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Mi Raza: Portrait of a Family

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Film Identifier: F.2006-03-0016
Run Time
0h 30m 37s
Date Produced
Mi Raza: Portrait of a Family is a documentary about the Navarro-Gonzalez family, a multi-generational Mexican-American family living in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, made by anthropologists/filmmakers at the University of Illinois Chicago, Paul Hockings and Susan Stechnij.

Preserved by Chicago Film Archives with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
The documentary begins with footage of activist Lola Navarro holding a sign that reads "MI RAZA" and marching through a crowd. In voiceover, she says "this film is not in any way claiming that we represent the Latino family or the Mexican culture... it's just our way of living, our way of life, our own personal feelings."

The next scene focuses on the family's grandmother, Chepa Elizarrarás, as she cooks for her husband Eugenio and recounts events which happened in her childhood in Irapuato Guanajuato, Mexico. She talks about the legend of La Llorona, and how her uncle died of fright after an encounter with the ghost. Chepa then sings to statues of saints she has at her own private alter.

Next, Lola's cousin Manuel discusses some common illnesses and herbs which are used to treat them, then the family conversation moves to food preferences. Lola is seen at a butcher shop purchasing goat meat for the fifteenth birthday celebration of the eldest daughter, Rosemary. Next, the family is seen preparing the meal; Clemente Senior shows Clemente Junior how to make birria. At Rosemary's party, she reads her birthday cards, poses for photographs, and dances with her father to "Sobre las Olas,” a traditional Mexican waltz.

Scenes of family and community life are shown as the film follows some of the daily activities of the family members. We visit Paloma in a T.E.S.L. (Teaching English as a Second Language) class, involved in a class competition game involving synonyms. Rosemary takes part in a car wash sponsored by the Chicano club, trying to raise money to go on a field trip to Springfield. Sandra is then seen at Casa Aztlan, a Pilsen community center which emphasizes Mexican cultural heritage.

The youngest child, Clemente Junior, is seen making his first communion as his godfather Frank Calderon compares godparenthood in Chicago and Mexico. Clemente Senior describes working as a bracero as he is seen working in a wine bottling plant. The desire to support the union movement of farm laborers is demonstrated as Lola, Sandra, and Rosemary picket the sale of A&P non-union lettuce.

The last scene takes place at the Board of Education as members of the Navarro-Gonzalez family protest the need for a new high school and better education for the children of the Mexican-American community in Pilsen. Afterwards, back at home, Lola explains to her daughters her feeling about what occurred at the meeting, saying "when you got feelings, you fight for whatever you believe with whatever you got."

The film has both English and Spanish subtitles.
MS Protest march / MS Family gathering / MS Grandmother cooking in kitchen / MS Living room with religious icons / CU Grandmother talking about 18th St. in Chicago / MS Grandmother telling folktales to grandchildren / CU Grandmother singing and cleaning religious icons / MS Male cousin talking about using folk remedies / MS Family discussing the eating of hot peppers / MS Mother choosing meat at the butchers / MS Father and son cooking tripe / CU Father explains how he makes tripe / MS Family eating dinner / MS Teenage daughter celebrating birthday, opening presents / MS Family members taking photos of birthday party / CU Daughter blowing out candles on 15th birthday cake / MS Daughter dancing with Father at birthday party / MS Young children at school writing on blackboard / MS High school students washing cars at benefit / CU Sign being held up by high school boy that reads “Froebel West Parking Lot” / MS Children in art class making replicas of Aztec architecture / MS Family at mass / MS Son’s first communion / MS Men working at Mad Dog 20 20 factory / Voiceover of Grandmother talking about how the center of life in Mexico is the church but in America it is the workplace / CU Father working on assembly line - his voiceover on coming to work in America in guest worker bracero program and as an undocumented immigrant / MS Protest march and union drive against A&P grocery store / LS City of Chicago Board of Education meeting with Latino community activists arguing with board members / MS Community activist leaving meeting / MS Mother talking with daughter about why she fights for educational and social equality.
Preservation Sponsor
National Film Preservation Foundation
Main Credit
University of Illinois Chicago (is producer)
Stechnij, Susan (is director)
Hockings, Paul (is producer)
Additional Credit
Cordwell, Justine M. (is contributor)
Mamalakis, Mark (is contributor)
Moraites, Maria (is contributor)
Morrissette, Jim (is contributor)
Ralte, Lalchumi (is contributor)
Stechnij, Susan (is contributor)
Steindl, Paul (is contributor)
Temaner, Gerald (is contributor)
Tomlinson, Jill (is contributor)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Elizarrarás, Chepa (is participant)
Navarro, Lola (is participant)
Gonzalez Navarro, Paloma (is participant)
Gonzalez Navarro, Rosemary (is participant)
Gonzalez, Clemente Sr. (is participant)
Gonzalez Navarro, Clemente Jr. (is participant)
Gonzalez Navarro, Sandra (is participant)
Related Places
Chicago (production location of)
Pilsen (depicts)