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The Chicano Moratorium

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The emergence of El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán at the Denver Youth Conference in 1969 marked the beginning of the Chicano Movement; but overall the United States - and the world - was already in the midst of an era defined by movements for radical social upheaval that included Black Power, women's rights, the hippies, and anti-Vietnam War activism.

The Chicano Moratorium was a collective effort to raise awareness of the Vietnam War as a civil rights issue, one among many affecting the Chicano community. It was an open secret that Mexican-American casualties in Vietnam were coming in disproportionate number to their population -- 20%of the casualties when they comprised 10% of the American population. A series of marches and rallies were held in East Los Angeles beginning in 1969, families with children joining students and activists in the fight for civil rights and to end the war.

The National Chicano Moratorium Protest/March was held on August 29, 1970
The National Chicano Moratorium Protest/March was held on August 29, 1970

Rosalio Muñoz, then the UCLA student body president, joined the cause by burning his draft card on September 16, 1969, coinciding with Mexican Independence Day. At the second Denver Youth Conference in 1970, Munoz, now co-chair of the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles, proposed a National Chicano Moratorium on August 29th, 1970. That day would live in infamy as the peaceful, non-violent march and rally culminated in police violence that caused the untimely death of L.A. Times journalist Ruben Salazar, due to the actions of a Los Angeles County Sheriff. The death of Salazar, who had provided a voice for the Chicano Movement with his often controversial reports on civil rights and police brutality, created a martyr, but it also worsened the already strained relationship between Moratorium activists and the police.

Subsequent Moratorium protests all ended in violence, and the LAPD raided the offices of the Moratorium Committee on numerous occasions. When the LAPD fired at a crowd at a Chicano protest on January 31, 1971, killing one and wounding many more, many who had previously been supporters, including Muñoz, called for an end to Moratorium activities. By then other Chicano organizations such as the Brown Berets had disbanded, but this would in part pave the way for a new wave of Chicano activism for the rest of the 1970s.

 

Ruben Salazar
The death of Ruben Salazar at the National Chicano Moratorium marked a shift in the direction of where Chicano activism was headed.

 

The Awakening
Richard Duardo recounts how anti-war sentiments and the growing Chicano movement prompted the establishment of various political organizations.

 

Chicano Activism by Way of Art
Artist John Valadez describes using art to create cultural iconography and claim "Chicanismo."

 

Healing Wounds
Scholar Sybil Venegas describes the use of art to visualize and humanize the language and recognition of self in the Chicano
 community.

 

Chicano Moratorium 1
Chicano Moratorium protesters outside the Marine Corps recruiting station, November 19, 1969. | Image courtesy of the UCLA Library Digital Collections, Creative Commons License
Chicano Moratorium 2
Chicano Moratorium march on a February 28, 1970. Events on this rainy day were captured by Jesus Trevino for the fim "Moratorium in the Rain," aired on KCET in 1970 as part of the program Ahora!. | Image courtesy of Rosalio Munoz
Chicano Moratorium 3
National Chicano Moratorium gathered more than 30,000 activists, students, families and their children to the march down Whittier Blvd. in East Los Angeles, August 29, 1970. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
Chicano Moratorium 4
Rosalio Munoz speaks at a Moratorium rally in East Los Angeles. | Image courtesy of Rosalio Munoz
Chicano Moratorium 5
Protesters march during the National Chicano Moratorium. | Image courtesy of the UCLA Library Digital Collections, Creative Commons License
Chicano Moratorium 6
Protesters gathered from all over the country to participate in the events in East Los Angeles. | Image courtesy of the UCLA Library Digital Collections, Creative Commons License
Chicano Moratorium 7
Police armed with clubs at Laguna Park (later renamed Salazar Park) during the National Chicano Moratorium. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
Chicano Moratorium 8
A Sheriff's Deputy fires a 10-inch tear gas protectile into the Silver Dollar Bar, hitting Ruben Salazar in the head, killing him instantly. On that day, August 29, 1970, three others were killed: civilians Gustav Montag, Lyn Ward, and Jose Diaz.  | Image from La Raza Magazine, courtesy of Rosalio Munoz
Chicano Moratorium 9
Damage done by looter at Frederick's, located at Soto & Whittier, during the Chicano Moratorium. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
Chicano Moratorium 10
Abandoned sheriff's car, still burning a day after the National Chicano Moratorium. | Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
Chicano Moratorium 11
Riots following the protest rally. | Image courtesy of the UCLA Library Digital Collections, Creative Commons License
Chicano Moratorium 12
Street scene on August 31, 1970.  | Image courtesy of the UCLA Library Digital Collections, Creative Commons License
Chicano Moratorium 13
Street scene on August 31, 1970.  | Image courtesy of the UCLA Library Digital Collections, Creative Commons License
Chicano Moratorium 14
Another Chicano Moratorium protest ends in riots, Septeber 17, 1970.  | Image courtesy of the UCLA Library Digital Collections, Creative Commons License
Chicano Moratorium 15
February 1, 1971 anti-war demonstration. | Image courtesy of the UCLA Library Digital Collections, Creative Commons License