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Lorenzo Torrez papers

Identifier: Ms-0384

Scope and Content

The Lorenzo Torrez papers span the years 1959-1998, with the bulk the materials dating from 1975-1991. They are arranged into ten series: Biographical, Writings, Elections, Communist Party of the United States, Issues, Publications, Federal Files, Memorabilia, Oversize, and Photographs. The papers contain correspondence, newsletters, publications, clippings, and photographs created and collected by Lorenzo Torrez.

The Biographical series dates from 1971-1998. This series contains correspondence to and from Torrez, articles about Torrez's life, and a genealogy of his family. Incoming and outgoing correspondence is interfiled and arranged chronologically when the date is known. Correspondence to and from American presidents and their spouses have been placed in a separate folder.

The Writings series contains articles, pamphlets, short stories, and interviews by Torrez and is separated into three subseries: published, unpublished, and speeches and interviews. Longer pieces have been placed in separate folders, with short articles placed in the same folder. Known titles are given, otherwise writings have been grouped by general subject. Each subseries is arranged in alphabetical order.

The Elections series spans the years 1978-1994 and contains flyers, correspondence, petitions, and clippings about Torrez's campaigns for local, state, and federal offices. This series is arranged chronologically by election year. There is also a series of flyers and newsletters from People Before Profits, the party name on which Torrez ran in several of the elections.

The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) series contains newsletters, clippings, articles, and other publications by and about the CPUSA. One folder deals specifically with the New Mexico/Arizona District of the CPUSA. This series is arranged alphabetically by subject.

The Issues series is divided into four subseries: Hispanics, Latin America, Politics, and Organized Labor. This series contains mostly newspaper clippings collected by Torrez on social, economic, and political issues which interested him. Many materials in this series were oversized and removed to the artificial oversize series. A note is located after each folder indicating which material was removed and where it currently is located.

The Publications series ranges in date from 1975-1998 and contains journals collected by Torrez. Some of these publications are in Spanish. This series is arranged alphabetically by journal title.

The Federal Files series contains two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) files on Torrez which he obtained through the Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOIPA). Also contained is correspondence between Torrez and the FBI relating to his attempts to see these files.

The Memorabilia series contains certificates received by Torrez, a commendation from the CPUSA, Nicaraguan money that serves as a reminder of his trip there, and a raffle ticket.

The Oversize series contains articles and newspaper clippings that were too large to fit in the Issues series and posters collected by Torrez. The posters include a series of "Don't Buy Guess" advertisements and several Spanish language posters.

The Photographs series consists of three photo albums and six loose photographs. The photo albums were taken apart for preservation reasons, however, a photocopy of the page as it appeared was taken to preserve the visual record. Each page of the photo album is arranged in the box as it was arranged in the album, with each folder holding one page worth of photographs. The six loose photographs contain five photos, including a portrait of Torrez, and one oversize photograph of a group portrait including Torrez.

Significant correspondents include: Arthur R. Day, Dennis DeConcini, Gus Hall, John McCain, Victor Perlo, and Morris K. Udall.


  • 1959-2000

Access and Use Restrictions

This material may be examined by researchers under supervised conditions in the Caroline E. Stras Research Room.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with copyright and other applicable statutes.

Biographical Information

Lorenzo Torrez was born in Gila, New Mexico. At the age of 16, he started working in mining camps and continued working in them for 25 years as a production worker, miner, laborer, repairman, and millwright. In October 1950, as a member of the Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers Union, Torrez participated in a strike for improved wages in what became known as the Empire Zinc Strike. When a court enjoined strikers from picketing, the wives of the men took up the duty, including Torrez's wife Anita. The strike ended in February 1952 with Torrez concluding that if the Communist Party had not been there, the strike would not have been successful.

The strike later became the basis for the film Salt of the Earth. Producers and screenwriters worked with the union to write the script, going through 16 drafts before a version was acceptable to both sides. When the filming began in 1953, Torrez was one of the local miners to participate in the filming.

Unable to find work in the mining industry, Torrez moved his family to Los Angeles in 1970 to begin his new assignment as chair of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) Chicano Commission. During this time, Torrez helped start the Instituto del Pueblo, an East L.A.-based community action center where ideas of communism and socialism were taught by Communist Party members.

Torrez moved his family to Tucson in 1974, where he served as chair of the Arizona Communist Party for more than 30 years. He also led the party’s Chicano Equality Commission and was a member of the CPUSA National Committee. He built the Arizona Communist Party into an influential organization in all the progressive movements of Arizona. He also wrote and raised money for the party's newspaper People’s World and its predecessors. Torrez helped establish the Salt of the Earth Labor College in Tucson, which continues today.

In Arizona, Torrez ran ran for political office on the local, state, and national levels. He was active in political and social causes, served as a mentor to others involved in labor organizing, and remained an advocate for Mexican American political representation.

Torrez died on New Year's Day, 2012 in Tuscon.


5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

Spanish; Castilian



Miner and labor organizer. Born in Gila, New Mexico. Worked as a miner in the Southwest for 25 years and was a participant in the Empire Zinc Strike in Grant County, New Mexico during the early 1950s. Torrez was the head of the Arizona district for the Communist Party, USA. The collection contains personal information about Torrez, publications, information about social activism and Chicano identity, clippings, newsletters, correspondence, memorabilia, and photographs.


  1. RG98-059 Gift of Lorenzo Torrez
  2. RG98-066 Gift of Lorenzo Torrez
  3. RG2001-073 Gift of Lorenzo Torrez

Separated Material

Books from the Lorenzo Torrez collection have been separated from the manuscripts and are available in the NMSU Library Special Collections. A complete catalog of the books is available at the repository.
Register of the Lorenzo Torrez Papers, 1959-2000
Edited Full Draft
Processed by Portia Vescio with Shannon Cavanaugh
© 2002
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2004-06-28: PUBLIC "-//New Mexico State University::Archives and Special Collections//TEXT (US::NmLcU::::Lorenzo Torrez Papers)//EN" "nmlcu1ms384.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2022-04-11: Biography updated; Subject headings added; ArchivesSpace formatting changes made

Repository Details

Part of the New Mexico State University Library Archives and Special Collections Repository

Branson Hall
PO Box 30006
MSC 3475
Las Cruces New Mexico 88003 USA