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Man of Fire

Selected Writings

Rodolfo Torres

Publication Year: 2013

Activist, labor scholar, and organizer Ernesto Galarza (1905 - 1984) was a leading advocate for Mexican Americans and one of the most important Mexican American scholars and activists after World War II. This volume gathers Galarza's key writings, reflecting an intellectual rigor, conceptual clarity, and a constructive concern for the working class in the face of America's growing influence over Mexico's economic system. Including excerpts from some of Galarza's indispensable books Barrio Boy and Merchants of Labor: The Mexican Bracero Story as well as articles, conference papers, interviews, and previously unpublished reports, the writings in this collection cover such timely subjects as community development, immigration politics and the Bracero Program, the Chicano movement, Mexican American education, ethnic relations, and U.S.-Mexico relations.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The Working Class in American History


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Quote

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

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. ...

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pp. xiii-xxiv

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. ...

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Organization of the Book

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pp. xxv-xxviii

We have included excerpts from significant publications as well as unpublished work, interviews, speeches, and letters.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

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In a Mountain Village

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pp. 3-14

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. ...

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On the Edge of the Barrio

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pp. 15-24

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

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Life in the United States for Mexican People: Out of the Experience of a Mexican

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pp. 27-31

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 ...

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Program for Action

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pp. 32-45

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.” ...

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California the Uncommonwealth

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pp. 46-62

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

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Personal Manifesto

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pp. 65-71

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. ...

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The Reason Why: Lessons in Cartography

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pp. 72-75

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. ...

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Economic Development by Mexican-Americans in Oakland, California

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pp. 76-99

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. ...

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Alviso: The Crisis of a Barrio

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pp. 100-128

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

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Mexicans in the Southwest: A Culture in Process

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pp. 131-160

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,” ...

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The Mexican-American Migrant Worker—Culture and Powerlessness

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pp. 161-166

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. ...

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How the Anglo Manipulates the Mexican-American

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pp. 167-174

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

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Labor Organizing Strategies, 1930–1970

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pp. 177-191

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. ...

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Poverty in the Valley of Plenty: A Report on the Di Giorgio Strike

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pp. 192-202

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. ...

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Plantation Workers in Louisiana

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pp. 203-223

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. ...

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The Farm Laborer: His Economic and Social Outlook

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pp. 224-235

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. ...

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Strangers in Our Fields

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pp. 236-256

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

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To Alfred Blackman, California Division of Industrial Safety, June 20, 1957.

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pp. 259-260

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. ...

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To Congressman James Roosevelt, December 20, 1957

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pp. 261-262

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. ...

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Open letter to Members of the House of Representatives, co-signed by NAWU President H. L. Mitchell

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pp. 263-264

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. ...

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To Henry P. Anderson, April 2, 1958

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pp. 265-266

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), ...

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To Henry P. Anderson, April 30, 1958

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pp. 267-268

“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. ...

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Letter to Henry P. Anderson, June 24, 1958.

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pp. 269-270

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. ...

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To Jack Livingston, AFL-CIO Department of Organization, and Norman Smith, AFL-CIO Organizer, May 5, 1959

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pp. 271-272

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. ...

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To Norman Smith, December 5, 1959

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pp. 273-274

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. ...

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To “Liberal Friends who live in the East,” March 18, 1960

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pp. 275-276

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

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pp. 277-282

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 283-284

Select Chronology

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pp. 285-288


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pp. 289-296

Production Notes

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pp. 333-337

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094934
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037672

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: The Working Class in American History