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Arts & Culture

VOCES: Adios Amor - The Search For Maria Moreno

Migrant mother Maria Moreno became the first farmworker woman in America to be hired as a union organizer. With peapickers harvesting in the background, Maria wears the typical dress of women in the fields, a hat and scarf to protect them from sun, dust and pesticides.
Courtesy of George Ballis/Take Stock
Migrant mother Maria Moreno became the first farmworker woman in America to be hired as a union organizer. With peapickers harvesting in the background, Maria wears the typical dress of women in the fields, a hat and scarf to protect them from sun, dust and pesticides.

Airs Thursday, July 8, 2021 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 (Not availahle to stream on demand)

Not available to stream on demand.

The Haunting and Forgotten Story of Maria Moreno, an Eloquent Migrant Mother Who Became an Outspoken Leader for Farmworker Rights

“Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno,” is a film by Laurie Coyle.

Before Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, there was Maria Moreno. In “Adios Amor,” the discovery of lost photographs taken more than 50 years ago sparks the search for a hero who history forgot: Maria Moreno, a migrant mother who sacrificed everything but her 12 kids in the passionate pursuit of justice for farmworkers.

Haunted by a personal tragedy and blessed with a gift for oratory, Maria rolled up her sleeves, collected signatures and electrified audiences.

Elected to represent her fellow Mexican American, Filipino, Black and Okie farmworkers, she became the first female farmworker in America to be hired as a union organizer.

Filmmaker Coyle first saw photos of Maria Moreno 20 years ago, when she was the lead researcher and associate producer for the groundbreaking documentary "The Fight in the Fields — Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers’ Struggle."

While searching for images of Chavez, she came across hundreds of photographs of a migrant mother organizing with her children at her side.

Far from snapshots, these were master images taken by the leading photographer of the farmworker movement, George Ballis.

But aside from the well-known UFW leader Dolores Huerta, women farmworkers were usually anonymous and relegated to the background in press coverage.

Coyle wondered about the woman in the photographs, but it would be another two decades before she could return to the story.

Migrant mother Maria Moreno became the first farmworker woman in America to be hired as a union organizer. Wearing “jungle” (safari) hat, Maria makes a phone call in the office of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, Fresno, Calif. 1961.
Courtesy of George Ballis/Take Stock
Migrant mother Maria Moreno became the first farmworker woman in America to be hired as a union organizer. Wearing “jungle” (safari) hat, Maria makes a phone call in the office of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, Fresno, Calif. 1961.

"When my search began, I didn’t know what I would find or whether Maria Moreno would still be living,” Coyle said. “With a measure of luck and a lot of work, I traced her life and legacy.”

From California’s great Central Valley to the Arizona desert and U.S.-Mexico border, the search for Maria yields a deeply human drama about Mexican American farmworkers living in dire poverty at a time of unprecedented abundance, whose faith, family values and working-class culture sustained them.

Featuring photographers, reporters, radio producers, labor activists, historians and Maria’s children, “Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno” pays tribute to the people whose hard work feeds the nation and celebrates the courageous woman who told their story to the world.

Migrant mother Maria Moreno became the first farmworker woman in America to be hired as a union organizer. Surrounded by farmworkers and their children at a house meeting, Maria listens and takes notes. 1960
Courtesy of George Ballis/Take Stock
Migrant mother Maria Moreno became the first farmworker woman in America to be hired as a union organizer. Surrounded by farmworkers and their children at a house meeting, Maria listens and takes notes. 1960

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This film was available to stream on demand through Oct. 25, 2019.

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Credits:

Director/Producer: Laurie Coyle. Produced by Latino Public Broadcasting, the acclaimed PBS documentary series VOCES features the best of Latino arts, culture and history and shines a light on current issues that impact Latino Americans.