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The Muñoz Family: Civil Rights Activists

Highland Park natives Ricardo and Rosalio Muñoz, brothers by birth and in struggle, were important members of the movement for Chicano empowerment in Northeast Los Angeles during the 1960s and 1970s. Their combined dedication to higher education and activism reflects a family tradition deeply rooted in Mexican-American pride. Their father, Dr. Rosalio F. Muñoz, was one of the first Mexican Americans to earn a doctoral degree and he was also a pioneer in the fields of social work and education. He met his wife, Maria Muñoz, the member of a founding family in Tuscon, Arizona, during their undergraduate studies at the Arizona Teachers College (now Arizona State University).

Older brother Ricardo fought many of important battles in the legal arena. After completing undergraduate studies at USC, Ricardo enrolled in UCLA's law school at a time when few Latinos held power in the courts or political offices. He would not have attended law school had it not been for affirmative action policies first set in place during John F. Kennedy's administration in 1961. Ricardo later served on the California Unemployment Appeals Insurance Board and worked with gang members from Northeast Los Angeles, some of whom he had known growing up. Ricardo also worked as an administrative judge, as well as an attorney for the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, fighting for civil rights litigants who might otherwise have gone unrepresented.

Rosalio Munoz as UCLA Student Body President
Rosalio Munoz as UCLA Student Body President

Younger brother Rosalio took a slightly different path towards the same goals, advocating for rights on the streets as the Los Angeles Chicano Moratorium Co-Chair. It was not a given that he would become an activist. As an adolescent, Rosalio preferred to go by "Ross," but his Chicano awareness blossomed after a year spent in Mexico with family during a sabbatical being taken by his father. Travelling the country as a teenager, Rosalio transitioned into young adulthood propelled by a strong sense of history and returned to finish his senior year at Benjamin Franklin High School as a proud Chicano. That newfound confidence helped him become the first Latino Class President in the school's history, a campaign he waged by identifying himself as "Rosalio Muñoz" for the first time instead of as "Ross Munoz." His yen for advocacy continued into college at UCLA where he involved himself in youth movements, became the student body president, and lead actions against both anti-Mexican-American institutional prejudice and the Vietnam War, where Latinos were dying in disproportionate numbers to their population in the U.S.

 

Arriving in Los Angeles
The Muñoz Family arrives in Highland Park from Arizona just as demographic and physical changes are accelerating throughout the community.

 

Legal Justice
Ricardo Muñoz finds his life work in providing affordable legal services to the most vulnerable in the community.

 

Issues to Stand For
Rosalio Muñoz discusses how the activism he began at Franklin High School in Highland Park continued and grew at UCLA.

 

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Rosalio Muñoz as UCLA student body president, first Mexican American to be elected to the position. | Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Resisting draft at the draft board. His induction date coincidentally fell on Mexican Independence Day, September 16, 1969. | Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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At the draft board. | Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Rosalio Muñoz was co-chair of the Chicano Moratorium Committee. The "March in the Rain" was held on February 28, 1970 in East Los Angeles. | Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Muñoz speaks at the Chicano Moratorium march on August 29, 1970, at Laguna Park (later renamed Ruben Salazar Park). | Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Muñoz for the "Justice for Janitors" campaign. | Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz
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Muñoz now. | Image courtesy of Rosalio Muñoz