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Latino/a Mobility in California History

Genevieve Carpio, Javier Cienfuegos, Ivonne Gonzalez, Karen Lazcano, Katherine Lee Berry, Joshua Mandell, Christofer Rodelo, Alfonso Toro, Authors

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Many prominent historians have studied ideas of mobility in American life. In The Lie of the Land, Don Mitchell drew attention to the role of subversive mobility in California labor history. The radical Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or "Wobblies") used their widely scattered membership of migrant workers to their advantage when advocating for better pay and working conditions in the state's massive agricultural industry. 

"The IWW... is not really an organization," one Wobbly said. "It is a revolution... It breaks out here and there, where industrial conditions are the worst. That is the secret of IWW success" (Mitchell 1996, 65). 

The IWW organized spontaneous strikes and marches to effectively "mobilize mobility" and "take control of space" (Ibid., 66). He explains the significance of this objective by citing anthropologist David Harvey, who argues, "those who command space can always control the politics of a place." By leaving their classes and taking to the streets protesting students in the East L.A. Walkouts similarly sought to take control of the politics of education in their city and beyond. 

In On the Move, Tim Cresswell explored the legal and cultural history of mobility in the U.S. He observed that mobility was "undoubtedly tied to notions of social justice" (151), and argued that Americans look beyond codified law to determine the extent of individual rights to mobility. 

Secondary scholarship on the blowouts is still in its early stages. Marching Students— a collaborative project by professors of Chicana/o studies, ethnic studies, women’s studies, and education— examines Chicana/o activism in education from 1968-2006. Their work shows how the blowouts influenced almost all subsequent educational activism by Chicanos. 

Sal Castro, a Lincoln High School teacher who helped students organize the walkouts, co-authored Blowout!: Sal Castro and the Struggle for Educational Justice with Mario T. Castro. This detailed retelling of the events leading up to the blowouts, the protests themselves, and the legal battles fought afterwards will be a crucial source for all future scholarship. It served as the basis for my map of the student walkouts— which was inspired by other historical mapping projects. For more information, see my digital review of Photogrammar, Invincible Cities and The Problem of Urban Historical Knowledge in Los Angeles
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