brother Jose was a writer and his brother Fermin was an artist. Rosaura Revueltas’s stood out to me perhaps because she was the only female sibling that became famous. Her most renowned role was in the 1954 film “Salt of the Earth.” She plays the character Esperanza Quintero, who participates in an all-female picket line (in support of their husbands) to protest against a mining company that is discriminating against its Hispanic workers through lack of pay. The film’s plot caused a massive uproar. Rosaura ended up on Hollywood’s black list of actors. Even after being arrested and deported back to Mexico, the film was completed and ultimately banned in the United States for its feminist tone and communist influence. By association, Rosaura was accused of being a communist herself simply because her famous brothers were involved with the party. Claims were made that the communists from Russia were helping pay for the making of the movie. It was quite the Hollywood scandal.
So what is feminism? According to the encyclopedia Britannica, feminism is the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes. Scenes from the “Salt of the Earth” illustrate typical gender roles such as the husband being the bread winner and the wife maintaining the household and raising the children. What a plot twist when the men in the film have to take over the household duties because their wives are marching in the picket line. For a culture that thrives on a machismo mentality, this type of gender role switch was unheard of at the time. Though much has changed since the 1950s, in the 20th century this machismo attitude still exists (to some degree) within the Mexican culture: the men make the money and the women take care of the domestic responsibilities. Perhaps things are still this way within the culture not because of some sort of oppression but because that’s just the way it is, the Mexican culture stills promotes this type of lifestyle. In the Mexican society it is not an insult to be a house wife. But thanks to the feminist movement some might think this is a primitive way of life.
As far as Rosaura Revueltas is concerned, was she considered a feminist? Well, she did participate in the making of the “Salt of the Earth.” She knew that this would possibly hurt her career. Even though she defended her actions, she was also interrogated, arrested and deported back to Mexico. Basically, Rosaura stood up for what she believed in and regardless of her gender, this made her a courageous human being.
Britannica Academic, s.v. “Communism,” accessed February 26, 2017, http://0-academic.eb.com.lib.utep.edu/levels/collegiate/article/communism/117284.
Britannica Academic, s.v. “Feminism,” accessed February 27, 2017, http://0-academic.eb.com.lib.utep.edu/levels/collegiate/article/feminism/343946.
Oliver, Myrna. “Rosaura Revueltas: Blacklisted Over Film.” Los Angeles Times May 3, 1996 Accessed February 26, 2017 http://articles.latimes.com/1996-05-03/local/me-188_1_arts-festival-expected
Riambau, Esteve, Casimiro Torreiro, and Rosaura Revueltas. “This Film Is Going to Make History: An Interview with Rosaura Revueltas.” Cinéaste 19, no. 2/3 (1992): 50-51. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/41687200.
Weinberg, Carl R. “”Salt of the Earth”: Labor, Film, and the Cold War.” OAH Magazine of History 24, no. 4 (2010): 41-45. http://0-www.jstor.org.lib.utep.edu/stable/23210200.