El Movimento, the Chicano Movement

This narrative is the work of Lavinia Quintana with the assistance of Larry Quintana

El Movimiento (the Chicano movement) was not a sudden action of Mexican Americans that
exploded along with the civil rights movement., nor was the emergence of Chicano leaders such as
Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, a former Democratic district captain who founded the Crusade for
Justice “Chicano Militancy and the Government's War on Dissent” Corky as he would be known
to the fishermen who gathered at his weekly Wednesday meetings would evolve from a loyal
Democrat to one the leaders of the political party called La Raza Unida (Ernesto B. Vigil 10).
Gonzalez also would unite with Jose Angel Gutierrez from Crystal City, Texas an early leader in
the youth organization known as MAYO - the Mexican American Youth Organization, and
founder of La Raza Unida.

Other prominent leaders were César Chávez and Dolores Huerta farm labors that would
establish what would become the United Farm Workers of America (UFWA) in the state of
Colorado in 1964. These two Chicano leaders although they preferred to be identified as
Mexicano and not Chicano would unite migrant farm workers throughout the United States (La
Raza De Colorado El Movimiento, chap 4). Far more militant in his desires to secure the rights for
Hispano’s/Indio’s or Mestizos under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was a former Pentecostal
preacher name Reies Lopez Tijerina.
Tijerina was dubbed by many as “King Tiger” and probably the earliest leader of The Movement
and the only Chicano "to serve time in prison for his actions" in this
1970’s revolution in the American Southwest, (Christina Gonzalez July 4, 2009).

Without a leader, other than the inspiration of those mentioned, were a group of Spanish and
Mexican American activists who had followed in the tradition of their fathers, uncles, and in some
cases aunts, who had either joined or been drafted in the US armed forces: the Chicano Vietnam
veterans. The vast majority of these men and women were raised American and bled red, white,
and blue. Like many of the Vietnam vets, they came home not to be unwelcomed by Americans
as a whole but to be seen as traitors to their own race for serving in the Vietnam War. Lost in
every aspect of their place in American history they became members of the Vietnam Veterans
against the War and walked in protest with their Chicano brothers and sisters as this had now
become their identity. Chicano Vietnam Vets were not alone in being classed as outsiders in the
Anglo American society; they just had the initial stigma of being a Vietnam vet and brown. A
Spanish or Mexican American classed as the lowest of the low, but they were not the first
Hispanic to experience this dilemma.

“Spanish Americans as the majority of Mexican Americans identified themselves within the
boundaries of the Southwest and well documented”(Laura Gomes, Manifest Destiny), saw service
to the United States Armed forces as the nation was thrust into World War II as the avenue out of
their dead end existence. Many could make claims to achieving a high school diploma, but this
only meant they would continue as migrant workers in the fields of America. Few would find
meaningful employment in the era after the Great Depression many survived on small farms
growing enough to feed their families and if more fortunate to own some chickens, a pig or two
and a few head of cattle.

The Unites States entered a period of uneasy peace starting with what was known as Armistice
Day on November 11th, 1918 until the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would declare
December 7th, 1941 “A day that will live in infamy” and the beginning of World War II. For a
period, of ten years or one decade would pretty much remain as it had, prior to World War I. The
population in the Southwest identified themselves as Spanish Americans, and the handful who
identified themselves as Mexicano or people of mixed blood. The next decade between 1929 and
1939 would affect the entire nation with the economic devastation known as the Great
Depression. The Hispanic people who had filtered into cities around the nation felt the impact as
did the Anglo community, however those Hispanics with small parcels of land would live on what
crops they raised, and the animals they owned, but like all of America December 7th would
change this situation for them as well.

The United States was halfway through the Great Depression, soup and bread lines were the
answers for many but those more fortunate filtered into the work force via the Works Project
Administration or WPA under the umbrella of the New Deal. Again small numbers of Hispanics in
the Southwestern portion of the country found a place in solution to getting out of the depression.
The greater number of Spanish Americans stayed close to their tiny farms or worked on farms as
migrant workers living in dirt floor shacks if provided by the landowners but as migrants in tents
or the back of pickups covered with a tarp.

The rest of the world was gripped in military conflicts that would merge into an international
campaign or World War II. In the mid-1930, Italy under the leadership of Prime Minister Benito
Mussolini invaded the nation of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in an attempt to establish his Roman
empire. Mussolini also supported Gen. Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War with his
military. Mussolini also would establish a pact with Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany in an effort
to, perhaps increase his power (Martin Gilbert).

In the Asian nations of Japan and China, a full gage war would breakout between these countries
that had been at odds with each other for centuries. Japan in 1937 would invade China and the
beginning of a war that would end in the deaths of millions in these two countries (Spartacus
Educational Publishers Ltd-website).  Although news of these events would reach the news
outlets on American shores much of this news did not reach the Spanish American or Mexicano
citizens of the American Southwest.

(In his book The Twisted Cross the author Joseph Carr) provided this candid remark, “Nazism
was not merely political movement of racist gangsters and misfits, as is commonly believed, but
rather, it was an occultist religion in which Adolph Hitler was the Messiah, Heinrich Himmler the
High Priest and the blood drenched men of the SS Death’s Head Formation the Clergy”. With the
mindset, of his word in Mein Kampf or My Struggles as his scriptures to the masses Adolph Hitler
would conduct his efforts that in some respect would affect the future of individuals he perhaps
had no knowledge of, those who would eventually be referred to as Mexican Americans.

In a matter of a few short years, Americans of all races would be enlisting to assist in the struggle
of many wars for example, Normandy Beach, Dunkirk. In the South Pacific, we aided Iwo Jima,
Okinawa, and the Philippines. Both men and women (Hispanics) who were listed as Whites who
would at the end of World War II return home with tales of their service in strange, faraway
places. Getting discharged from the service for many Americans was different then after World
War I, thought of heading back to the farm was now not thinking of these veterans. On the minds
of these veterans would be the effect of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act or more commonly
referred to as the GI Bill enacted in 1944. Now GI’s returning home were entitled to one year of
unemployment insurance, or the ability to complete their high school education, attend a
vocational school or go to college (Martin Gilbert).

The challenge for returning Hispanic veterans was gaining admission to college and even with
access to a college or university great numbers would be channeled towards a teaching career as
oppose to engineering, law or a career in medicine. One Hispano who manages to obtain a
medical degree would be Doctor Hector Garcia. He began his journey advancing civil rights began
as a Mexican immigrant along with his parents to flee the chaos of the Mexican Revolution in
1917. The family settled in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas which was described as a war zone
where it has been stated by some historians as seeing Texas Rangers driving around town with
dead Mexicans draped on their vehicles (Jeff Felt, producer/writer of KEDT-TV public television).

The Garcia family lived on the wrong side of the tracks when Jose Garcia a prominent Mexican
could not get his academic credentials recognized in the United States. He would run a general or
dry goods store with other family members to support his family. In order to make ends meet the
Garcia family would pick cotton or pick discarded fruits and vegetable at local packing company.
Despite being placed in the same conditions of other Mexican families, Professor Jose Garcia was
determined to have his children make a place in American culture and would teach his children
mathematics, literature, history and all of the subject matter he had learned in Mexico (Jeff Felt,
producer/writer of KEDT-TV public television).

With the support of his parents who like others devastated by the depression, Hector began his
formal education by obtaining a degree from Edinburgh Junior College and would eventually apply
at the University of Texas medical school which at the time accepted only one Mexican American
a year. [After graduation Dr. Hector Garcia would receive an officer’s commission as a result of
training in the Civilian Military Training Corp, he would also be investigated by the FBI when
Anglos saw him a Mexican wearing an American officer’s uniform (Jeff Felt, producer/writer of
KEDT-TV public television)].

World War II Texas Mexicano joined up with patriotic zeal. This was not only true in Texas but
in every state in the Southwest with members of the Spanish/Mexican American community. Dr.
Hector Garcia served as an infantry officer and would receive the Bronze Star with six battle stars
and the rank of a Major. However, when he the hope of Dr. Garcia and that of other Hispanics
was that their service to their nation in defeating Germany, Italy and Japan would benefit them
very little and between the end of the war and the late 1950 did not see many gains in the arena of
their civil rights.

In 1949, , the wife of World War II hero Felix Longoria was refused burial of her husband by a
local funeral home in Three Rivers, Texas because the whites would not like it. According to Jeff
Felt, producer/writer of KEDT-TV public television out of Corpus Christi, “Dr. Hector Garcia
with the aide of Senator Lyndon Johnson laid Longoria to rest in Arlington National Cemetery”.
This action leads Dr. Garcia to establish the American GI Forum to serve the needs of Mexican
American veterans as none of the existing veteran organization desired to serve Mexican American

Discrimination continued into the 1950s, even after another call for Americans to serve in the
Korean War. Many of these men and women had also served their country during World War II,
once again Hispanics showed their patriotism by volunteering to serve their country. In June of
1950 the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Army, North Korea open fire on the Republic of
Korea Army or South Korea positions south of the 38th Parallel. Within a few months General
Douglas McArthur had received permission to cross into North Korea in pursuit of factions of the
North Korean army, shortly afterward General McArthur called for the surrender of North Korea
with this China began to threaten to start the conflict with the further invasion by the United
Nations force. China and later Russia would ally themselves with North Korea and early in 1951
General McArthur would be dismissed by President Harry Truman over the thoughts of how to
carry out further military action in North Korea (Max Hastings).

By July of 1953, the Korean would come to an end with the division of North and South Korea
and an unsettling truce which continues to this date. Once again American GI’s would return
home, this time, not to a hero’s welcome to this what would be called the forgotten war, however,
forgotten was the sacrifice made by veterans and in particular veterans from the Mexican
American community. Hispanics arrived to see signs in the windows of businesses which declared
“No dogs or Mexicans allowed”. In many educations institutes, Spanish speaking students were
punished for speaking Spanish on the playground or in the class. At times when this was reported
to a parent who desired that their children learn English the child would also be punished by their

As more and more Spanish American/Mexican American made their way from the family farm or
from working the fields, orchards and ranches and into urban communities the desire to obtain
employment came into direct competition with the Anglo citizens. Hispanics were gratified to find
work in the meat slaughter and packing houses, steel mills, construction jobs and any job that was
considered manual labor (http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/5views/5views5b.htm).

While attempts were being made to move up the economic ladder Hispanics were still kept from
achieving a position in management, education, the legal community, and this would also include
efforts to become a participant in the political and government community. The exercise of
reaching for the rights guaranteed by the constitution \of the United States or Civil Rights was still
a far reach for Latino’s in the 1950 and into the early and mid-1960s(http://www.cr.nps.

The dynamic Dr. Martin Luther King stood in front of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial in
Washington DC in August of 1963 and delivered his speech which began, “I have a dream" that
one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners
will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.” Lost in the moment of Dr. King’s words
and the emergence of the Civil Rights movement captured by the heart and soul of the African
American or Black community was a sub minority also experiencing the same fight for their Civil
Rights were great numbers of the Chicano movement. No longer did they want to identify
themselves as Spanish American, but as Mexicanos or Mexican Americans, they were not
Hispanic but Mestizos, people of the mixed race, Spanish, and Indian and proud to call
themselves Chicanos.

The term Chicano is said to have come about sometime in the 1930’s or 40’s which described
migrant workers from Mexico or Native American workers. This segment of the society were
considered the poorest of the poor by the affluent Spanish

American people and identified Chicanos as a lower class citizen, yet perhaps a little higher than
the African American’s. To refer to anyone in that day and time was also considered to have a
vulgar connotation and was used to humiliate the individual when addressed as a Chicano.
Perhaps to throw this back into the faces of the elite Spanish American community rogue Mexican
Americans choose to wear this title as a badge of both pride and courage against the dominant
Euro-American society.

With the advent, of the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s and witnessing that small gains were
being made by the Hispanic community with organizations such as the American GI Forum and
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) a stronger voice was needed in the fight
against bigotry, discrimination and attacks against Mexican Americans across the nation. Student
groups such as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan."(MECHA) founded in the spring of
1969 in conjunction with the Crusade for Justice headed by “Corky” Gonzalez in Denver gave
identity to Hispanic college students in California and throughout the Southwestern United States.
Jose Angel Gutierrez had earlier in 1967 founded in Texas the Mexican American Youth
Organization (MAYO). This organization was also focused on the student population in colleges
and university however; it also reached out to students in High Schools. It was through the efforts
of MAYO and their attempts to register Mexican American voters that would eventually lead to
the development of La Raza Unida Party, who would become a greater threat to Democrats than
Republicans since it would draw from Hispanics who had a loyalty to Democrats because of
effort for Hispanics under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

The Sleeping Giant was awakened Chicanos would declare Ya Basta or No More, the demand of
being a second class citizen in the land of the free and the home of the brave would no longer be
tolerated. What exactly was it, which woke the Sleeping Giant? In 1962, the United Farm
Workers Organizing Committee as an independent organization led by Cesar Chaves, the message
was shared in every location Mexican American migrant work the fields. In 1963 in the town of
Crystal City, Texas, a group known as PASO or Political Association of Spanish Speaking
Organizations started to develop a slate of Mexican Americans to seek positions on the City
Council. In the same year, Reies Lopez Tijerina and La Alianza Federal de Mercedes started
asking questions about federal land grants.

In the year 1965 Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, a Democratic precinct captain was appointed
director of Denver’s War on Poverty while in a place far removed from the Mexican American
people the War in Vietnam had begun states (Ernesto B. vigil). By 1965, the Farm Workers
Association still in the hands of Cesar Chavez and joined by Dolores Huerta met to join the
Agricultural Workers and began the strike of the grape pickers. On the campus, of San Fernando
Valley State College in Los Angeles Rodolfo Acuna started teaching a history class on Mexican
Americans in 1966.

The Giant had opened his sleepy eyes in 1966 with the founding of the Crusade for Justice by
Corky Gonzales to protest the administration of the city and county of Denver, Colorado, and in
Albuquerque, New Mexico, Chicanos the title that left a bad taste in the mount of many in the
Spanish American people participated in a workshop, in the office of the "Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission". A year later Corky Gonzales would publish his works “I am Joaquin”
and the spirit of El Moviemento would ignite the Chicano community. A year later Tijerina and
the Aliaza would raid the Rio Arriba County Court house in Northern New Mexico. Later in the
year the Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres national convention would be held in Albuquerque,
New Mexico and the concept of La Raza Unida was shared with the attendees, it would later be
organized in El Paso, Texas (Lorena Oropeza).

In the office of Mayor Sam Yorty, the foundation for the Brown Berets would be conceived.
Further author Ernesto B. Vigil notes that a young sixteen year old David John Sanchez would be
called up to become a member of “The Young Chicanos for Community Action.” Sanchez along
with Ralph Ramirez and Carlos Montes would be called to serve as advisers for the Mexican
American on the strained relationship between the community members and the police
department. By the fall of 1967 in part due to aggressive actions towards Chicanos in East Los
Angeles, the YCCA would take on a more militant role and change their name to the Brown
Berets. The newly name organization would not take on the role of uniting La Raza under the flag
of independence, which was the right to self-determination, self-government and freedom from an
oppressive white dominated society.

While the Brown Beret were charged with the security for Chicano organizations, and a verity of
other activities, such as free clinics, monitoring instances and recording the cases of police
brutality, education, and reporting stories of El Moviemiento in their paper La Causa, they would
also be involved in a lesser published action. The Brown Beret would also serve as the basis for
Chicano who had served their country in Vietnam and then return to the stigma of all Vietnam
veterans of pot smokers and baby killers but as Mexican Americans would be discriminated in
their attempts to enter colleges and universities because of their race via the GI Bill of Rights.
These same Chicano veterans would also be hindered in obtaining meaningful employment or jobs
in the workforce. Not willing to join the Vietnam Veterans against the War many of the Chicano
opted to become part of the Brown Beret which not only promoted Chicanismo but also a stand
against the Vietnam War.

By 1968 Chicano students, what few there were, walkout of colleges campuses, these student
were soon joined by high school students in Los Angeles, then Texas many of these students
would take part in the poor people’s march. Chicanos were now sitting-in at school board
meetings. Walkout continued in California, Texas, Colorado, but 1969 a call was made and the
First National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference was held in the headquarters of the Crusade
for Justice in Denver, Colorado with over 1500 in attendance and the birth of the Plan Espiritual
de Aztlan the manifesto that would declare Chicano nationalism and self-determination for
Mexican Americans. In a short time, Chicano leader and activist Corky Gonzales was arrested, his
arrest would be followed by the jailing of Reies Lopez Tijerina.

The Giant was now awake and walking across the entire nation, not only were Chicanos in
California in action in the streets and mainstream organization and including the Catholic Church
throughout the Southwest. Texas, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada but now the east
coast felt the impact of the Chicano movement. A protest by Catolicos por la Raza at St. Basil’s
Catholic Cathedral against the racist, unresponsive Catholic Church system took place in
December of 1969(http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/5views/5views5b.htm).

In March of 1970 the [second “National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference” took place in
Denver, Colorado again sponsored by the Crusade for Justice with some “2500 in attendance”.
The second national conference would set the stage for Chicano action for the first five years of
the 1970’s. Events and actions over the next five years would begin with a Chicano civil rights
rally in Los Angeles, “Chicano moratorium” marches and demonstrations with thousands of
Chicanos participating. Continued walkout in high schools across the southwest, anti-war
conferences, the first Raza Unida Party nominating convention and the first Colorado La Raza
Unida meeting, Corky Gonzales was elected state chair. Confrontations with police began to feel
more violent two Chicano brothers were shot and killed by the Las Angeles Police Department
(Navarro 89).

Mexican Independence Day is celebrated across the Southwest with marches in every major city,
shouts of “Viva La Raza” and “Chicano Power” [words commonly used by the MAPA leaders]
(Navarro’s 122). Student walkout were now being held in Chicago and Indiana. More violent
attacks against Chicano during demonstrations some resulting in the deaths of protestors,
however, with the end of the Vietnam War in 1974 the moviemento was also slowing down.
Student were no longer protesting but enrolling in large numbers across the nation. The rights of
the Mexican American were being addressed in the employment ranks and colleges, and
universities were making available more opening for Chicanos to enroll and graduate with
meaningful digress many in the legal community. Government positions opened up for Mexican
Americans, teaching positions, and the public sector was advancing the ranks of Chicanos in the
workplace. Churches were identifying with the needs of the Latino community and Unions open
their ranks for Mexican Americans to achieve leadership in the bargain for community.

In an interview with Mr. Larry Quintana, He has stated in 44 years to the date that he began my
efforts as a community activist and an organization in the Chicano community.  The differences
today then from back in the Chicano movement, he is now battling efforts which not only include
the Mexican American but now include the Latino or immigrant community.  His Journey
began1968, with the advent of a community organization called the Mexican American League of
Organizations or MALO.  MALO would not only assist Chicanos in the Commerce City but
would work with other Chicano groups from Denver, Brighton, Ft. Lupton, Wattenberg and reach
to the northern community of Greeley.

Mr. Larry Quintana founded MALO and would go on to meet and work with the leaders of both
the Chicano Movement, the American Indian Movement and in a small part with the leaders of
the Denver Black Panther organization. While doing so his next 8 or 9 years, he met every major
Chicano Leader such as  Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, founder of the Crusade for Justice, Cesar
Chavez and Dolores Huerta with the United Farm Workers, Reies Tijerna from the New Mexico
based La Alienza, Jose Angel Guitierrez found of La Raza Unida Party to name but a few.  He
has now embarked on a new journey, which still includes the fight for the rights of people of
color, and now serving on the Adams 14 Board of Education which is one of the few BOE’s with
a majority make up of Hispanic members.  Six years in to his second term Mr. Quintana was
joined on the Adams 14 Board of Education by Connie making this Commerce City couple the
only husband and wife to serve together on a Board of Education in the state of Colorado.

Note:  This narrative was prepared by Lavinia Quintana for a college project who did all of the
research after being provided a time-line of the events of her father Larry Quintana who lived
through the experience of the Chicano Movement and continues as an activist in the Chicano
(Hispanic/Latino) community from 1968 to this date.