Change from the Inside: My Life, the Chicano Movement, and the Story of an Era


Change from the Inside: My Life, the Chicano Movement, and the Story of an Era is the memoir of former Assemblymember and L.A. City Councilmember Richard Alatorre, chronicling his extraordinary role as a pioneering activist and political figure in the momentous events that advanced Latino empowerment from the 1960s through the 1990s—events that presaged the ascendency of contemporary Latino social and political influence.

Alatorre played a pivotal role across the length and breadth of the Chicano movement, so his story is more than a reflection on one person’s life. Alatorre offers detailed, entertaining, and compelling insights on the paramount figures in California political history with whom he worked and sometimes sparred—from Cesar Chavez and Ronald Reagan to Jerry Brown and Tom Bradley to the three Assembly Speakers under whom he served: Bob Moretti, Leo McCarthy, and Willie Brown.

After early activism that placed Alatorre amidst the nascent battle for Chicano enfranchisement, he decided he could bring about more change from the inside, and successfully ran for the state Assembly in 1972. He helped form and was the first chair of the Legislative Chicano Caucus, championing Latino causes and candidates in every corner of the state.

As a rookie Assemblymember, he convinced Governor Ronald Reagan to sign the first bilingual services act, opening up state and local bureaucracies to Latinos, plus the first bilingual contracts law curbing abuses of Spanish-speaking consumers.

Cesar Chavez credited Alatorre with enabling passage of the historic farm labor law making California the only state granting organizing rights to field laborers. Later, Willie Brown asked Alatorre to oversee the epic 1981 reapportionment of California legislative and congressional districts. Using computers for the first time, Alatorre created an unprecedented number of districts where Latinos could get elected. Five years later he did the same thing for Los Angeles as a member of the city council.

On the city council he helped create the city’s combined mass transit and bus system, pushed the police department to diversify its upper ranks, redefined public safety to include more services for kids, and convinced the city to embrace progressive immigration policies.

Change from the Inside tells the story of an extraordinary life and career as a man of his times worked on the inside to build a California that served all its people.

Richard Alatorre with Marc Grossman
Publication date: 
November 23, 2016
Publication type: 
American Politics & Government