Protests, Yesterday and TodayHistorians in the News
tags: Mexican American history, Protest, Chicano Moratorium
ANDREA GUTIERREZ, BYLINE: That's my sister Monica (ph). And she's right - my dad was a storyteller, usually stories from his life. He had a whole repertoire, and we kids asked for his greatest hits a lot. Dad, tell us the one about Grandpa and the Reo truck. Dad, what about the time Father Guisel (ph) told you to get a haircut? But there was one thing he never really talked about much - his involvement in the Chicano Moratorium. Monica and I met up recently to go over these memories of Dad and to get to the bottom of them all.
But before we get to that, I wanted to know - can you tell me what you know about it and how you know about it?
MONICA: I know it's part of the Chicano movement, '60s, '70s. But it was a protest against the high number, the disproportionate number, of Chicano youth being sent to Vietnam and dying.
GUTIERREZ: Lots of people were protesting the Vietnam War.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Stop the war now. Stop the war now.
GUTIERREZ: But like my sister said, Mexican Americans were dying in large numbers - about twice their proportion of the population. That's why the movement was called a moratorium. Protesters and organizers wanted to end this loss of life.
LORENA OROPEZA: So this was the Chicano movement's main argument that, as the slogan said at the time - (speaking Spanish) - our struggle is here, our war is here, and we should be addressing inequities on the homefront, not dying in Vietnam.
GUTIERREZ: That's Lorena Oropeza. She's a professor of history at the University of California, Davis. And as my sister and I started to piece together the events of August 29, 1970, I called up Lorena to learn more. Lorena says Chicanos weren't just protesting the war; they were marching for other issues affecting their community.
OROPEZA: Broader to the Chicano movement and looking at Los Angeles, there were the high school blowouts from 1968, where you're looking at a long tradition of educational inequity in terms of funding, in terms of school resources. They also tapped in to the reality of poverty. This is a long-time struggle for Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants - is, like, even today, they're the essential workers, but those aren't necessarily the best-paying jobs. So the way the Chicano Moratorium tied with long-standing issues of injustice in its struggle for equality among Mexican Americans was really part of their brilliance.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Chicanos are marching to protest the high casualty rate of our people in Vietnam.
GUTIERREZ: Lorena says at least 20,000 marched that day on Whittier Boulevard, the main thoroughfare through East LA. People ended up at Laguna Park filled with hope.