Eastside Honors Anniversary of 1970 Chicano Moratorium

By Paul Aranda Jr, EGP Staff Writer

This weekend, thousands of residents are expected to participate in a variety of events around East Los Angeles in recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the National Chicano Moratorium that occurred on August 29, 1970. 

From a play based on the controversial killing of Mexican American journalist Ruben Salazar to a series of marches and conferences, the local landscape will offer different perspectives on the historic events of four decades ago.

Youthful marchers with arms-locked in unity took, on the system and demanded their rights. Photo by Oscar Castillo


 The 1970 National Chicano Moratorium was organized at the height of the movement against the Vietnam War. It featured a series of protest marches across the nation, with the largest one held in East Los Angeles. Over 30,000 people joined that protest march—making it the largest demonstration to that time in the region. The march started in Belvedere Park in unincorporated East Los Angeles and ended at what was then Laguna Park in Boyle Heights. The park was renamed Ruben Salazar Park — in honor of the news director for KMEX, the largest Spanish-language news channel and a Los Angeles Times columnist — who was killed when Sheriffs fired tear gas containers into a bar several blocks away.

Tomorrow night, Teatro Urbano presents “The Silver Dollar” at Corazon Del Pueblo in Boyle Heights. The play is a fictional account of the events at the Silver Dollar Bar in East Los Angeles leading up to Salazar’s death, one of three that day.

On Saturday, organizers of United Committees for the Moratorium will stage a march to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Moratorium. As part of that effort, Carlos Montes said his committee is committed to efforts to push Sheriff Lee Baca to release all documents related to Salazar’s death, which some people today believe contains evidence of a cover up by the Sheriffs Department, and that Salazar was the target of the attack.

 “We were concerned when he first said he wouldn’t release anything,” Montes said. “Our position is to release any files that are related to August 29, 1970,”

Although the march is organized as a salute to the past, Montes said the march is also directed at the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Montes said he views Afghanistan as an unnecessary occupation much the way he did about the Vietnam conflict over four decades ago. He remains concerned on the level of involvement of minorities in combat today.

“Young people are targets for military recruiting to fight in the fire,” Montes said.

As Montes, a former Brown Beret member, uses Saturday’s march to protest the current wars, he will also reflect on the 1970 march he participated in as well. Montes said he was an “underground” supporter that day because he had fled to Mexico earlier that year after being arrested. His belief that Chicanos were shouldering a disproportionate number of casualties in Vietnam led him to risk apprehension and return to the United States to participate in the march. On Saturday, Montes will assume a more high profile role this time around. 

For John Sermeno, the August 1970 march was a continuation of the activism he first encountered during the 1968 Walkouts at Lincoln High School. 

July 1 visit of youth from Carecen Community Center to the Chicano Moratorium exhibit at the Mexican Cultural Institute where they learned of Latino/Chicano history in photos, film and stories from moratorium activist Rosalio Munoz. The exhibit closes this Sunday. Photo courtesy of the 40th Anniversary Commemoration Committee of the Chicano Moratoriums.


“It was the start of an understanding of my identity,” Sermeno said. 

He said the 1970 march was the largest rally of Chicanos he had ever seen.

“It was a beautiful day,” he said. “We were meeting people from all over the place, of different cultures, different groups.”

 Sermeno said it was a very political day. He recalled being in a liquor store across the street from the Wells Fargo bank on the corner of Whittier Boulevard and Indiana Street and realizing something had gone wrong. 

“I was in the store buying a soda when the police showed up,” he said. “Instead of isolating the minor incidents, they attacked everyone.”

 Sermeno said he also views this weekend’s march as a demonstration against current conditions. He is most concerned with the economy that he says has created the highest level of unemployment and financial hardships for families he has ever seen. He is also concerned with the recent events that occurred in Arizona regarding immigration laws. 

A banner in the exhibit at teh Mexican Cultural Institute reads "Sí se Puede, Your Voice is Your Vote," a merging of past and present activism. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

Marchers will gather at Belvedere Park at 10 a.m. and begin at the corner of 1st Street and Mednik Avenue. The march will end at Salazar Park on the corner of Whittier Boulevard and Alma Street. 

As some Moratorium veterans look to participate in a new march, others will gather at Casa Del Mexicano in Boyle Heights for a Chicano studies conference tilted “Conferncia de Historia Mexico and the Southwest.” The event will feature speakers Sal Castro, a lead organizer of the 1968 Lincoln High School Walkouts, and David Sanchez, a former leader of the Brown Beret and a lead organizer of the August 29, 1970 moratorium. 

At the East Los Angeles Civic Center, the 40th Anniversary Commemoration Committee of the Chicano Moratorium will present “The Unfinished Concert…Forty Years Later.” The concert will feature Rudy and Steve Salas and Los Illegals among others. The concert at the civic center will coincide with the annual “Taste of East L.A,” that features over 20 local restaurants.

The weekend will conclude with the Chicano Moratorium March and Procession on Sunday. Participants will gather at 10 am at the site of the former Silver Dollar bar located at 4945 Whittier Blvd. in East Los Angeles. Sunday also marks the final day of the “A People’s History: Faces, Struggles and Accounts of the Chicano Moratoriums.” The exhibit is located at the Mexican Cultural Institute at Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles, and features, photos, art, video and audio works related to the moratoriums.

Print This Post Print This Post

August 26, 2010  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


Comments are intended to further discussion on the article topic. EGPNews reserves the right to not publish, edit or remove comments that contain vulgarities, foul language, personal attacks, racists, sexist, homophobic or other offensive terminology or that contain solicitations, spam, or that threaten harm of any sort. EGPNews will not approve comments that call for or applaud the death, injury or illness of any person, regardless of their public status. Questions regarding this policy should be e-mailed to service@egpnews.com.

 characters available

Copyright © 2019 Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews, Inc. ·