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Welcome to the Chicano Moratorium Virtual Exhibit

On August 29, 1970, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of East Los Angeles to protest the Vietnam War and the drafting of Chicanos. 

The US Selective Service System 

According to Selective Service records, 1,857,304 men were drafted into the Vietnam War between August 1964 and February 1973. The draft process, however, was rife with inequities as many came largely from working-class backgrounds.

 

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Photo of Selective Service System "draft card"
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Photo of official draft notice

 

 

Draft evasion was common among upper and middle-class men. They most likely held jobs deemed "essential" to a stable economy or could afford to pay for deferment status, illegally, with no consequence. If one were in college, deferment could be exercised with proof of full-time student status.

 

During Lyndon Johnson's presidency, he and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, touted Selective Service as a means for unskilled laborers and minorities to achieve socioeconomic mobility.

 


Chicanos and the Vietnam War

For many of Mexican heritage, serving in the military would remind society that they too were American and proud to fight for this country. For some it was a path to U.S. citizenship and others, a chance to improve the quality of life for them and their families.

 

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Photo of Mexican American Marines in Vietnam
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Photo of Chicano soldier in Vietnam 

 

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Photo of Latino soldiers from PBS

 

 

The Vietnam War, unfortunately, was no great equalizer for young Chicano men. They were drafted soon after high school and killed at twice the rate of other servicemen during battle, due in part to being assigned to combat units.

"A lot of people that were graduating the year before, they were all drafted," recalled David G. Gonzalez, a Vietnam War veteran in an interview with KQED. "And that led me to believe that I was going to be drafted."

It became increasingly apparent to the community that their young men were targeted for selection in the draft. The war was also very costly, and federal support programs that Mexican communities relied on for assistance were being defunded. The Vietnam War became crippling on many fronts to Chicanos and their civil rights. 

 Vietnam War veteran David G. Gonzalez SOLDADOS: Chicanos in Vietnam, a documentary by Charley Trujillo, Vietnam War veteran

 


The Chicano Moratorium

The nation saw a ripple of protests in opposition of the Vietnam War, with an all time high in 1965, carried out by college students, public intellectual figures, and those with far-left political views. 

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Photo of Vietnam War protest 
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Anti-war poster "Strike til Sam Hollers Uncle"
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Anti-war poster "GIRLS SAY YES to boys who say NO"
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Photo Vietnam War Protest

 

 

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Triton Times, UC San Diego 

 

In East Los Angeles, the Chicano civil right movement would stir a legion of student activists and Brown Berets to form the National Chicano Moratorium Committee (Chicano Moratorium) in 1969. The Chicano Moratorium organized peaceful protests to bring awareness to the inordinate number of Mexicans drafted into the war despite their struggle for basic civil liberties at home in America. 

 

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Photo of Brown Berets

Who were the Brown Berets?

1968 East LA Walkouts

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Photo of Anti-war protest "Stop Chicano Genocide"

 

 

Rosalio Muñoz, a recent graduate of UCLA and co-chair of the Chicano Moratorium, would call for a nationwide protest in support of their mission. On August 29, 1970, demonstrations took place across the nation, with the East Los Angeles march, led by Muñoz, attracting over 30,000 protestors. 

 

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Photo Chicano Moratorium Annoucement

 

 

The nonviolent rally took a turn when Los Angeles Police fired tear-gas rifles into the crowd and attacked demonstrators. An uproar ensued as protestors, tired of relenting, fought back against police. In the end, many were injured, 150 people were arrested, and four fatalities. 

Watch: Why 30,000 People Marched through East LA in 1970

 

Among the casualties was beloved L.A. Times correspondent Ruben Salazar, who was killed instantly when he was struck in the head by a tear-gas projectile, fired by a county sheriff. Salazar became a "martyr of the Chicano Movement" as he championed the cause and often helped bring awareness to issues impacting the Chicano community. 

Professor Sybil Venegas on Ruben Salazar Ruben Salazar Voice of the Latino Community


The Legacy of the Chicano Moratorium

"The circumstances and incidents of the Chicano Moratorium are considered a major turning point in the Chicano Movement, its direction, and its politics."

—The Los Angeles Conservatory

 

This year we honor the 50th anniversary of the march through East Los Angeles. While many have characterized the event as a day of "infamy", it was actually a pivotal event for the civil rights of Chicano Americans. 

 

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Visit Chicano-Moratorium.com to join in commemorating 50 years of Chicano Movement

 

"While Aug. 29, 1970, is a historical marker in the history of the Chicano Movement, the importance after 45 years of the events of that day is that it showed the courage and commitment of young Chicanos — the Chicano Generation — to take on the system and to demand that a “war of choice” be ended, a war that was particularly injurious to Chicanos and other minorities. Aug. 29, 1970, was a display of Chicano Power — self-determination — that has now evolved into Latino Power, as Latinos have become the largest minority in the country."

                                                                                                                                     —Mario T. García is Professor of History and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara