There is much to learn from this testimonio, as the authors call it, a collaboration between the scholar and the activist. We learn about the life and times of one of the Latinos’ most important leaders, a man who is to the urban labor movement what the late Cesar Chávez was to the farm workers’ struggles. After many years as a community and labor organizer, Bert Corona expanded his sphere of influence to focus on the rights of undocumented workers as well.

Mario García tell his readers that his purpose was not to write a biography using the usual scholarly formula. Instead, he and Corona agreed that they would talk, with Corona as subject, but prompted and guided by the historian. Compiled between 1988 and 1990, this account is very personal and never fails to credit the men and women who have contributed to the Chicanos’ struggle. The result is a very readable, chronological narrative, ostensibly about Corona’s life but also about the struggles of working people in general and Mexicanos-Chicanos in particular.

It is a tale of highs and lows, of victories and defeats; but ultimately, it is the story of a man who believes in the perfectibility of humankind. To call Corona’s narrative “inspiring” seems patronizing, but it is just that. His story is challenging, pitting academics against activists, would-be “saviors of the community” against the community itself. Corona makes it very clear that he believes that any community struggle has to begin with the community in question, not with outsiders. Yet perhaps he has mellowed with the years, for his tone is almost conciliatory.

A child of the Mexican Revolution, Corona was born in 1918. His story is epic in scope as he takes us from the very roots of his existence forward through the decades of activism that have been his life’s work. García’s introduction and afterword are truly excellent, setting the tone for the narrative and concluding with appropriate scholarly and critical observations. García sometimes cites FBI reports that contradict Corona’s accounts, adding a sense of tension between the subject and the “official report.” This is “oppositional history,” García tells us, exposing all manner of injustices, the greatest of which has been the “official” history books’ exclusion of people like Corona.

At times the narrative is a bit redundant, mentioning details that have already been covered. This reader forgave the collaborators, choosing instead to place himself with García, “listening” attentively as one would to a respected elder, regardless of the repetitions. This is a labor of love that successfully introduces the reader to the perspectives of a unique individual as it expands knowledge of the Mexicanos-Chicanos in this society.