MacArthur Fellows Program

Ernesto J. Cortes Jr.

Community Organizer | Class of March 1984

Community Organizer
Weslaco, Texas
41 at time of award
Published March 1, 1984

About Ernesto's Work

Ernesto Cortes is an organizational strategist who works with citizens’ groups, religious denominations, and labor unions to increase their participation in the political process at the community level.

As a community organizer, he establishes neighborhood groups and teaches them how to deal effectively with utility companies, city governments, and social and economic problems, such as unemployment, health care, and affordable housing.  He has also helped poor people to develop their leadership skills.  He has organized community movements in several cities, including Houston, El Paso, Fort Worth, East Los Angeles, Gary, and East Chicago.


Cortes is a founder of the San Antonio Communities Organized for Public Service, the United Neighborhood Organization in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Organization in Houston.  He is based in Los Angeles as southwest regional director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, a group that carries out and expands on the work of Saul Alinsky.  At the Foundation, he guides the efforts of community organizations in Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Iowa.

Cortes received a B.A. (1963) from Texas A & M University and did graduate work at the University of Texas.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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