Things That Matter

Ernesto Galarza Is The Chicano Pioneer That You Probably Never Read About In Your History Books

The majority of Mexican-American studies in this country mention, at great length, the contributions social activist Cesar Chavez had on the Latino farmworkers movement in this country. But there’s another Chicano pioneer who I didn’t learn about until a recent conversation I had with my dad…

Meet Ernesto Galarza one of the first Chicano scholars who began organizing for Latinos in 1948.

CREDIT: Facebook/@GalarzaErnesto

But I didn’t learn about Galarza in my history class, chicano studies lectures or even from reading on my own. 

The way I discovered the incredible legacy of Galarza wasn’t through history books or in college. It was through my dad. 

CREDIT: That’s my mom and dad back in the ’80s when they were field workers.

During a phone conversation, my dad told me that people in Jalco (the small village in Mexico my parents are from) had honored a native writer and poet in the town’s plaza. “A poet?” I asked. “A poet from Jalco…what the?” Most of the townspeople in Jalcocotán, Nayarit are hardworking laborers, caretakers, moms and dads, teachers, lawyers, nurses, but certainly not poets. When I asked my dad the name of the poet, I quickly Googled him and what I found was astonishing.

Galarza wasn’t just a poet but a profound historical figure in Latino history who lead major movements as a young boy.

CREDIT: Facebook/Man of Fire: Selected Writings of Ernesto Galarza

Galarza was born in Jalcocotan, Mexico on August 15, 1905, but moved to Sacramento when he was a boy. There, he quickly learned English and excelled in his studies. Because his English was so good, local farm workers in California asked him to protest on their behalf because polluted water had gotten them sick and even taken the life of a baby in the camp. He did that commendable act when he was just a kid.

He went from the fields on to attend Occidental College, Stanford and Columbia University. NBD, right?

After graduating from Occidental College, he got his master’s degree in Latin American History and Political Science in 1929 at Stanford UniversityHe was one of the first Chicano alumni from Stanford. He also got a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University in 1944. All of this left me astounded.

That was just the beginning. Here’s more of his incredible accomplishments that contributed and aided the Latino community in the United States, and in Mexico.

Between the 1940s and 1950s, Galarza led the National Farm Labor Union.

CREDIT: @GalarzaErnesto

His work with this organization led to many accomplishments for farm workers including the initiation of the Bracero program, but it also included the exploitation of these works by the U.S. government.

The National Farm Labor Union birthed a movement that gained another Chicano activist and that was Chavez.

Chavez’s work with this organization led to numerous strikes mainly in California, but also throughout the country. Galarza believed he could help the Latino community more effectively through his writings than through activism.

Between 1920 and 1982, Galarza published numerous essays, books, and poems.

Some of the books he wrote include “Merchants of Labor: The Mexican Bracero Story,” “Spiders in the House” and “Workers in the Field,” among others. 

In 1971 he wrote what is now one of my favorite books—his autobiography “Barrio Boy,” which, among other things, discusses in great detail his childhood in Jalco.

Reading about my dad’s hometown, my history, in such an eloquent structure was very emotional for me. Jalco has always been this little town that I wish everyone knew about, and here I was reading about it in a book.

Here’s an excerpt about Jalco from that book:

CREDIT: Immigrant Voices: New Lives in America, 1773-1986.

It was because of this tremendous volume of work that in 1976 he was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature.

CREDIT: Facebook/Man of Fire: Selected Writings of Ernesto Galarza

That alone is an amazing legacy, but there’s more!

I found two elementary schools named after Galarza. One is in San Jose, Calif., the other in San Francisco.

CREDIT: Facebook/ sjusd.org/galarza

There’s also a research center that bears his name at the University of California, Riverside.

In San Jose, which is where Galarza lived until he passed away, is a monument dedicated to him and his advocacy work.

Man of fire.

A post shared by Lorenzo Tlacaelel (@c0pal) on

The artwork located at the San Jose Peace & Justice Center states the following: “Man of Fire commemorates the great and influential teacher and civic leader Dr. Ernesto Galarza. The artwork references Dr. Galarza’s life-long pursuit of bridging academic and civil life. The design of this commemorative work seeks to physically and conceptually connect San Jose State University with Plaza de Cesar Chavez, in the heart of the City’s downtown.”

Galarza’s extended family, some of them from Jalco, visited this dedication last year.

I don’t think I’d ever discover this great Latino trailblazer if it wasn’t for Dad. However, I am even more ecstatic that I can now share the amazing legacy of this labor activist, professor, writer, and the small village where we both have roots.

READ: Most people have never heard of this latino activist, but he’s getting his own movie

Do you have any cool connections to historical figurers? Let us know us by sharing this story and commenting below!

Video Of A Mariachi Band Serenading A Hospital Full Of Health Workers And Covid-19 Patients In Mexico Goes Viral And OMG It’s Amazing

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Video Of A Mariachi Band Serenading A Hospital Full Of Health Workers And Covid-19 Patients In Mexico Goes Viral And OMG It’s Amazing

@Notimex / Twitter

Like the rest of the world, Mexico has been struggling during the Coronavirus pandemic. But as most of the country is in lockdown, tens of thousands of healthcare workers are on the frontlines. They’re logging long and hard hours – putting themselves at a huge risk to confront this growing beast.

From New York to Milan, and now in Mexico City, creative residents have come up with moving tributes to these heroes.

With few audiences to play to these days, a group of Mariachi players staged a show outside one of Mexico City’s largest hospitals.

Credit: @NotiMex / Twitter

Plaza Garibaldi, in the historical center of Mexico City, is typically a Mariachi haven. There are usually hundreds of bands roving the square for willing customers asking for classic Mariachi hits – and it can be a lucrative job.

But on Tuesday, about 120 mariachis got together at a hospital to serenade those affected by the pandemic.

Julio César Barragán, the National Mariachi Association spokesman, said that the goal of the musicians was to lift the spirits of patients and health care workers at Mexico’s National Institute of Respiratory Diseases.

“We did this to give encouragement, solidarity and hope to the sick and to medical staff,” Barragán said, according to Mexican news portal Eje Central.

Obviously, such a powerful tribute quickly started going viral.

Wearing face masks (which trumpeters lowered temporarily in order to play their instruments) and maintaining a “healthy distance” from each other, the musicians assembled outside the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases, where they played a range of classic mariachi songs.

The serenata coincided with World Health Day, a World Health Organization initiative whose main purpose this year is to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives and remind world leaders of the critical role they play in keeping the world healthy.

The show of support comes at a time when most street musicians in Mexico City struggle with unemployment.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

Demand for Mariachis has fallen by 70%, as the COVID-19 crisis dealt a serious blow to the tourism industry in the capital.

“The situation is very critical,” according to Antonio Guzmán, a 35-year mariachi veteran in Mexico City. Adding: “I used to arrive at Plaza Garibaldi at 10 in the morning and leave at 8 at night. Now, with coronavirus, I have to arrive earlier, around 8 in the morning, without having had breakfast and I go home at 10 or 11 with nothing in my stomach,” he said.

“Sometimes I arrive home with my hands empty,” added Guzmán.

According to the Mexican newspaper Milenio, starting Thursday the mariachi association will start offering events on an online platform to raise money for the more than 2,000 families of mariachi musicians affected by the pandemic.

At the same time these healthcare workers are being celebrated, others across the country are facing discrimination.

According to a report by El Universal, fake news and ignorance are creating a hostile environment for healthcare workers across the country. Many are being discriminaed against, threatened, and even attacked.

Just days ago, residents in Morelos state (just south of Mexico City) protested outside a public hospital demanding Covid-19 patients not be treated in their city – they even threatened to burn down the building. One protester, even threatened the head doctor with being burned alive.

Healthcare workers have even stopped wearing their uniforms on their way to and from work for fear of being attacked.

Mexico’s Beaches Are Still Full Of Crowds Celebrating Semana Santa Despite Calls For Social Distancing

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Mexico’s Beaches Are Still Full Of Crowds Celebrating Semana Santa Despite Calls For Social Distancing

@YucatanPareja / Twitter

Although Mexico’s President has come under fire from much of the international community for his relaxed approach to confronting the Covid-19 crisis, many municipalities and states are taking an aggressive stance to halt the pandemic.

In fact, all of Mexico’s more than 6,000 miles of coastline have been closed. That means zero access to beaches – a major draw for millions of local and international tourists.

Officially, all of Mexico’s beaches are closed.

Credit: @localesoaxaca / Twitter

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell told a press conference on Thursday that the closure order applies to every beach in the country until the end of the national emergency on April 30.

“The order has been given. It obliges state and municipal authorities to take coherent measures and suspend tourist activity on beaches, be it international or local tourism,” he said.

Other states had already begun to close beaches earlier this week.

Those closures impacted some of the county’s most popular tourist attractions, including Baja California Sur, Baja California and Oaxaca, where local authorities closed down the country’s only nudist beach, Zipolite. Like beaches throughout Mexico, Zipolite is a big draw during the Semana Santa (Easter Week) vacation in April.

Authorities in Tamaulipas and Sonora had also begun to close beaches before the order, and Guerrero announced Wednesday that its beaches would be closed beginning Thursday.

“The state government makes this delicate decision in an unsatisfactory setting: we have had to choose between protecting life and suspending economic activity,” the state government said in a press release.

These authorities recognize that the economy – although it will be impacted – will recover.

Credit: Secretaria de Salud / Gobierno de Mexico

It said that the economy will always be recoverable as long as the human factor still exists and urged citizens to stay at home and practice other methods of social distancing.

But not everyone seems to have got the memo – as miles of beaches remained full of vacationers.

Credit: Pixabay

Even though it’s been proven that social distancing is our greatest tool against the growing pandemic, some are choosing to ignore these guidelines. And as a result, their risking the health of millions.

Over the weekend, people decided to defy the government’s order to stay at home and instead enjoy a day out at the beach in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz. The newspaper Milenio reported that Playa Villa del Mar near the port city of Veracruz was packed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with both revelers and vendors offering products such as swimming suits, food and alcoholic beverages.

President López Obrador on Friday ruled out any possibility of implementing “draconian measures” such as a curfew to contain the spread of Covid-19, while he said two weeks ago that he wanted to avoid a complete shutdown of the economy because it would disproportionately hurt the poor.

As if people needed another reason to stay clear of beaches – other than you know, a global pandemic – wild animals are making a comeback in less populated areas.

Credit: @infolliteras / Twitter

Videos have captured the animals in Quintana Roo, where the resorts of Cancun and Riviera Maya are located.

One video, which has been watched 120,000 times on Facebook, shows a huge crocodile swimming along a canal between balconies. The people filming express their shock at the animal as he swims past without stopping for the people watching him.

Another video captured a jaguar roaming the streets of Tulum. According to local media, the big cat was spotted near the Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya Resort & Spa.