Ernesto Galarza (1905-1984) was the premier Chicano scholar-activist of the pre-Chicano Movement era. Before the rise of César Chávez and the United Farm Workers, Dr. Galarza organized farmworkers and unionized other workers during the height of McCarthyism.
Dr. Galarza was one of the first Chicanos to attend and graduate from the university: Occidental College, Stanford University, and Columbia University. In addition, Dr. Galarza wrote several books including, Merchants of Labor (1964) and Barrio Boy (1971).
In 1972, at the height of the Chicano Movement, Dr. Galarza was interviewed by Richard and John Valadez for the Chicano Journal (UC San Diego), where he reflected on the first cohort of Chicana/o students who were entering the university and preparing to enter the professional class as a result of the Chicano Movement:
“The Mexican moving into American urban society is moving into an extremely complicated culture. The community needs people who know their way around in it but if you can learn your way around a complicated culture you can easily be tempted to exploit it on your own behalf and to make a career out of it. Careerism is one of the temptations and pitfalls which faces the Mexican graduate student, he has to make up his mind what his responsibility is. Now if enough such guys come out of the universities who go back well-trained, competent, and capable who use their skills to help the community to find its way through this maze, this meat grinder which is American society, their training will be justified. I will be very interested to see how many men and women [like this] this generation can turn out.”
Nearly forty-years later, Dr. Galarza’s words remain relevant.