September 16, 2010—The writer and film maker Paul Laverty was asked recently why he and director Icíar Bollaín dedicated his new film “Even the Rain (Tambien La Lluvia),” set in Bolivia and starring Gael Garcia Bernal, to the historian Howard Zinn:
Over 25 years ago in Managua, Nicaragua, a close friend Myrna Santiago, who is now a brilliant history teacher in the Oakland area, gave me Howard’s book A Peoples History of the United States. It took my breath away. Little did I know that 15 years later we would become great friends.
Howard had seen a film Ken Loach and I made in Los Angeles about immigrant cleaners called Bread and Roses. Howard helped me enormously with historical research around Columbus and Bartolome de las Casas, one of the first priests of conscience to defend the indigenous population, and sent me many of his own books, underlined and annotated I am sure for preparation for the first chapter of A People’s History.
He was both a source of great inspiration, and just plain great fun. It is seldom to find such brilliance wrapped round a modest core. He was a gem. The notion of resistance runs through the very DNA of his work; he didn’t romanticize working class solidarity, but he recognized its critical importance for any possibility of change for the better. He was an activist to the core; as a younger man he had been beaten up in marches, and lost jobs because of his beliefs. His ideas about equality informed his life and how he lived. He died on the 27th of January last year and I am gutted he never got a chance to see our film, though I am sure he would have been a tough but generous critic.
I hope the dedication at the beginning of our film will lead a new generation to read his wonderful books and brilliant essays. My favorite quote from his book is by Frederick Douglass, born into slavery, who then went on to become a writer and campaigner. ‘Power concedes nothing without demand, it never did, and never will.’ Never a truer word has been spoken, and today never has so much power and wealth been concentrated in fewer hands. We have been given a great lesson by the people of Cochabamba, and I hope we take it, adapt it to our own circumstances, and participate in this great creative and complicated process of resistance. If not, we are done for.