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39th Anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium: "Still Here, Still A Force"

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Saturday, August 29, 2009

EAST LOS ANGELES--Thirty-nine years ago, a statewide series of demonstrations by Chicanos and Chicanas against the wars in Southeast Asia culminated in a police riot and the assassination of Los Angeles Times and KMEX journalist Rubén Salazar. Today, members of the Chicanx community and activists of all stripes commemorated the day's fateful events with music, poetry, teatro, and speakers.

39th Anniversary of ...
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Some things have changed since the height of the Chicano movement. We now have a Chicano mayor, for example. The LAPD has pretty much met point 5 of the Brown Berets' original ten-point platform by hiring battalions of Mexican-American cops. Laguna Park, the site of much of the Moratorium's militancy, is now called Salazar Park in honor of the murdered writer.

But the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Villaraigosa is the biggest sell-out the Chicanada has ever known. (We can't really count Alberto "Torture" Gonzales as ever having been down for la causa, can we?) Those "Chicano cops" are some of the biggest miscreants the barrio has ever seen. The barrio of East LA remains mired in poverty and unemployment, and the prisons are fuller than ever.

And the war machine, ever ravenous for the blood of the impoverished, continues its rampage.

The sad irony was not lost on any of the speakers or attendees.

The day began with ceremonia by Danza Mexica Cuauhtémoc, who blessed our corner of Salazar Park through danza, gritos, burning copal, and proclamations of resistance.

Next followed a series of speakers, each of which spoke for about 15 minutes.

The MC first introduced Jaime Cruz, national chair of the Chicano Moratorium Committee. He began with the chant, "¡Raza sí! ¡Guerra no!," and then thanked the organizations involved in putting on the event, including the Partido de la Raza Unida, MEChA, the Brown Berets, and the Harmony Keepers. He then discussed the theme of the commemoration, "Still here, still a force." "It is important to continue and carry forth the message that we are still here organizing, we are still here dealing with issues that unfortunately, continue in many ways today. This is the problem with the system that we function within. The elements of capitalism, the elements of so-called American values that are so contradictory to human rights, to civil rights, to our pursiut of self-determination and our right to self-defense."

The next speaker was Genaro Ayala, the national chairperson of the Partido de la Raza Unida. He also began with some chants, "¡Chicano Power! ¡Chicana Power! ¡Que Viva la Raza!" He thanked the Danza and Jaime Cruz. He than gave his testimonial. "I was here 39 years ago. I was here as a student from LA Valley College and I was here with a contingent from San Fernando. And it's very important to understand why we were here that day! A lot of us don't realize that the same issues in 1970, the same issues that existed in 1960, in 1950, in 1940, are the same issues that exist today. The high dropout rate. The poor working conditions for our people. The migra and the policía. The inhuman treatment of prisoners once they're in prison." He continued, "We are here cause it's about the movement. We are here cause it's about the land. We are here because it's about liberation. We are here because we want to see that day when [...] my granddaughter, when [...] my grandson, when [...] my granddaughter, can enjoy Salazar Park in a free and liberated Aztlán. ¡Que viva Aztlán libre!"

Veteran Chicana activist and special guest of the Moratorium Committee Dorindo Moreno read the poem "La Niña Lina," about a girl who was teargassed and separated from her family during the moratorium.

The MC then introduced the next speakers, Muniga Lumumba and Dedon Kamathi of the All-African People's Revolutionary Party. "A lot of times as Chicano organizers, they see us as separatists. They tell us, 'Oh, Chicanos only want to be with other Mexican-Americans.'" She continued, "It's important for us to reach out to other peoples who have struggled just like us. That's why we invite the All-African People's Revolutionary Party because they were stolen from their motherland just the same way that our motherland was stolen from us. We are brothers and sisters in struggle, because we're not struggling against each other, we're struggling with each other towards a better day."

Dedon then took the microphone. He first excused himself for having to leave after his comments, explaining that the A-APRP was in the middle of a conference to which he and his comrades would have to return. He then acknowledged several of the organizers present. "These are comrades that have reached out to the African community for decades, literally decades, establishing a link between Black and Brown." He explained the platform and strategy of the A-APRP, and then continued. "We thank La Raza Unida, Chicano Moratorium, I can see the Brown Berets and it brings back memories of my days in the Black Panther Party in San Diego, where we had formal alliance and coalitions against the war in Vietnam, against the San Diego Police Department, in alliance with the Brown Berets. So it brings back memories as an OG, seeing the Brown Berets alive and kicking strong, and every year, it seems, the numbers, the membership of the Brown Berets is growing and growing. So I want to salute my comrades in the Brown Berets and of course La Raza Unida, the Chicano Moratorium, and the A-APRP are brother and sister organizations that have decades of struggle together."

The next speaker was Ricardo López, an artist, writer, and the former artistic director of the Silver Dollar Cultural Center, who performed a dramatic reading. "Everyone, everyone march with us! March with us against the war in Vietnam! March with us against the exploitation of Chicanos in Aztlán!" he began, echoing exhortations from the original manifestation. "Thirty-nine years ago, a man by the name of Rubén Salazar was covering that march. Was covering the protest march, was covering the demonstration against the exploitation of Chicanos in Aztlán. Even today, Rubén remains a mystery, sometimes, to people as you discuss him. They say, 'Was Ruben really with us? Was Ruben 'down' for the movement? As a writer for the Los Angeles Times, did he really understand the Chicano culture?' That question is still asked today." He gave his personal testimony about fighting in the war while Salazar was active as a journalist. He gave a brief biography of Salazar, and read from his February 6, 1970 column "Who is a Chicano? And What Is It The Chicanos Want?"

We were then treated to a brief break from speakers, as Teatro Rasquache, made up of students from local colleges, including Los Angeles Valley College, CAUN, and UCLA, each of which read a piece. The first young woman, Elvira, read a monologue about a high-achieving immigrant lured into military service by the promise of a college education and the privilege of citizenship. The next young man, Samuel, read a monologue about military recruiting from the recruiter's point of view. The final performer, Dulce, shared a beautiful and profound piece, metaphorizing the Chicana experience in verse. "We're Teatro Rascuache," they concluded, "we're currently working on a musical. Come see it."

It was then back to the speeches, with Tupac Enrique from Arizona speaking at length on recent developments in the continent-wide indigenous movement.

The next speaker was a Brown Beret, the Messenger, who spoke from his heart, and then shared a spoken word piece. He ended with a challenge: "How many of us really embody these native ways, these ways that are native to this hemisphere? It's cool to read and talk about it, but do we actually practice it?"

The MC next introduced David Rico and David Holguín of the Brown Berets. Rico began with a series of chants, and then told the story of the Moratorium, emphasizing the role of the Berets in the Day's events. "The Brown Berets saved at least ten people that day. [...] There was some children that were stuck between the fence. It was Brown Berets who held back the crowd and they saved their lives. Also, we got hurt on that day. We lost two Brown Berets, Lyn Ward and Angel Díaz, Brown Berets that were killed by police that day." He concluded, "This is holy ground, in that we lost very important people to our movimiento and it woke up a lot of people, too. So that's why the Berets are here. We're honoring our dead, we're honoring that battle that took place here a long time ago, but you know what? There's been a lot of battles since then and those battles continue. So my message today is, remember that in order to fight back, you have to be unified!" He then made an announcement about an upcoming action against the Minutemen of Arivaca, Arizona, who recently murdered nine-year-old Brisenia Flores in a fit of racial terror.

Holguín then spoke on current struggles, such as the one against the police checkpoints, in which working class people, immigrants, and people of color are racially profiled and have their cars impounded and held for ransom.

Edgar, an activist from the Los Angeles Brown Berets Autonomous Chapter spoke on the necessity of autonomy for the success of the movement.

A brother then uplifted a prayer.

Finally, the maestra de ceremonias introduced Son Real, who invited us to a fundraiser the next day for the Rapid Response Network, which provides the first line of defense for people accused of immigration violations in the Inland Empire. Emilio Amaya, executive director of the San Bernardino Community Services Center, addressed the crowd. "Este año, la migra nos hizo la vida a cuadritos, no sé si sabían. Pusieron un sistema de cuotas, nos detuvieron a más de 500 hermanos y hermanas, principalmente jornaleros, en las ciudades de San Bernardino y Riverside. Y, pues, hemos estando respondiendo, resistiendo, documentando, tomando videos de las acciones de la migra. Y aparentemente, logramos detener cuando menos a la Patrulla Fronteriza. El día de mañana, allá en San Bernardino vamos a tener un evento para recaudar fondos precisamente para la Red de Respuesta Inmediata, para seguir la lucha contra la migra, una realidad que para nosotros ocurre todos los días." They then played several sones and corridos of resistance, and a few spectators began to dance.

After the music, Hector from the Harmony Keepers spoke about his parents' involvement in the Chicano Movement and the Indigenous Movement in Northern California, and the impact of the Moratorium on the movement at large. He also spoke about the movement to protect the sites held sacred by indigenous peoples and gave special recognition to the young people and the children present.

The next speakers were representatives of the Norte and Sur regions of MEChA, who pointed out that they celebrated their fortieth anniversary earlier this year.

The theme of this year's commemoration was "Still here, still a force," and one after another, the day's speakers reinforced the idea that the Chicano Movement remains a force to be reckoned with as it continues in the struggle to recover the people's memory, support raza participation in higher education, fight back against attacks from the migra, cops, and racists, and resist capitalism and the war. But with the issues, both external and internal remaining the same--including the internalized patriarchy pervading the speeches (members of the crowd repeatedly had to shout out "Chicana Power!" after the numerous male speakers neglected the sisters in their gritos of "Chicano Power!"), the movement's relentlessly-inward gaze (despite nods to the Black community and indigenous struggles elsewhere in Abya Yala), and the internalized homophobia (not a word was said about the struggle for queer liberation).

The Chicano community is still here. There is no doubt about that. But we must honestly ask ourselves, "Are we still a force?"

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Chicano Moratorium

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Chicano Moratorium...
39thchicmor001.jpg, image/jpeg, x

Street view of the corner of Salazar Park where the commemoration took place.

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Danza Mexica Cuauhtémoc

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Danza Mexica Cuauht...
39thchicmor002.jpg, image/jpeg, x

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Alto a las Redadas

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Alto a las Redadas...
39thchicmor003.jpg, image/jpeg, x

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by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

39thchicmor004.jpg, image/jpeg, x

She was the primary MC.

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Jaime Cruz

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Jaime Cruz...
39thchicmor005.jpg, image/jpeg, x

National chair of the Chicano Moratorium Committee

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Genaro Ayala

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Genaro Ayala...
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National chairperson of the Partido de la Raza Unida

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Dorinda Moreno

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Dorinda Moreno...
39thchicmor007.jpg, image/jpeg, 599x1221

The highlight of the day!

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Dedon Kamathi

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Dedon Kamathi...
39thchicmor008.jpg, image/jpeg, 604x1462

All-African People's Revolutionary Party, ¡presente!

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Ricardo López

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Ricardo López...
39thchicmor009.jpg, image/jpeg, 606x1214

Artist, writer, and the former artistic director of the Silver Dollar Cultural Center

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Tupac Enrique

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Tupac Enrique...
39thchicmor010.jpg, image/jpeg, 601x1306

Indigenous activist based in Arizona

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"The Messenger"

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

"The Messenger&...
39thchicmor011.jpg, image/jpeg, 606x1119

Brown Beret and songwriter

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David Rico

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

David Rico...
39thchicmor012.jpg, image/jpeg, 599x1316

OG Brown Beret

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David Holguín

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

David Holguín...
39thchicmor013.jpg, image/jpeg, 597x987

OG Brown Beret

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Son Real

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Son Real...
39thchicmor014.jpg, image/jpeg, 660x495

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La Chota

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

La Chota...
39thchicmor015.jpg, image/jpeg, 660x495

Some of those Mexican-American cops. They may have brown faces now, but the harassment continues!

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by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

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MEChA (and congresistas) ¡presente!

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Carlos Montes

by Rockero Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009 at 3:50 AM

Carlos Montes...
39thchicmor017.jpg, image/jpeg, 610x642

Carlos Montes, ¡presente! He also wrote an article about this year's Moratorium. "39th Anniversary of Chicano Moratorium: The Struggle Continues" by Carlos Montes

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 2 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Correction Rockero Saturday, Sep. 12, 2009 at 4:31 PM

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