Dolores Huerta and a Star-Studded Crowd Took to the Streets at the Sundance Women’s March

Dolores Huerta attends the Women's March at Sundance Film Festival.

Two thousand miles away from where the masses gathered upon the National Mall at the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, attendees at the star-studded 2017 Sundance Film Festival stood tall in solidarity with the movement, many of them Latinx. Flanked by growing snowbanks, a mammoth, 8,000 person crowd at the year’s first premiere indie film festival—actors, movie buffs, industry folks, journalists and civilians alike—braved an unrelenting snowfall to march along Park City, Utah’s main drag, Main Street. Marchers chanted “science is real” and “love not hate makes America great” all the way down Main Street until turning on nearby Heber Avenue, towards the snowy lot where the likes of Dolores Huerta gave impassioned speeches.

For sisters Adela and Sandra, who drove in from neighboring Salt Lake City for the event, the march provided a pivotal focus on the preservation of women’s rights—which are human rights—that have been so hard-won throughout the United States’ short, fraught history. “It’s a way to protest actually the inauguration and show my stance against misogyny and against the messages that have been put out by Trump,” Adela says. “And also because I kind of feel a little bit powerless with what’s happened. This is a way to feel empowered, to be around other women and people who support women and women being full participants in society. I feel like Trump’s message was to have women back in line again in a very sneaky, sly way.”

Jen Yamato / Los Angeles Times
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The March on Main was the first protest ever for Sandra, who is the younger of the two sisters. “Just watching the things that are being said and done, I just felt compelled to come,” she says. “[Trump] went against everything that we are, not just as females. We’re Latinas, we’re women, we’re immigrants and refugees. We’re everything that he hates.” Sandra and Adela’s mother brought them to the United States from El Salvador when they were still toddlers, in 1980. She fled an abusive situation, sewing money into her underwear and taking a bus through Mexico in order to give her children a new life. “We believe in what the American Dream is,” Adela says. “I think we’ve grown up with it. And for [Trump] to exclude so many people from that is kind of an insult: For the time my mom has been here, we’re working towards making the United States as good as we can make it.”

“I feel powerless with what’s happened. This is a way to feel empowered.”

“He isn’t just a threat to us; he’s a threat to the entire world—and it’s nice to see all the marches going on in other countries, because everyone is at stake right now,” says Katia, a childhood friend of Adela’s who also immigrated from El Salvador in the early 1980s. Katia’s parents, who converted to Mormonism in El Salvador, came to the United States through the amnesty during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Still, the friends say that it’s been a challenge to speak out in the very place where they grew up. “In Salt Lake, when we talk about issues it’s kind of in a hushed voice because the predominant culture is Republican and Mormon,” Sandra says. “But we’ve been a lot more vocal and not afraid.”

A range of emotions certainly resonated at the Women’s March on Saturday. Fear was not one of them. Latinas held their signs high, that read the likes of “I’m with her” (featuring arrows pointing in all directions) and “respect my existence or expect resistance.” Volunteers and coordinators from the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which came into town from California for the film Dolores (about the eponymous activist who helped start the first farm workers’ union in the United States, along with Cesar Chavez) proudly and prominently held a banner reading “Si Se Puede” at the march. Passersby frequently joined in chanting the phrase, made famous by Huerta as she rallied for the rights of the marginalized.

We’re Latinas, we’re women, we’re immigrants and refugees. We believe in the American Dream.

Maria Elena Chavez, a volunteer for the foundation and Dolores Huerta’s daughter, says that the march highlights the sheer magnitude of the work that’s to come, and not just for women. “A lot more of our energy will be fighting to preserve what we fought for and gained over the last however many years instead of just advancing in our causes,” she says. “It’s doubled work for all of us who work on behalf of working people you know. The underrepresented.” Chavez is quick to note that it’s also a monumental opportunity to reignite the necessity of civic engagement, too. “Obviously we’re all aware of how the true status of thinking and belief was in this country, so we need to find out how to reach those folks who voted for Trump,” she says. “We need to reach out and communicate and help them see the relevance of what we stand for in our causes and how it’s also important to them and impacts them.”

Dolores Huerta speaks at the Women’s March at Sundance. Photo: Jen Yamato / Los Angeles Times
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In her speech at the march, Dolores Huerta focused on the continued need for community organizing that go far beyond protests. “Marching is very important but we have to remember that the way to take power is to get out there and organize, and to get people to vote,” she tells Remezcla. “And that’s why I think we lost the election; I think a lot of people didn’t understand that. Women need to run for office, and we need to get feminists, both men and women, they gotta take power. They gotta get elected, and it’s gotta be done at the grassroots level.”

Huerta says she feels hopeful, however, about the future of activism. The tireless activist said that while the Park City march may have been one of the coldest to happen in the United States, the turnout was a testament to the “courage and determination of women,” who don’t for a second let neither snow nor sleet nor a President stand in the way of their right to fight.