“Harvest of Empire”: You're Gonna Reap Just What You Sow

At the height of McCarthyism in 1954, the independent film Salt of the Earth was suppressed due to its sympathetic dramatization of a strike by Mexican-American zinc miners. Though Peter Getzels and Eduardo López's documentary Harvest of Empire is far more direct and damning, in today's climate it's unlikely to get banned or foment the social change the establishment used to be afraid movies could spur. Based on the nonfiction book Harvest of Empire by Juan González (who functions as a de facto narrator, and is often shown looking pensive in various New York locales), the movie examines how the influx of immigrants from Nicaragua, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries to the United States in recent decades can be traced back to America's destructive, usually anti-Communist foreign policies in those nations. Among the film's many talking heads is Geraldo Rivera discussing his family's experience as Puerto Rican immigrants, and statistics about the current and future demographics of the U.S. (one-third of the population is expected to be Latino by 2050) are frequently juxtaposed with clips of Rivera's white colleagues on Fox News demonizing brown people as alien invaders. Harvest of Empire reveals America's long history of sowing, and, as it must, the time has come to reap.

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