Incarceration Nation

Chicano Moratorium Today

By Jose H. Villarreal

The most profound act of internationalism that could be expressed today within U.S. borders is hands down the support of those pushing the Chicano Moratorium. Just as in yesteryear U.S. imperialism cannot continue to exploit those around the world without the use of the Chicano masses filling its military ranks. Just as in yesteryear we are left to decide how best to assist the Third World, and just as before, we continue to see that the Chicano Moratorium is the key to delivering the people from global oppression at the hands of the U.S.

The moratorium of the past

The war that Amerikkka took to the people of Vietnam was met by much resistance by the many sectors of the left in U.S. borderlands. The antiwar movement helped to pressure the imperialists and to send the message that the Third World had allies here in the imperialist center. But there were contradictions within the left of yesteryear, as contradictions remain today. These manifested in many different ways, especially how the internal semi-colonies expressed their own reaction to the U.S. war on Vietnam. For the Chicano nation, the reaction resulted in the Chicano Moratorium on August 29th 1970. This was perhaps the largest event that the Chicano nation expressed against U.S. imperialism, even to this day. Thousands came out and protested, but it was a protest that was meant to mobilize Aztlan, not just against the war, but against our colonial relationship to Amerikkka as well. All sectors of the nation were there, from Chicano revolutionaries to small children. It took place in East L.A. where the largest concentration of Chicanos continues to exist. And regardless of how you slice it, this was a revolutionary nationalist action.

What brought out the need for the Chicano Moratorium was the lopsided death rates of Chicano soldiers who were in the U.S. military. Chicanos were dying at larger rates, and to top all that off, when they came back they were still oppressed in U.S. borders, deported, murdered by police, terrorized in the barrios, and forced to exist in a state that was not theirs and never would be.

As can be imagined, the oppressor nation reacted with violence to this revolutionary event. They reacted with gunshots that left death to our people. Among the dead were Ruben Salazar,1 an award-winning journalist, news director of the local Spanish television station, and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. He began to be conscious of his place within the Chicano nation and realized that Chicanos never would be allowed to assimilate even if they wanted to. Salazar was shot when Deputy Thomas Wilson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department fired a tear gas canister into the Silver Dollar Café at the conclusion of the August 29 rally, killing Salazar. For the oppressor, the thought of Aztlan rising up to demand self-determination was just too much. The thought of the Chicano nation educating Raza to boycott the U.S. military was not going to happen and the result was lethal violence aimed at Chicanos.

To the oppressor, death would ensure the slaves remain on the plantation. They were wrong.

Moratorium of today

The methods employed in years passed have now been updated by the oppressor, but their aims are still the same. Today undocumented Raza are lured into joining the U.S. military by the possibility to become U.S. citizens after serving. Today our youth are lured into the military through massive propaganda campaigns where there are military offices on school campuses; where the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) embed themselves into high schools and offer our youth a supposed way out of their oppression. It’s the old carrot-and-stick approach where the military seems to be a way to relieve some of the national oppression that engulfs their lives. Video games are used to entice youth into an adventurous and exciting life. Militarism infects all aspects of our lives and complements the larger militarized culture that exists in the U.S. today.

Today Chicanos are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. military. What this means in political terms is that to U.S. imperialism nothing is more vital to keep them in business than to keep the flow of Chicano bodies filling its ranks. To disrupt this flow is to deliver a grave blow to U.S. imperialism. The Chicano Moratorium is a disruptor to the oppressor and being a disruptor is a good thing.

The numbers from the last U.S. census reveal that the only population within U.S. borders today that is increasing largely is the Raza population. This effects all aspects of U.S. society, including the military. This means that as Chicanos we are crucial to the future of the social relations within U.S. borders as well as what occurs internationally. Our largest and most significant contribution to the movement outside of liberating our nation is in stopping the flow of Brown bodies into the U.S. military, and the Chicano Moratorium does this. The U.S. left should also find ways to support the Chicano Moratorium of today because this is what anti-imperialism looks like. The Chicano/a struggle of today is lead by anti-imperialism. This is our compass.

All freedom loving people have a stake in the Chicano Moratorium of today, but for Chicanos it is our duty to build on the Chicano Moratorium and take it to the next level. We need to educate our children on the ills of the oppressor’s military. We need to reach our communities and barrios. Chicano prisoners need to teach our fellow prisoners about this. Writers need to write about what the U.S. military has done to the oppressed nations around the globe.

How can defending the slave master ever be justified by the slave? How do we fight in a military that stole our land from mother Mexico? These are some of the questions that we need to ask each other while we re-build the Chicano Moratorium and forge ahead in our struggle for complete self-determination. Yes we want power, but Chicanos want power that comes without the oppression of other people. We want power that is not fueled by capitalism. Our power will only come when Azlan is liberated. But the U.S. military is opposed to the liberation of Aztlan. This is why our youth and our children’s children need to be taught not to serve the U.S. military, and instead serve Aztlan!

—Written at Pelican Bay State Prison

1 The Chicano Moratorium, August 29, 1970

“…more than 150 arrested and four were killed, including Gustav Montag, Lyn Ward, José Diaz, and Rubén Salazar…. As the Chicano poet Alurista put it: ‘The police called it a people’s riot; the people called it a police riot’”