The Mexican dicho "You raise the blackbirds, and they pluck out your eyes" prompted the title of this adult, historical, literary novel, Raising the Blackbirds, the story of a Mexican migrant farmworker, Sixto Torres, and his community. The narrative follows Sixto's life as a child in San Ciro; his "coming-of-age" experiences as a student attending a Catholic seminary and his struggle to lay aside that vocation. It describes Sixto's efforts, after the death of his father, to care for his mother and siblings, his marriage to Elida, and his decision to come north and to cross the border, eventually to join the migrant trail from Texas to California. Later chapters are set in the early Seventies. As Salinas Valley farmworkers organize for better wages and greater power over their living conditions, Sixto seizes a rare opportunity to purchase and rehabilitate an abandon labor camp. He is beset by numerous political, social, and cultural divisions--internal and external--as he leads his community in securing needed permits and financing. The housing cooperative's successful completion signals an immigrant community's transformation from a migratory and disregarded population to permanent and respected members of society. Raising the Blackbirds is carried forward over a period of forty-three years (1940 through 1983) through a narrative of three journeys: the Torres family's migration from Mexico to Texas (which occurs in Part One), the family's migration from Texas to California (which occurs in Part Two), and the family's and community's migration from squalid labor camps to decent and stable homes (which occurs in Part Three). As a community leader, Sixto must deal with jealousy, deception, suspicion, conspiracy, even persecution. Like many leaders, he sacrifices his own health and strains his relationship with Elida to follow "what he must do, his macho"; yet he is also weakened as a leader, at times, by his failure to control his temper and his drinking. Sixto constantly looks ahead to the next great challenge that, once overcome, will bring greater opportunity for himself, his family, and others around him. Sixto's early years in Mexico, reveal the society's wounds and scars inflicted during four-hundred-fifty years of oppression from without and within. The Mexican immigrants' journey north is not taken in isolation. It is presented as a direct product of the recurring bloodbaths: murder, disease and dislocation brought by the conquistadors, the fight for Independence from Spain, the 1846 invasion and land appropriation by the United States, and the assassinations of the young nation's leaders during the Revolutions and succeeding uprisings. The people carry this onerous history even as they seek a new life and new opportunities "al Norte." Sixto's fight to gain the knowledge, skills, and political power needed to bring positive change and to overcome distrust, jealousy, and opposition from some of his own community is reflective of Mexico's immigrant farmworkers' broader struggles in California and the nation. The labor camp that Sixto and his followers purchase is Old Camp McCallum, located five miles south of Salinas, with long and colorful history in the Valley; a history that is trisected by the story of guayule, a plant that grows wild in Northern Mexico and was a vital source of synthetic rubber during World War I and World War II; the bracero and other government programs that brought Mexican labor to the U.S. during both of the World Wars; and the central role that these two products of Mexico (guayule and labor) played in winning both wars. Sixto is seen as an iconic figure whose restive spirit and sometimes feverish resentment reflect social, cultural, and economic scars that were inflicted on Mexico and its people both from without and from within and that continue to affect the struggles and behavior of its sons and daughters who come north and strive to assimilate.