Railroad Radicals in Cold War Mexico: Gender, Class, and Memory

By Robert F. Alegre | Go to book overview

Foreword
Elena Poniatowska

Translated by Robert F. Alegre

A locomotive at full speed arrives at the station, giving rise to a spectacle that will forever mark the life of a child. As a child Robert Alegre witnessed the train cross the wide lonely plains of Chile and followed its endless trajectory until he reached the station. Perhaps it is in his childhood that we can locate his passion for the subject of the book you are about to read: Railroad Radicals in Cold War Mexico: Gender, Class, and Memory. The railroad movement in Mexico has been the subject of many books, but none as passionately written or meticulously documented as this one. His passion is evident in his concern for every one of the ferrocarrileros he interviewed. He expresses empathy for them not just as informants but also as individuals, members of a network the country has buried. In writing about them, Alegre exhumes Mexico’s railway men.

When Robert Alegre arrived at my home one afternoon, I never imagined he would commit himself so fully to the Mexican rieleros — and not just to them but also to the women who worked in the system and fought beside their men. The years 1958 and 1959 are fundamental to the history of Mexican workers because Demetrio Vallejo Martínez, the protagonist of Alegre’s excellent book, inspired exploited workers in other industries to engage in civil disobedience, paralyzing industries across the entire country.

The railroad union was the bravest of the labor guilds, the most audacious, and the most intelligent. The men were distinguished by their machismo. “Nobody beats me.” To be a rielero was to be a win-

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