The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
Spring 1995, Volume 41, Number 2
Richard W. Crawford, Editor
Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona.
By Mario T. Garcia, foreword by David Montgomery. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. 340 pages. $30.00.
Reviewed by Carlos C. Larralde, Ph.D., author of Mexican American Movements and Leaders (1976) and Carlos Esparza, A Chicano Chronicle (1977).
This volume is the reflections of a militant Chicano who has dedicated almost all of his life to the labor, political and community activities of the Chicano in California since the 1930s. His recollections have always been cherished by numerous scholars. As the critic Mary Berry noted, “Bert Corona’s testimony bears witness to the connection between the collective memories and actions of his generation and the Chicano civil rights struggle today.”
Corona was involved in some labor strikes during the 1930s, the Sleepy Lagoon Case in 1942-1944, several anti-McCarthy committees during the 1950s, the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), the Viva Johnson Clubs, the anti-Vietnam demonstrations during the 1960s and numerous other organizations. One can only admire the historian Mario Garcia for his diligence and commitment to conduct oral histories on Corona. It takes skill to deal with a restless Corona who is always attending to numerous community issues. To Corona a time schedule does not mean anything. In a given moment, Corona will spend a few minutes or two or three hours according to given circumstances. As he used to say, “Help those who can help the community to help themselves and understand themselves.”
Although Corona’s anecdotes are a primary source for Chicano history, he was brief and modest in his chronicle. He reveals some accomplishments and failures. He underplays his major role in several California labor strikes during the 1930s, the Los Angeles Sleepy Lagoon Case, the Un-American deportations in San Diego, how McCarthyism almost destroyed him and his family and his long association with activists and writers like Carey McWilliams, Paul Schuster Taylor and artists like Diego Rivera.
As one of his co-workers, Soledad Alatorre stated, “This book is only an outline to a man who dedicated his life in helping others.” As Corona said, “It is time for me to step aside so that others will continue the struggle with optimistic conviction. Conflict and change dictates the law of life.”
Also these confessions further document the racism, margination and injustices that Chicanos have suffered. As the reviewer Sergio Munoz noted, “The UC Press is to be commended for printing this memoir, which fills in the gaps that ideology, egoism, racism, convenience and hypocrisy have tried to hide from us all.”
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