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A Commentary on the Chicano Moratorium

by Viviana Montes |
July 1, 2002
Centro CSO contingent at historic April 20 anti-war march in San Francisco
Centro CSO contingent at historic April 20 anti-war march in San Francisco. (Fight Back! News)

Los Angles, CA - Aug. 29 marks the 32nd anniversary of the historic Chicano Moratorium. A little more than three decades ago, the largest Chicano/a mobilization ever took place to protest the Vietnam War. Large numbers of Chicanos were sent to fight the people of Vietnam. The people's movement challenged U.S. foreign policy, the high casualty rate of Chicanos in Vietnam and the negative effects that the war had on our community at home.
Chicano activists made this point in the community: the system responsible for the destruction of the Vietnamese in their own homeland was also responsible for destruction of the Chicanos in the barrios of Los Angeles, California, Nuevo Mexico, Colorado, Texas, and the rural areas of the Southwest.

On Aug. 29, 1970, youth, families, children and community organizers joined the first National Chicano Moratorium. They denounced the U.S. war in Vietnam and pointed to the suffering of oppressed nations within U.S. borders. More than 150 years ago, U.S. forces took our ancestors' lands in the Southwest through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In 1970, the descendants of the those who lived in those very same Southwest lands, their sons and daughters and grandchildren, who became the Chicano people, demonstrated in what is now Salazar Park in East Lost Angeles. The 30,000-plus Raza demonstration showed the opposition, the resistance, and organized struggle of Chicano/as and Mexicano/as who understood the effects of U.S. invasion upon our homeland.

Many of the Chicano Moratorium participants were tear gassed, batonned and beaten that day by Los Angeles Police. Outspoken journalist Ruben Salazar was killed by an L.A. County sheriff because he told the truth about the plight of Chicanos. Salazar's killing showed a brutal censorship of the Chicano/Mexicano community, and the clear repression of the identity of Chicanos. It pointed out the urgent desire of the U.S. police state to silence the Chicanos who were uniting to fight the economic, educational and political realities of the day.

U.S. aggression is at a high point once again, with U.S. military forces in the Philippines, Colombia and the Middle East. After Sept. 11, a new "foreign terrorist" has been targeted and the U.S. is turning to our community for fighters in its "war on terrorism". The Chicano youth in the barrios and high schools of East L.A. are being immediately targeted to join the military wing of the military industrial complex. The reality speaks for itself: the count of college counselors on high school campuses is few, but the Army recruiting offices are active. One is right across the street from a local high school in East Los Angeles. This is the attempt to enlist and to gear up Chicano youth right back into fighting another U.S.-created war, like the war in Vietnam and numerous other wars.

The murdered journalist Salazar pointed these contradictions out in his articles. The Chicano/a people's conclusions were an analysis of how the U.S.'s priorities were to wage a war of aggression and not to address the home issues of education, housing and our well being. The U.S. wants to build ruthless military powers at the cost of peoples of color. This holds true for the recent attacks on Palestine and the Philippines, while, here at home, the prison industrial complex is imprisoning Chicano youth and men for no-cost labor. The U.S. is also exploiting immigrant labor, which includes the hands of many Latina/Mexicana women for corporate profit and imperialist gains.

The Latino/a immigrant community is heavily being scapegoated across the country. We are characterized as foreigners or "suspected terrorists," which causes an even greater number of our jobs to be taken away. This allows for the sub-standard wages that organized efforts and unions have been fighting against. Many are being fired on the spot from airport jobs because they are not naturalized citizens. But, regardless of their immigrant status, they are allowed to enlist into the army.

On May 1, over 15,000 demonstrators, including the Centro CSO's East LA Anti-War Action Committee and a contingent opposing U.S. aggression and the war on Palestine, showed mass protest of immigrant scapegoating and the repression of Latinos, Blacks, Southeast Asians and Native Americans. It is the effort of many Chicano organizers to call out the U.S. capitalists and make them accountable for the repression of oppressed nations - and to demand self-determination for the Chicano nation.

These basic rights continue to be denied by Bush and by the U.S. government who use the excuse of fighting "terrorism" in Afghanistan and other places while getting ready to build the U.S. war machine like it did in Vietnam against the Vietnamese people.

The Chicano/a community and many oppressed nations today are organized and continuing the struggle and resistance for the very same demands the Moratorium raised in 1970. The organized people call for:
- Self-determination of the [email protected]@ People
- Union jobs and decent wages
- Housing and health care
- An end to police/INS abuses and terror
- Relevant and bilingual education
- No police state in the neighborhood
- U.S. forces out of Latin America, the Middle East, the Philippines and Colombia

Today, from Aug. 29, 1970 to Aug. 29, 2002, Centro CSO calls the community of resistance to organize and struggle for self-determination in the Southwest. Join the struggle!

El Centro CSO, 511 Echandia St, Boyle Heights, CA 90033
(323) 221-4000