Galarza, Ernesto (1905–1980)

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Galarza, Ernesto (1905–1980)

Ernesto Galarza worked in the United States to organize Mexican farm laborers. He also taught there and worked for educational reform.

Born August 15, 1905, in Nayarit, Mexico, Galarza came to the United States with his family when he was eight years old. He lived in Sacramento and worked as a farm laborer while going to school. His academic abilities earned him a scholarship to Occidental College in Los Angeles and graduate degrees in history and economics from Stanford University in California in 1929 and Columbia University in New York City in 1944.

In the post-World War II period Galarza returned to California, where he dedicated his life to the plight of Mexican farm workers. He joined the National Farm Labor Union and helped organize migrant workers. His experience and research led him to write Merchants of Labor (1964), a book arguing for abolishing the Bracero Program. His Spiders in the House and Workers in the Fields (1970) and Farm Workers and Agri-business in California, 1947–1960 (1977) also sought to reform the exploitative farm labor system.

Ernesto Galarza devoted the later years of his life to educational reform. He taught at San Jose State University, the University of California at San Diego and Santa Cruz, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and Stanford University and served on many commissions and committees that dealt with educational issues. He was an advocate of bilingual education and wrote a series of Mini Libros (little books) that were used in bilingual classrooms. His autobiography, Barrio Boy (1971), relates how he overcame obstacles to getting an education in the United States. Ernesto Galarza died on June 22, 1984, at his home in San José, California.

See alsoLabor Movements; Hispanics in the United States.


Chabran, Richard. "Activism and Intellectual Struggle in the Life of Ernesto Galarza (1905–1984) with an Accompanying Bibliography." Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 7, no. 2 (June 1985): 135-152.

Pitti, Stephen. "Ernesto Galarza Remembered: A Reflection on Graduate Studies in Chicano History." In Voices of a Chicana/o History, edited by Refugio I. Rochin and Dennis N. Valdés. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2000.

                        Richard Griswold del Castillo