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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Mexican Question: Mexican Americans in the Communist Party, 1940-1957


This paper will examine Mexican American labor activism between 1940 and 1957 in Southern California by exploring some key issues and political conflicts in the life of Ralph Cuaron. As a member of the Communist Party (CP) and an activist in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CJO), he was a critical element in the Mexican American community nurturing leadership and laying the groundwork for political activism. Cuaron is representative of the generation that took the mantle of leadership in the period between the 1930s and the 1950s as a personal challenge to transform economic and political conditions of Mexican Americans. And, yet, Cuaron’s project was not so narrowly defined that it excluded all but Mexican Americans Cuaron was ultimately concerned for the plight of the working man and woman. He had joined the CP because of its belief in the potential of the working-class to transform society and make it more democratic and egalitarian. By the end of 1957 however, Cuaron was at an impasse: branded a communist alien by the FBI and a nationalist by the leadership in the CP. Hence, Ralph Cuaron's life is a window into this historical past-a living archive.

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