Carlos Larralde has crafted a study of Bert Corona, a California Latino civil rights activist. This alone is a significant accomplishment. As the reader will undoubtedly surmise, hard copy source materials were scant. This is due primarily to the dearth of paperwork and notes available. This, in turn, was due to the fears that primary source materials could be confiscated and used against the people central to the study, Bert Corona and the Latino activists associated with him. These fears arose in conjunction with the very real danger that local, state, and federal government minions would distort and use against these Latino activists, the very records that would have verified and supported their verbal accounts.
Thus, in many instances, verbal accounts remain our only source materials for the history of this band of brothers and sisters who stood up to individuals and groups determined to squelch the basic human rights of ethnic and social minorities. The reader, whether liberal or conservative, should find succor in the activities of these Latino activists. For if none stand to restrain the government, we will all become subjects rather than citizens. This is why the following narrative is powerful, and is such a valuable part of history.
One of history’s problems remains: just what is history and who has the right to craft historical narratives. There is a somewhat accurate concept that the winners get to write history. Fortunately, this tends to be true in the short run. Over time, a more balanced narrative tends to develop which will incorporate voices not heard in the initial historical monologue. I sincerely believe that the volume you are reading serves history by expanding the existing narrative. The multiple voices resonating in this story enrich the history of California, Latinos, the United States, politics, society, and individual persons. Some of these voices have been heard before and some have been heard by only a minute percentage of us.
In developing this narrative, Carlos Larralde has invested his time, talent, and lifeblood in its presentation. The reader is offered a chorus of voices, not a cacophony of noise. This is a difficult endeavor as so many voices and life stories can obfuscate the historical value within multiple lives and personal stories. This work presents many voices and stories. The reader will find it not necessarily an easy read. Please remember that if something is easy, anyone could do it and it usually is not worth much. Easy may be convenient and comfortable, but easy has but limited value.
In this vein, please remember to read the endnotes. This may sound strange, but the endnotes contain more than just sources. Within the source material and the ancillary comments attached to several of the notes is a presentation of the broad range of sources utilized by the author. The endnotes should illuminate the reader with a fuller understanding as to why the narrative has been crafted as it has. This narrative is primarily the story of a single person’s life, which has been richly intertwined with the lives of so many other persons, both heroic and base. In this complex tapestry lies a mirror of our own lives and experiences. One history of so many that comprises our individual and communal existence.
This is a work of scholarship and love compiled from multiple sources and frequently derived from personal interviews with the individuals who lived through this period. Oral histories are difficult simply by the manner in which they are obtained, recorded, and stored for subsequent retrieval, often years later. This alone affords such narratives substantial value, by their scarcity and by the craftsmanship of an individual who has dedicated his effort to bring these narratives to light.
When Carlos asked me to collaborate with him, and pen a foreword and appendix to this narrative, I accepted with honor and trepidation. The former as I was truly honored to be a part of this endeavor. The latter as I was unsure that I could add functional benefit to his work. Yet a third concept of mine has driven this narrative. I have been academically associated with Carlos Larralde for twenty years now, and I have never known him to want anything other than to give voice to those now silenced. I consider this a noble effort, as I have always promoted the concept that all voices be heard, and from the chorus, historical narratives will emerge. For this effort I commend Carlos and his opus. To his readers, I wish them a journey of enlightenment.
Michael J. Lynch III, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History and Geography
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff