The Chicano Moratorium: Then and Now

Ernesto Ayala



Look at the signs being carried on that day, listen to the chants if you watch footage of the 1970 Chicano Moratorium you will see that what was happening went far beyond pleas for reform and civil rights as the little the mainstream media shows would have us think.

Que Viva Aztlan Libre!

Our War is Here!

Que Viva La Raza!

Indians of All Tribes!


Our fight is in the Barrios not in Vietnam!

Mi Raza Primero!

Our War is Here!


Crystallized into La Raza’s mind was that nobody will do anything for us therefore we must do what we must. The Anti-War movement led by mostly Euro Americans ignored Chicano war deaths and the general struggle of La Raza here in Aztlan. Seeing the body bags coming back from Vietnam while simultaneously seeing the everyday deaths and violence waged here at home against us only added insult to injury. Chicanos at the time had begun developing what becomes a danger for the dominant society but a weapon for the oppressed… a historical memory and thus a sense of nation and nationalism. A sense of duty had developed that the wrongs of the past and present must be met head on. Out of this sentiment grew all the terms and phrases we associate with that our most honest moment as a people. When we reflected upon ourselves and looked at who we were at that moment in time. Emboldened by this flowering of Chicanismo throngs of Raza descended upon Whittier Blvd in East Los that historic day. People from all over came out and most importantly everyday Raza from the Barrios joined, entire families marched.

What this must have meant to the stability of the US if it were not immediately met with extreme violence would have meant possibly something that they would rapidly lose control over. Yes, you see the plight of the then 8 million people, 8 million Chicanos naturally became a plight in which the physical control of 1/4th of the entire land mass which composes the USA was being challenged. A struggle that could embolden an entire population with ties to Native America and Latin America all at once could not be allowed to progress and develop. It could easily become a struggle that would not only bring international attention to the internal contradictions of the USA but could severely injure it as no other group of people is in the position of the Chicano to do this.

The events of the day went on as many of us already know, thanks to the efforts of the Chicano people and our organizations no thanks to mainstream history or media. The Sheriffs and LAPD used overwhelming violent force and although our people mounted a resistance fists, rocks, bottles and sticks eventually could not properly engage rifles, tear gas, batons and the states backing and approval. When the smoke had cleared from then Laguna Park, three of our brothers’ lives had been taken. Two of them Lyn Ward and Angel Diaz who can only be described as having fallen in combat in defense of La Raza and Ruben Salazar famed Chicano reporter and journalist shot in the head with a 12 inch tear gas canister. Hundreds were also injured including dozens of women and children who were deliberately tear gassed as they ran into the parks restrooms to escape the violence.

Barrios throughout Aztlan went up in flames East Los burned for an entire week and eventually several other demonstrations ended in bloody conflict leaving more dead and injured. The history of that day and the events that followed are probably some of the most neglected in the already purposefully hidden history of the Chicano people.

Many ended their activism out of fear, and yet others began taking a more serious approach into the state of our Raza, by learning from other liberation movements here and throughout the world. If the USA would react with such extreme violence at a peaceful demonstration, then it only confirmed what path Chicanos had to take. It only confirmed what we already knew.

Aztlan, Chicano and La Raza these words gained popularity because there was now more than ever the pain, grief, anger and passions of that day and many others that came about seared into them, on top of victims of police brutality, migra violence, barrio violence, dead Chicano GI’s we now added the memories of Chicano/a martyrs who met their fate in defense of our humanity.

It is said that these feelings of grief and pain unite a people more so than victory since these feelings present a void to us and thus a duty to act upon this void as if it were a wound on our collective body in other words our nation and that means Aztlan not the USA. Colonized peoples throughout the world commemorate historical events in this same sense from the Palestinian Nakba to the Irish Bloody Sunday.

This we must understand because that is what has motivated generations of Chicanos to continually uphold the day and resist the colonizers attempts at trying to wipe it out of our memories. The Chicano Moratorium should and does remind us that whatever part of Aztlan we may live in, whatever gender we may be, whatever age we may have reached, whether we are born here or not, whether we have generations possibly even tribal origins or just crossed the border, that our people have a shared and common history of resistance to the US Empire HERE on this land and that nobody else will do for us what we must do for ourselves.

If we are to put this history into context then we will understand why our history in general but specifically events such as not only the Chicano Moratorium, but the Moody Park Rebellion in Tejas, Los Seis de Boulder Colorado, the Chicano Liberation Front, the scores of dead left in our peoples struggle to simply unionize our labor in the fields and factories (or even older events such as the Taos Rebellion that united Pueblo and Mexicano against the US armed forces) are constantly and purposefully hidden from us. If the events of that time period led the US foreign occupier to react upon a population of 8 million out of fear, what does that mean for us today when our population has reached 40 million plus and entire regions of Aztlan are now mostly Chicano-Mexicano/Raza, what does it mean in this context when our population not only has a historic and cultural claim to independence but has the economic backing to do it were we to realize it. Recent studies have shown that “US Latinos” had the fastest growing GDP just behind China and India! We also have a GDP equal to 8th in the entire world were we our own independent nation, yet despite this reality we have absolutely no political power at all, our barrios continue to serve as troughs for the USA to swarm into and feed off of us like a hungry horde of swine feasting, and our very presence is continually shunned and hidden from everything in US society unless we are portrayed as criminals or just faceless brown backgrounds in some movie.

To commemorate the Chicano Moratorium therefore is a clarion call to all of our Raza that WE here in this day and on this land, in this time RIGHT NOW, not only have an obligation to each other but we already have what we need if we are to only realize it! Our hands have tilled the soils of the San Joaquin Valley making it the “bread basket of the world”, our sweat has built these cities, cleaned them, then built them again, our bravery and anger has been manipulated to send us all over the world to do the bidding of the empire and kill or be killed leaving Chicano blood all across the globe only to return to negligence.

We are told every generation just as we are told every 4 years when their electoral circus comes into play that this time it will be different and afterwards, we are left with only promises. Promises upon promises and when that doesn’t work have a brown face with a white mind promise even more. Is this what we should expect of a people with such a vast and heroic history? A people who can build entire cities, feed entire countries, become an economic backbone of an empire yet at the end of the day our pockets empty and our faces remaining faceless?

No Raza! Let the spirit and memory of the Chicano Moratorium reminds us that we can and must do for ourselves. That it is not US who need AmeriKKKa but it is AmeriKKKa that needs us and that if nobody recognizes our humanity WE RECOGNIZE OUR HUMANITY  because that’s what Chicano Power and Viva La Raza mean it means we can do this but you must see beyond your individual self! You must see us as what we are today, the people shunned, the ones made to feel irrelevant, useless, pointless, faceless are really the ones that have the POWER to build NATIONS and that’s what they don’t want you to realize ever at all. But on this day and from now on WE DO.





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