Books for changing the world
Radicals in the Barrio
Magonistas, Socialists, Wobblies, and Communists in the Mexican American Working Class

Radicals in the Barrio uncovers a long and rich history of political radicalism within the Mexican and Chicano working class in the United States. Chacón clearly and sympathetically documents the ways that migratory workers carried with them radical political ideologies, new organizational models, and shared class experience, as they crossed the border into southwestern barrios during the first three decades of the twentieth-century.

Justin Akers Chacón previous work includes No One is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border (with Mike Davis).

  • "Radicals in the Barrio is the most sweeping and scholarly research on the role of the Left in Chicano history. It is groundbreaking."

    -Mario T. Garcia, author of Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, and Identity, 1930-1960



    "Justin Akers Chacón recreates and gathers revealing and emotive examples of genuine proletarian internationalism. The history of struggles of Mexican workers in the United States acquire an extraordinary timeliness in this indispensable book."
    -Anna Ribera Carbó, Directorate of Historical Studies, Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History



    "Hundreds of books about Mexican American history and their contemporary experiences in the United States have been published since the 1960s. Until now, however, a book on the role of the Mexican American working class in the development of the U.S. Left has remained largely missing. Radicals in the Barrio is a remarkable book that fills the gap. In particular, the author has done an excellent job documenting the role of Mexican men and women on both sides of the U.S-Mexico border who played a significant role in organizing Left organizations beginning with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the early 1900s to the Socialist and Communists parties, unions, and other Left organizations up to the 1950s. The author also details the reasons for both the emergence of those organizations and their decline. In short, the book is a valuable contribution on the lessons of past that can be useful for the emergence of new Left organizations in the 21st Century."

    -Dr. Carlos Muñoz, Jr., author of Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement



    “Justin Akers Chacón’s Radicals in the Barrio is a broad, transnational history of the working men and women of greater Mexico. This well-documented book offers a gripping narrative of more than half a century of radical ideologies and organizing among Mexican Americans, ranging from anarchist traditions that predated Mexico’s 1910 revolution to Cold War struggles among farm, mine and other workers across a broad borderland. Two essential take-aways of this excellent book are that US immigration policies and racism structured the economic exploitation of Mexican Americans, and that their transnational labor and struggles were essential to the making of both nations.”

    -John Lear, author of Picturing the Proletariat: Artists and Labor in Revolutionary Mexico



    Radicals in the Barrio is truly an impressive book. Justin Akers Chacón's study is the rigorous recording of a historical process that propelled social development in the United States and Mexico. The transformation of these countries is analyzed from the social struggles undertaken by men and women located at the very base of the American and Mexican societies. To understand the dimension of this research, which covers a wide period until the 1950s, it is sufficient to traverse the bibliography used. It is exhaustive, supported by an impressive documentation that includes archival sources, periodicals, testimonials, and iconography that allow Akers Chacón a critical perspective and an undeniable contribution to social history. It is therefore advisable to take a deep breath, and carefully and attentively read this exceptional book ready to better understand our past and our present.”

    -Javier Torres Parés, Professor of History of at the Universidad Autónoma de México and is author of La Revolución Sin Frontera



    “Justin Akers Chacón’s Radicals In the Barrio gives a comprehensive account we have of the making of the Mexican working class in the United States. From its origins in the transnational experience of extractive and industrial labor in both Mexico and the United States, through the period the Mexican Revolution and the intense class warfare in the U.S. West in the 1910s, to the organization of agricultural and industrial workers in the 1930s, and through the McCarthy period and the civil rights movement, Akers Chacón focuses on the political experience of Mexican workers. He does all of this within a Marxist framework, and with particular attention to the role of women workers. A formidable book in every way it will be of interest to the labor activists, Latino communities and scholars. I highly recommend it.”

    -Dan La Botz, author What Went Wrong? The Nicaraguan Revolution


    “It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Mexican workers in the U.S. working class, yet their story is little unknown outside academia. Justin Akers Chacón has set out to change this, with a thorough, detailed and well-told recounting of their history. What a history it is - miners fighting a U.S. boss and starting the Mexican revolution, taking on the Rockefellers in Colorado's coal wars, providing the backbone for Communist- and Socialist-led strike in California fields, or organizing the unemployed and homeless to build a base for the historic pecan strike in San Antonio.

    Akers Chacón pays attention to the radical ideology that drove the social struggles of Mexican people in the U.S., not just to their actions and tactics. He profiles the activists who developed that ideology, from Texas Communist strike leader Emma Tenayuca and "The Mexican Question" to Bert Corona, father of the modern immigrant rights movement, and Luisa Moreno who led the CIO in California in its most radical years. Their desire to change society fundamentally is a contribution that still resounds among workers and in unions today.

    Akers Chacón shows that linking working-class struggles in the U.S. and Mexico isn't just a product of NAFTA, or the recent decades of deportations. Emma Tenayuca went to the "Workers University" organized by labor leaders in Mexico City. Radicals in the Workers Alliance fought deportations throughout the Southwest eighty years ago.

    It's not just that this history belongs to working people today. Akers Chacón describes in detail the importance Mexican workers gave to leftwing politics and organizing. This is rich material for understanding their value to winning the same fights today. Akers Chacón 's book is at the same time exciting history and a resource with real meaning for Trump-era struggles for social justice.”

    -David Bacon, author of Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants and The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration



    “Justin Akers Chacón’s Radicals in the Barrio reveals the rich and compelling history of the Mexican migrants who came to the United States before and after the 1910 Mexican Revolution and brought with them workplace militancy, radical ideology, organizational innovation, and class culture that made a profound impact on the labor movement of the day....Radicals in the Barrio is necessary reading as we live through a prolonged migrant and refugee crisis driven by capitalism, spawning wars, ecological devastation, grinding poverty, displacement, crime, and state violence.”

    International Socialist Review


    “. . . so well-researched and thorough in its coverage of the subject concerned that it would be impossible to deal with every aspect of the Mexican American experience in a review. Reading it was very much an education, not only in terms of the union struggles covered, but also in relation to the story of Mexican involvement in American labour history.” –Northern Review of Books

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