Director Hector Galan focuses on Latino empowerment

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Director Hector Galan’s most recent film, “Willie Velasquez: Your Vote is Your Voice,” promotes political representation of the Latino community. He will speak Thursday night on campus.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Patrick Zimmerman | Daily Texan Staff

His voice is his camera. His visions are his movies. His motivation is his heritage.

Director Hector Galan’s made his most recent film, “Willie Velasquez: Your Vote is Your Voice,” to promote political representation of the Latino community through the lens of Willie Velasquez, a San Antonio activist who pushed for increased Latino voting in the ’80s. Galan will speak Thursday night on campus in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month as part of the “Cine y Cena” presentation. 

“I want my own people to know the power they have to change history,” Galan said. “I want them to know the power of voting. Latinos are a sleeping giant.” 

When gathering information for his documentary, Galan said many of the people he interviewed were passionate about making improvements in their communities. Willie Velasquez brought millions of Latinos into politics as voters and candidates in the ’80s, but throughout United States history, Latinos have been prevented from voting through tactics such as gerrymandering and poll taxes. Galan said he wanted to show how far the Latino community has come with his new film. 

In the 40 years he’s spent making films, Galan said he has seen the influence television and movies can have in spreading important messages to the public, particularly for minorities.

“There are so many stories that need to be told. Not even for my people but also for the American population,” Galan said. “Given the rhetoric we hear on the campaign trail, there is room to learn [more about] who we are. We want what all Americans want: safety and a better future for our children.”

Galan started making films when he was 18 after his experience in college pushed him to become more politically involved. 

“[In college,] I was really affected by the Chicano movement,” Galan said. “We wanted to change the Latino youth, we wanted it now. We wanted to change the way we were treated. When I became part of the movement, it just spoke to me.” 

Health promotion junior Omar Santos feels that fervor. He said going out and voting is important because he wants his voice to be heard.

“As one of the largest growing populations in the U.S., it is important for us to vote,” Santos said. “One of the many reasons to vote, unfortunately, is there’s more than black lives being murdered. Many Latinos are killed and there is never any justice brought to them.”

Radio-television film professor Charles Ramírez Berg said Galan is as important to Mexican-American documentaries as Robert Rodriguez is to Mexican-American feature films.

“He’s got a body of work that chronicles the Mexican-American experience for the past 30 years,” Ramírez Berg said. “It is a body of work no one else can match. He’s told our story in a way no one else has done.”

Since he first got involved in the Chicano movement in college, Galan said he has noticed there’s a growing amount of diversity in the work place and schools.

“I think there is more dialogue and more diversity,” Galan said. “However, I do believe when a current political candidate can get giant groups of people to chant, ‘Build the wall! Build the wall!’ we still have a lot of work to do.”