By PEPE URQUIJO
Welcome to the Fruitvale district in Oakland — the ever-expanding home of one of the oldest and largest Latino communities in Northern California. Street vendors are visible inner-city fixtures throughout Latino America, and the Fruitvale district is no different. Here, neighborhood residents rely on street vendors for inexpensive goods and healthy snacks; the street vendors also create a living link with the residents’ cultural heritage. Fruit of Labor shows the important role that street vendors play in preserving a vibrant cultural tradition that knows no borders.
At the heart of the film is Santiago “Chago” Cazares, a pushcart fruit vendor whose working days begin before dawn at a wholesale produce market, where he purchases fresh fruit for the day’s supplies. Chago’s story is that of a lesser-known hero, just like many ordinary Americans whose lives infuse this country with a richness that rarely enjoys respect or recognition from mainstream society. Chago has gone from rags to sustainability by selling deliciously colorful goods sprinkled with salt, chile and limon.
Fruit of Labor shines a light on the old-fashioned innocence of one man’s pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Following Chago’s seemingly mundane daily routine of selling fruit uncovers a complicated world of people, politics and power. Faced by threats of harassment, confiscation and unemployment, Chago responds with patience, persistence and Mexican ingenuity.
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