History Writings

Perhaps the best historical evocation of the National Chicano Moratorium of August 29, 1970 is out of the fiction novel Let Their Spirits Dance by Stella Pope Duarte, which has a chapter on the event based on interviews with Chicano Moratorium activists.  The novel recounts the impact of the death of the oldest son of a Phoenix barrio family, “el consentido de todos,” in Vietnam from the point of view of his younger sister.   Here are excerpts from her chapter entitled “Chicano!”


“People were chanting…Chicano—Power! Chicano—Power over and over again, mixed in with cries of Que Viva La Raza! Raza Si!, Guerra No!, Chale con el draft!  Espi, next to me, got into the spirit of things, lifting one fist in the air with me every time we shouted Chicano—Power!  Young people stuck up two fingers in the form of the peace sign.

“As we moved, I began to feel full inside, as if the very act of marching was food for my soul.  The louder the shouts became, the fuller I felt.  The whole world might have ended for me at that moment, and I would have died strong, unafraid, the aching in my heart over Jesse’s death only a memory.  I looked on all sides of me, left, right, front, back at banners waving and at thousands of brown faces with features that told our history---Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, Toltec, Spanish.  There were black faces with us that day too, and white, and all of them were believing the same thing---that the war had to end—and our boys had to come home.  Here and there I saw the flashing lights of police cars, the L.A. sheriff, watching us from outside the line of marchers, circling around us like buzzards, starving, desperate for death to own the living”


“Rosalio Muoz’s speech ended with the cry “Viva La Raza!” We all shouted the words together.  Then I heard someone over the microphone say.  “there’s nothing happening back there, please everybody sit down.  Everybody sit down.  Stay still, por favor.”  People were standing up at the west end of the park, then more people started to stand up.  The man kept repeating the words “Everybody sit down, please remain calm.  There’s nothing happening.”  Someone else got on the microphone “We got women and children here, no queremos pedo.”

I stood on a park bench and looked over the heads of the crowd at a line of sheriff’s deputies standing toe to toe with a line of monitors.  Behind the deputies, the street was, the street was packed with police cars, lights blinking, sirens wailing.

“Oh my God, Teresa, there’s gonna be trouble…big trouble”!  Espi said.  I heard several men’s voices over the microphone shouting “POLICE HOLD YOUR LINE! HOLD YOUR LINE! HOLD YOUR LINE!. It was a loud chant that rang in my ears over and over again. “HOLD YOUR LINE! HOLD YOUR LINE! HOLD YOUR LINE!”   Suddenly the line of deputies attacked the monitors, beating the men down.  The men got up and advanced toward them, some of them picked up rocks and threw them at the officers.  Three times I saw the line of deputies advance toward the line of monitors, pressing on them, beating them brutally with their clubs.  Then I saw smoke rising between the people, and people gasping, choking, their eyes red, water.  “Tear gas!” somebody shouted. “Run, Run!” 


 Here is an excerpt from an earlier chapter El Ganso

“By 1968, WE WERE all drowning.  La raza was submerged by mainstream America, a submarine drifting under a sea of politics, prejudice and racism.  Barrios like El Cielito, ignored b the U.S. government, suddenly appeared on Uncle Sam’s map.  Chicanos who had never been thought about before were on the list of draftees.  Uncle Sam’s finger was pointing at them, ordering them across the ocean to war, a war that the President kept saying was a “conflict”.  Minorities always attract attention when there’s a war, and Chicanos, descendants of Aztec warriors, have always made it to the top of the list.  This was more than just la jura, the police, picking up our boys on Saturday nights and pumping up charges against them to “teach them Mexicans a lesson.”  This was a game that said, We’re gonna pay you for being over there, and if you don’t want to go, we’ll draft you anyway.  So why don’t you join up and avoid all the trouble? You know you don’t want to stay in school, anyway.  And lots of guys didn’t.  They had families to support, they had buddies over there.  They couldn’t pick up and run.

“Everybody was on the move in the sixties.  The Chicanos, the Blacks, Native Americans, flower children, drug addicts, demonstrators, everybody had something to say.  Hearts in El Cielito were being plundered.  La Llorona quit haunting El Cielito at night looking for her children.  She flew over the Pacific to Vietnam and finally quenched her thirst for the children she had drowned so long ago.  She wrapped her ghostly shroud around Chicanos and other Latinos who were being ripped apart from their bodies every day in the war and was satisfied at last."

Our commemoration seeks to help bring out the leading role of women in the moratoriums and the burdens of war on women.  This prose poem was submitted to “Chicano Moratorium 2002” in the Network Aztlan list serve for its online commemoration

We were all victims of the war
By Patricia Lizalde

We were all victims of the war.
I married my grade school heartthrob.  He was one of three sons that enlisted.  He is the son of a simple and kind man.  He too became kind and gentle with honest virtues of loyalty, bravery, and hardworking.

We were all victims of the war.
His was very macho family with the mind-set of 1st generation, "you don't rock the boat in this great country."  I had collected petitions against the president, and to end the war.  I against the wishes of my husband's family so he felt betrayed these acts of conscience.  After my husbands term in the service he returned home paranoid, jealous and angry.

We were al1 victims of the war.
I went to the park with our 6 months old daughter and two-year-old son.  It was a hot August day the 29th the year 1970, the air was electric with excitement.  This was our anti-Vietnam War Moratorium.  We settled on our blankets next to abuelos y abuelas. The platform stage held performers and speakers.  The audience was preoccupied with families tending to the needs of the young.  Clusters of parked baby strollers congested the area surrounding the platform. Vendors were busy selling refreshments to the thirsty crowd in the audience.  We waited for the speakers on the significance of the Moratorium.  I was just proud that we were able to get our act together for this event.

We are all victims of the war.
From behind the stage came officers in riot gear and rifles, gas masks and shields.  It happened so quickly that it appeared to be of the performance!!!  We booed and hissed!!!  They had to be actors in costumes.  How could they be real?  The canisters of tear gas filled the air everyone scattered grabbing babies, blankets, and bags.  The elders struggled to their knees trying to get up.  Some staring stunned immobile by what they were witnessing.  I ran with my babies covered and trying to keep my eyes open so I could reach the car, and get home.  I don't know how I managed to get to the car much less drive!!  What do I leave?  What did I leave?  From the hill one could see the smoke from Whittier Blvd.

We are all victims of the war.
When I reached home I was accused of taking part in the riot and endangering the babies.  That was the beginning of a series of beatings.  My husband was always angry or non-communicative.  We were only one of hundreds of thousands families that fell apart due to the war.  There was no comforting, no healing, and no support group, who was to blame?


We are all victims of the war.
Patricia Lizalde (Local Chicana community artist, writer and long time activist of Boyle Heights)

The Significance of Celebrating the 1969 Chicano Movement Events

By Cindy Aragon


The Walkouts of 1968 and the August 29, 1970 Moratorium tend to be two of the Chicano Movement events that are most talked about and taught. As a result of the over-emphasis on these events, the 1969 Chicano Movement events have been continuously glossed over. It is my belief that 1969 was and is a pivotal year for a number of reasons; in fact, actions taken in 1969 ensured the legacy and success of 1968 and 1970 during the Chicano Movement.

     After 1968’s Walkouts, for instance, people could have chosen to simply forget the Walkouts and go on living their regular lives.  Chicano students could have simply gone back to school the next day and conformed to the poor education they were receiving. This, however, did not happened. Chicano university students, and a number of grassroots activists instead got involved in issues beyond education.

Some Chicanos joined the EICC where they not only discussed educational issues, but also police brutality, discrimination and more.  Others, while at the university, got involved in other aspects of the Chicano Movement, while others joined student groups as well.  Some, chose to challenge the Catholic Church and others challenged the Pentagon.  Others too, gave the Chicano community a voice through the Chicano Press Association and through public TV’s first Chicano program of Ahora.  Then, there were other Chicanos that joined the Brown Berets and protested against police brutality and engaged in a number of civil rights actions.

In 1969, new issues came to the fore and leaders young and old, male and female before the year of ’69 was over, made their mark in history by raising the stakes on the challenges they faced.  Gloria Arellanes, David Sanchez, Rosal�o Mu�oz, Joe Razo and Jes�s Salvador Trevi�o, the panelists for today’s event exemplify the activists that emerged after the tumultuous year of 1968.  These activists, after the 1968 Walkouts saw the window of opportunity opened wide open and not only made their way in, but inspired too, a group of people of different ages, backgrounds and paths of life.

Now in 2009, forty years later, we as Latinos/Chicanos have come full circle to the point where we once again have a window of opportunity.  Especially after last year’s election where we elected the first African-American President, our window of opportunity for political clout seems closer than ever.  In fact, we as Latinos/Chicanos now have political power and it is time once again to decide where we go from here. Whereas in 1969 Latinos/Chicanos had no political representation, we now have a Latino mayor in the City of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa; we have a Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor and a Latina U.S Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis.

The challenge for Latinos and Chicanos today; therefore, is to decide what issues prominent today do we not have a voice in yet, and what to do to make sure that our voice; and our input is heard and taken into consideration.

Hoy-Los Angeles Spanish article on moratorium commemoration

A cuatro d�cadas del Chicano Moratorium
Recuerdan el movimiento que marc� el inicio de la lucha por los derechos civiles de mexico-americanos

Francisco Castro HOY
February 26, 2010

A cuatro d�cadas del Chicano Moratorium
A principios de los a�os 70, en medio de la Guerra de Vietnam, j�venes Chicanos (estadounidenses hijos de padres mexicanos), iniciaron una serie de acciones en contra de ese conflicto y en favor de sus derechos civiles.

El movimiento que surgi� de esas acciones qued� plasmado en los libros de texto y en la memoria de sus participantes como The Chicano Moratorium. Este domingo, l�deres del Chicano Moratorium planean iniciar varias actividades para conmemorar el 40 aniversario de este movimiento que, aseguran, dio paso a muchos de los avances sociales de los que gozan actualmente los latinos de este pa�s.

"Detuvimos que m�s latinos fueran y murieran en la guerra [de Vietnam] e hicimos m�s hincapi� en la educaci�n superior", dijo Rosal�o Mu�oz, l�der del Chicano Moratorium.

Mu�oz dijo que ten�a 23 a�os cuando le lleg� su notificaci�n para que se enlistara en el Ej�rcito. Pero �l se opon�a al conflicto en Vietnam, donde los latinos mor�an en cantidades desproporcionadas en comparaci�n con otras etnias. Y aunque en el pa�s exist�a un movimiento popular contra la guerra, los latinos "�ramos invisibles" en �ste, se�al� el activista.

Bajo el lema de "Bring our Carnales Home" (Traigan a nuestros hermanos de regreso a casa), Mu�oz y otros chicanos convocaron a la primera marcha latina en contra de la guerra el 28 de Febrero de 1970. Unos 5,000 chicanos recorrieron las calles del Este de Los �ngeles.

"La idea de nosotros era que la lucha estaba aqu�, en la batalla por la justicia social", record� Mu�oz. "Apenas el 5% de los latinos iba a la universidad entonces, en comparaci�n con el 50% de los blancos. Nuestra lucha era contra el racismo institucional que nos manten�a abajo, sin oportunidades de trabajo y de educaci�n y que nos hac�a ir a la guerra".

El punto m�s fuerte del Chicano Moratorium lleg� el 29 de agosto de 1970, cuando unas 20,000 personas marcharon hacia un parque deldel Departamento del Sheriff, que declararon ilegal el evento.

Al no abandonar el parque, los agentes arremetieron contra la concurrencia, lo que provoc� un caos en el que tanto autoridades comode Los Angeles Times y del canal 34, que se encontraba en el Caf� Silver Dollar, donde hab�a ido despu�s de cubrir la protesta.
Este de Los �ngeles. La protesta termin� en una batalla campal entre manifestantes y agentes manifestantes resultaron con lesiones. En la confrontaci�n, un proyectil de gases lacrim�genos disparado por un agente del sheriff impact� a Rub�n Salazar, un reportero

Salazar, quien era conocido por abogar por los derechos de los latinos, falleci�. El parque donde ocurrieron los hechos lleva su nombre.

Geraldine Zapata, quien particip� en la marcha, dijo que a pesar del punto negativo en que culmin� el movimiento, s� se lograron cosas positivas. "Los muchachos que marcharon, al llegar a sus 30 � 40 a�os empezaron a postularse para puestos pol�ticos. Ahora tenemos poder pol�tico local, estatal y nacional", se�al�. "Las protestas crearon una chispa de actitud de que s� se puede".

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