Curious Unions


Curious Unions

Mexican American Workers and Resistance in Oxnard, California, 1898–1961

Frank P. Barajas

Race and Ethnicity in the American West Series

374 pages
30 photographs, 1 map, 1 table


December 2021


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

December 2021


$30.00 Add to Cart

December 2012


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

December 2012


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

César E. Chávez came to Oxnard, California, in 1958, twenty years after he lived briefly in the city as a child with his migrant farmworker family during the Great Depression. This time Chávez returned as the organizer of the Community Service Organization to support the unionization campaign of the United Packinghouse Workers of America. Together the two groups challenged the agricultural industry’s use of braceros (imported contract laborers) that displaced resident farmworkers.

The Mexican and Mexican American populations in Oxnard were involved in cultural struggles and negotiations long before Chávez led them in marches and active protests. Curious Unions explores the ways in which the Mexican community forged intriguing partnerships with other ethnic groups within Oxnard in the first half of the twentieth century and the resulting economic exchanges, cultural practices, and labor and community activism. Frank P. Barajas examines how the Oxnard ethnic Mexican population exercised its agency in alliance with other groups and organizations to meet their needs before large-scale protests and labor unions were engaged. Curious Unions charts how the cultural negotiations that took place in the Oxnard ethnic Mexican community helped shape and empower farm labor organizing.

Author Bio

Frank P. Barajas is a professor of history at California State University Channel Islands. He is the author of Mexican Americans with Moxie: A Transgenerational History of El Movimiento Chicano in Ventura County, California, 1945–1975 (Nebraska, 2021).


"Curious Unions is a pioneering work. It should be recognized for its detailed research, including its extensive use of community-based oral histories and its proposed new theories regarding how Mexican workers strengthened their own community and survived the economic transformations of the region."—Margo McBane, American Historical Review

“An outstanding portrait of a cross-tribal international region prior to its incorporation into the United States. . . . Subsequent chapters are a wealthy mix of local and national documents alongside personal narratives from those who lived in the community.”—S. M. Green, Choice

“Enriche[s] our understanding of how labor organizers, community members, strikes, and forms of resistance have helped improve the lives of Mexican and Mexican American workers and families.”—Luis H. Moreno, Journal of American Ethnic History                                                              

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
1. Early Curious Unions
2. The (Re)Creation of Community
3. Segregated Integration
4. Bitter Repression, Sweet Resistance, and Cross-Cultural Unions
5. The Emerging Mexican (American)
6. Creating César

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