Man of Fire
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Title Page, Copyright, Quote
First and foremost, we would like to thank our families for all their sacrifices, inspiration, support, and wisdom that set the foundation for the accomplishment of this labor. Muchísimas gracias. Each of you has had a fundamental role in shaping our thoughts and scholarship. ...
Ernesto Galarza (1905–1984) was the most significant and prolific Mexican American social critic and public intellectual of the twentieth century. He eludes classification: his passion, integrity, dignity, and grit as a labor organizer, a researcher, an expert witness, an educator, and the voice of the farm worker labor movement earned him the well-suited name of “man of fire” by admirers as well as critics. ...
Organization of the Book
We have included excerpts from significant publications as well as unpublished work, interviews, speeches, and letters. The selected entries acquaint the reader with the breadth of Dr. Galarza’s work in political economy, labor studies, Mexican labor migration, organizing, and education reform. ...
Part 1: Coming of Age in a Class Society
In a Mountain Village
This is the introductory chapter to Barrio Boy and offers Galarza’s early childhood memories of growing up in a Mexican mountain village. The lessons he learned in Jalcocotán, Nayarit, about family and community, culture, nature, and standing up for oneself are not so different than those he practiced and taught later in life. ...
On the Edge of the Barrio
The final chapter of Barrio Boy leaves us with Galarza looking into the horizon over the Sacramento Valley contemplating his future. The journey from Jalcocotán to Sacramento has been difficult and has been dictated by work and the search for the next best chanza (job). ...
Part 2: Mexican Labor, Migration, and the American Empire
Life in the United States for Mexican People: Out of the Experience of a Mexican
In 1929, when he was twenty-four, Galarza presented this paper at the National Conference of Social Work in San Francisco, California. It was one of the first times he questioned U.S. policy toward Mexican and Mexican American labor in a public forum. In this paper he points out the hypocrisies of harmful U.S. labor policies toward a people ...
Program for Action
Common Ground was a publication of the Common Council for American Unity (1939–1959), a progressive organization whose purpose was to conduct research and do outreach to promote inclusive citizenship. One of their stated purposes was “to help the foreign-born and their children solve their special problems of adjustment, know and value their particular cultural heritage, and share fully and constructively in American life.” ...
California the Uncommonwealth
Though Merchants of Labor: The Mexican Bracero Story was originally selfpublished in 1964, the demand far exceeded Galarza’s printing capacity, and he contracted with McNally and Loftin Publishing for a second printing that same year. An updated third edition was produced and released by the publishing company in 1978. ...
Part 3: Action Research in Defense of the Barrio
In this interview Galarza offers a detailed account of the models he used in labor organizing and economic and social justice campaigns. As a public intellectual, he vigorously championed meticulous research and documentation as part of comprehensive strategies that exposed economic, social, and political injustice. ...
The Reason Why: Lessons in Cartography
This short piece notes the importance of human geography and maps the political and economic terrains that unfolded because of the borders the United States and Mexico share. Galarza’s mentor at Columbia University was William R. Shepherd, a renowned historian and cartographer of the United States and Latin America. ...
Economic Development by Mexican-Americans in Oakland, California
This report is another example of Galarza’s mastery of spatial sociology. This report combines economic, political, and cultural geography to give a detailed account of the Oakland Mexican American community and notes the impact of the decisions of governments, corporations, and elites on the community and the space its members occupy. ...
Alviso: The Crisis of a Barrio
Galarza was commissioned by the John Hay Whitney Foundation and the Mexican American Community Services Agency to study and report on the political and economic inequalities in Alviso, California. His research team found that Alviso was undergoing an economic transformation that was manipulated by elite interests from San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. ...
Part 4: Power, Culture, and History
Mexicans in the Southwest: A Culture in Process
The following selection is a revised version of a paper originally prepared for a 1970 conference organized by anthropologist Edward H. Spicer devoted to the concept of a plural societies in the Southwest. Within the broad questions Spicer posed about “the nature and development of variant groups within dominant societies,” ...
The Mexican-American Migrant Worker—Culture and Powerlessness
Galarza was called upon for service by public and private organizations, elected officials, community leaders, and media outlets because of his unique personal background and his expertise in international labor migration and Mexican American community development. ...
How the Anglo Manipulates the Mexican-American
Galarza was asked to provide the keynote speech at many conferences during his active career and after retirement. He took these opportunities to address ills that plagued working communities and to set action agendas. ...
Part 5: Organizing against Capital
Labor Organizing Strategies, 1930–1970
In this interview Galarza contextualizes the farm workers’ labor movement and its struggle to build a union. His candid remarks and critiques are as insightful as they are direct. He delivers a message that unions can be built during hostile times if the workers choose to organize themselves. ...
Poverty in the Valley of Plenty: A Report on the Di Giorgio Strike
This is the original report Galarza wrote to document the eight-month strike of Local 218 of the National Farm Labor Union against the DiGiorgio Fruit Corporation. It was later published in his book Spiders in the House & Workers in the Field. ...
Plantation Workers in Louisiana
Galarza was part of the progressive democratic left wing of the labor movement that believed that social problems were labor problems. This guiding principle challenged organized labor to reflect on its agenda and note whether it had the interests of all workers in mind regardless of industry of employment and or the ethnicity, race, gender, or immigration status of individual workers. ...
The Farm Laborer: His Economic and Social Outlook
Galarza delivered this speech at the Western Regional Migrant Health Conference, June 26–28, 1967, which was cosponsored by the Migrant Health Branch of the U.S. Public Health Services and L. S. Goerke, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California at Los Angeles. ...
Strangers in Our Fields
This 1956 report methodically addresses every aspect of the international labor agreement between the United States and Mexico, drawing upon official documents, visits to camps and job sites, and interviews with braceros. It was made possible by a grant-in-aid that the Fund for the Republic awarded to Galarza in 1955. ...
Part 6: Letters from an Activist
To Alfred Blackman, California Division of Industrial Safety, June 20, 1957.
This letter is illustrative of many hundreds of letters Galarza wrote to officials in state and federal agencies regarding violations of laws and regulations, particularly abuses under the Bracero Program. In 1957 nearly 500,000 braceros were contracted to work on various corporate farms throughout the Southwest. ...
To Congressman James Roosevelt, December 20, 1957
In addition to being the principal speaker, pamphleteer, researcher, and organizer for the National Agriculture Workers Union, Galarza was an indefatigable lobbyist, who kept constant pressure on elected officials and high-level bureaucrats. ...
Open letter to Members of the House of Representatives, co-signed by NAWU President H. L. Mitchell
This is another example of Galarza’s lobbying. Galarza liked to be known as director of research and education, but for the purpose of this letter he was the union’s secretary. The National Agricultural Workers’ Union viewed Public Law 78 (1951) as the single greatest obstacle for the farm worker labor movement. ...
To Henry P. Anderson, April 2, 1958
Anderson was a graduate student at the School of Public health at UC Berkeley, where he was studying the Bracero Program under a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The result of this research was The Bracero Program in California, with Particular Reference to Health Status, Attitudes, and Practices (Berkeley: School of Public Health, University of California, 1961), ...
To Henry P. Anderson, April 30, 1958
“Knight letters” is a reference to occasional broadsides Galarza sent to Goodwin J. Knight, Republican governor of California. He also sent copies to the press and other interested parties. ...
Letter to Henry P. Anderson, June 24, 1958.
This letter is a reply to a long letter Anderson had written about his first trip to Washington, D.C., during which he found that members of the “Eastern liberal establishment” lacked any real passion about the bracero system or farm labor in general. The attempt by Anderson and Galarza to shake them up soon led to the termination of Anderson’s research project at UC Berkeley. ...
To Jack Livingston, AFL-CIO Department of Organization, and Norman Smith, AFL-CIO Organizer, May 5, 1959
When Galarza wrote this letter, he had just been put on the AFL-CIO payroll as assistant director of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC). Livingston was head of the national AFL -CIO Department of Organization. This was the first time Galarza had had to deal directly with the bureaucratized labor movement. ...
To Norman Smith, December 5, 1959
By this point, Galarza had come to a parting of the ways with AWOC because it was not assigning its members to the NAWU, as he had understood it would. However, he was still on good personal terms with Smith, the AWOC director, and thus asked for a modest contribution to meet NAWU’s legal needs. ...
To “Liberal Friends who live in the East,” March 18, 1960
This is vintage Ernesto Galarza, complete with a quote from an elegiac ode by Catullus. The context of this memo was a controversy over the extension of Public Law 78. Galarza was an “impossibilist” who believed the opponents of the bracero system should hold out for no extension at all. ...
Part 7: Appendix: Vale más la Revolución que viene