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Before Silicon Valley Project

Before Silicon Valley Project:
Mexican American Workers in Santa Clara Valley, 1920-1960

Postcard of Orchards in Bloom, Los Gatos

From 1920 to 1960 the Santa Clara Valley transformed from the nation’s largest fruit-producing region into the center of the new high-tech world. Mexican American labor organizing and struggles for civil rights were profoundly affected by the pressure for change in the region.

Funded by the County of Santa Clara through a local history grant, Before Silicon Valley is a project of the San Jose Parks Foundation and the San Jose State University Library. It will create a bilingual website, a research portal focused on the largely undocumented agricultural history of the Santa Clara Valley and the rise of Mexican and Mexican American labor and civil rights activism from the 1900s though 1960.

Our goal is to deepen our understanding of American labor struggles, ethnic resilience, and creative adaptation and cultural production in the fight for equality in the United States and to broaden the scope of the 20th century civil rights story. Read more about our work.


Women on strike


Recent research shows that Mexican Americans in the Santa Clara Valley have been building community and making history for decades, but little of this history is in books, archives, or on the Internet, and few materials have been digitized. The participants are aging and passing on, so it is critical to capture their stories NOW. We still have much to accomplish before our website goes live in 2023. Despite some of the delays caused by COVID-19, our work goes on:

  • We are creating six 5-7 minute mini-documentaries using oral histories, photos and newsreel footage.
  • We converted older video interviews and transcribed, translated, and edited the audio of all the oral histories.
  • We created this interim project website; the final website will go live in March 2023.
  • We post local stories and historic photos every two weeks on Instagram and Facebook.
  • We have documented the San Jose/Campbell/Sunnyvale area and reached out to the largely undocumented worker communities in Mountain View and Gilroy.

We appreciate the many people who have contributed their stories and photos to our oral history program, and your donations will help us share more stories. Check out our social media, or join our Google Group to get e-mail updates: go to B4SV-Group and click "Join group." 

Margo McBane, PhD

Project Co-Director

Emeritus Lecturer in History
San José State University
(831) 331-5902

Kathryn Blackmer Reyes

Project Co-Director

Director, AAACNA Studies Center
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
San José State University
(408) 808-2097