June 5, 2009

A TRIBUTE TO DANIEL MUNOZ

By Herman Baca
President Committee on Chicano Rights

The passing on Sunday May 31, 2009 of Daniel Lopez Muñoz, friend, compadre, fellow activist, founder and editor of La Prensa San Diego, whom I knew for 40 years, signaled that a political era is surely coming to an end. Dan’s death after the recent passing of local fellow activists Hermenia Enrique, Charlie Samarron, Ruben Rubio and Roberto Martinez, along with César Chávez, Humberto “Bert” Corona, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales in recent years, confirmed that salient point to me.

I first met Daniel Muñoz during the turbulent 1970’s. The 70’s came after the political assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy in the 60’s, a time when people were demanding change in the U.S. Blacks were revolting against segregation, youth were marching in the streets against the Vietnam War, Women, Native American and other groups were boycotting, demonstrating and rioting.

The Mexican-American community did not live in a vacuum in the 70’s and did not escape the call for change. The nascence Chicano Movement (launched in the mid 60’s) had arrived like a tsunami in many Mexican-American communities. Dormant Mexican American communities began to hear and witness things they had never heard or seen before. César Chávez an emerging labor leader from California called for a worldwide Grape Boycott to organize farm workers. Humberto “Bert” Corona a labor organizer from the 1930’s launched an immigration movement to organize Mexican undocumented workers. In New Mexico, Reis Lopez Tijerina picked up arms to address the issue of stolen historical land grants. In Colorado, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales a former world-class boxer using Chicano nationalism advocated for nation (Aztlan) building. While in Texas a young Jose Angel Gutierrez called for the creation of an all-Chicano third political party… La Raza Unida Party. Many Chicanos heard the call for action and self –determination.

For Chicanos in San Diego it was a time for: picketing Safeway stores in support of César Chávez’s Grape Boycott, the take over of Chicano Park, Centro Cultural and the Neighborhood House. Organizing the moratorium against the war in Vietnam, protesting police brutality, and organizing around the immigration issue. Bilingual education, hiring of Chicano teachers, expanded educational opportunities for Chicano students to attend educational institutions such as UCSD, San Diego State, etc. Pickets and demonstrations were being held (unbelievably) against the Roman Catholic hierarchy demanding that the church address the needs of the community by appointing Mexican priests and nuns, etc. Politically, registering Chicanos to elect candidates, or for those who had become disillusioned with both the Republican and Democratic Party’s, organizing La Raza Unida Party.

It was under those political conditions that I first met Daniel L. Muñoz. I met him at UCSD where both the Chicano and Black community along with students from MEChA and the Black Student Union were protesting and picketing to bring about the Patrice Lumumba/Emilano Zapata, Third World College.

When I first meet Dan he was an anomaly to me. He was sixteen years my senior, a military retiree and came from a generation that had been taught not to say anything, especially against white authority. Most of his generation that I came into contact with, did not understand the Chicano Movement’s call for social, economic, political and religious institutional change.

In spite of this, Dan Muñoz became involved with political issues that affected the Chicano community. In the early 70’s he along with Alberto Garcia from San Ysidro were instrumental in bringing a congressional hearing, chaired by then Congressman Edward Royball (the only Chicano in Congress) to San Diego to address INS and Customs agents brutality against Mexicans at the San Ysidro/Tijuana crossing.

Dan was also involved with picketing the Catholic retreat at Descano, being thrown out of the bishops office, and picketing the bishop’s office at USD and at home in Point Loma until the church hierarchy established programs for the Chicano community and appointed Chicano priests and nuns.

Police brutality always an issue in the Chicano community raised its ugly head in1975 with the shooting death of 18-year-old Luis “Tato” Rivera by a National City Police officer who shot him in the back with a 357-magnum gun. After 2000 persons marched and protested, and the Mayor and city council refused to fire the officer (Craig Short), it was Dan who proposed to the community that the mayor and entire city council be recalled.

At the time Dan started (at his own expense) Tezozomoc Speaks, a newsletter that he mailed to persons involved in the political process. The newsletter addressed the need for Chicano political action and involvement and focused on issues ignored by the established media, and unaccountable Anglo and Mexican-American politicians, administrators, etc. The Tezozomoc Speaks newsletter was widely read, controversial, and politically successful.

Around that time I remember Dan stating to me that he had become disillusioned with traditional electoral politics. He had organized political organizations such as the Chicano Democratic Association, and the Spanish Speaking Political Association. Worked to elect Assemblyman Pete Chacon, and was one of Bob Morretti’s, candidate for California Governor campaign managers. He helped elect many politicians to public office, but felt that that effort was not bringing about the political changes he had envisioned for the ever-growing Chicano community. The reason for the community going backwards was his belief that information and news being received by the Chicano community was being filtered, manipulated and defined by the Anglo power structure. He asked my opinion about starting a weekly newspaper that would serve and address the community’s interests. I stated that the community obviously needed an independent newspaper and voice to define issues that were affecting it. However, I stated that a group of us in the early 1970’s had attempted to start a newspaper and had failed because it proved to be extremely difficult, and expensive. He persisted and later told me that he was going to start a newspaper. In 1976 he founded La Prensa San Diego as he used to state… present the news to the community and the world through… “Brown Eyes.”

During the preceding years, up to the present La Prensa covered and reported on local, national and international issues affecting the Chicano community. La Prensa covered a myriad of local issues i.e. police brutality, education, rezoning, youth, senior, veterans, elections, political issues, candidates, elected officials, etc. I remember La Prensa giving extensive coverage to the Chicano community demand that the church appoint Gilberto Chavez as bishop for the San Diego diocese.

At the national level, La Prensa reported and covered the ever-present escalating immigration issue. Reporting on national legislation such as the Carter Immigration Plan, Simpson Rodino, the National Chicano March protesting the KKK announcement to “patrol,” the U.S./Mexico border, and numerous marches by Chicano groups.

Until his passing, La Prensa under the editorship of Dan Muñoz continued the long historical tradition begun when the Spanish brought the first printing presses and published the first newspapers on the American continent.

In Dan’s 40 years of involvement with the community, and 33 years of publishing La Prensa I can personally attest that Dan and his family paid a heavy personal, and financial price for both his involvement and political views.

With a Masters Degree in Social-Political Sciences, Dan could have easily joined the “Hispanic” movement, landed a safe, secure, and well paying job, but he instead choose to struggle. For that the community owes him a historical debt.

Many in the community disagreed with Dan, I myself had vehement disagreements over issues with him, but as they state in boxing, unless you get knocked-out the fight is not over, nor the winner announced until all of the cards are added up.

Therefore history will record that whether one agreed – disagreed – liked – disliked - supported or opposed Daniel L. Muñoz that he thru La Prensa gave a voice to a voiceless community. More importantly Dan left to future generations of Chicanos who will soon be the majority population in California and U.S. Southwest states; a historical record to learn from, and built on.

DANIEL LOPEZ MUÑOZ

¡PRESENTE!

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