December 8, 2000
We have recently read stories on the "legacy" of politician Ralph Inzunza. For los veteranos of the Chicano Movement this should have been a proud moment, a testament to the struggle of the movement. Instead this "legacy" is viewed by los veteranos with a tear in the eye.
Before running for political office, 12 years ago, Inzunza was at the forefront of the Chicano Movement during the 70's, with the Committee on Chicano Rights (CCR). Inzunza was the right hand man of the Herman Baca, leader of CCR. He could be found planning, organizing, protesting. CCR and Inzunza would be at the forefront protesting against La Migra, police brutality, and the sheriffs department. He could be found at the front of a thousand man march as la gente demonstrated their anger with human rights issues at the border. He used to stand at the forefront demanding equality, empowerment, recognition, he was as it was termed in those days a radical, a radical for the Chicano Movement. He used to live by the words of Emilio Zapata, "Vale mas morir de pie, que vivir de rodillas" (Better to die on your feet, than to live on your knees.)
All of this and more, he was a friend, a drinking buddy, a confident of Baca, his compadre. He used to share laughs, celebrate holidays with and even stand guard to protect the life of Baca, when threatened with harm! The Chicano Movement was a part of him! He marched along with other stalwarts of the movement such as, La Hermandad, La Raza Unida, and MEChA.
Then he decided it was time to run for office and in his mind, to win in National City, he needed to deny who he was and betray his past. He turned his back on the Chicano Movement. He turned his back to his friends. He completely disassociated himself from the CCR and disparaged his life long Compadre.
He ran for office and won and the Chicano Movement died a little. Inzunza's "legacy" was started, but it wasn't the legacy we have been led to believe. For los veteranos of the Movement who remember, will point out that the Inzunza "legacy" was built upon a foundation of denial and as such it will never mean much.
When we read about the "legacy" of Inzunza a tear will come to our eye, for inside of Inzunza, we will know that a little bit of him died when he turned his back on la gente - on the Chicano Movement. We will be saddened because a man who once carried himself with dignity, chose to live on his knees!