Salt of the Earth is a 1954 American drama film written by Michael Wilson, directed by Herbert J. Biberman, and produced by Paul Jarrico. All had been blacklisted by the Hollywood establishment due to their alleged involvement in communist politics.
This drama film is one of the first pictures to advance the feminist social and political point of view. Its plot centers on a long and difficult strike, based on the 1951 strike against the Empire Zinc Company in Grant County, New Mexico. In the film, the company is identified as “Delaware Zinc,” and the setting is “Zinctown, New Mexico.” The film shows how the miners, the company, and the police react during the strike. In neorealist style, the producers and director used actual miners and their families as actors in the film.
The film opens with a narration from Esperanza Quintero (Rosaura Revueltas):
- “how shall I begin my story that has no beginning? My name is Esperanza, Esperanza Quintero. I am a miner’s wife. This is our home. The house is not ours. But the flowers… the flowers are ours. This is my village. When I was a child, it was called San Marcos. The Anglos changed the name to Zinc Town. Zinc Town, New Mexico, U.S.A. Our roots go deep in this place, deeper than the pines, deeper than the mine shaft….”
The issues the miners strike for include equity in wages with Anglo workers and health and safety issues. Ramon Quintero (Juan Chacon) helps organize the strike, but at home he treats his wife as a second-class citizen. His wife, Esperanza Quintero, pregnant with their third child, is passive at first and reluctant either to take part in the strike or to assert her rights for equality at home. She changes her attitude when the men are forced to end their picketing by a Taft-Hartley Act injunction. At the union hall, the women convince the men, after a long debate, that they should be allowed to participate and they join the picket line.