Matt Garcia is a professor of Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean studies and history at Dartmouth College. Originally from California, he previously taught at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the University of Oregon, Brown University, and Arizona State University. He is the author of A World of Its Own: Race, Labor and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970 (2001), which won the Oral History Association's best book award, and, most recently, From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement (2012), which won the Philip Taft Award for the best book in labor history. He is a coeditor, with E. Melanie DuPuis and Don Mitchell, of Food Across Borders: Production, Consumption, and Boundary Crossing in North America (2017). Garcia was also the outreach director and coprimary investigator for the Bracero Archive Project , which received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant as well as a Best Public History Award from the National Council for Public History.
In September 1962, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) convened its first convention in Fresno, California, initiating a multiracial movement that would result in the creation of United Farm Workers and the first contracts for farm workers in the state of California. Led by Cesar Chavez, the union contributed a number of innovations to the art of social protest, including the most successful consumer boycott in the history of the United States. Chavez often referred to the boycott as “capitalism in reverse” for its power to turn ordinary shoppers into union allies. Garcia discusses the accomplishments of the movement, including the benefits gained through the formation of a diverse organization that welcomed contributions from numerous ethnic and racial groups, men and women, young and old. For a time, the UFW was the realization of Martin Luther King Jr.’s beloved community. Garcia demonstrates that the community became increasingly difficult to maintain for Chavez as the state of California became more involved in adjudicating labor disputes in the mid-1970s. Although Chavez and the UFW ultimately failed to establish a permanent union, the boycott offers important lessons to those wishing to build a new food justice movement today.