By Ralph Molina
During the week of August 25, veterans of the Chicano/a antiwar Viet Nam War movement returned to the streets and meeting places of East Los Angeles to impart the lessons of their time to the youth of today. A week-long series of events began with a march and rally against Bush’s foreign and domestic policies. Organized by the Centro CSO, the rally speakers emphasized the fact that Bush-Cheney are placing the American people in more danger both at home and abroad and threatening the lives of millions around the world. CSO spokesman Carlos Montes pointed out that the almost half trillion dollar Pentagon budget will make health care and educational reforms in the U.S. impossible.
At the Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park an exhibit including posters, photos and newspaper articles commemorated the antiwar demonstrations staged between 1969 and 1971 known as the Chicano Moratorium. The exhibit was curated by long-time activists Rudy and Nancy Tovar. “This is a lesson for the present,” said Mr. Tovar, a World War II veteran now 80 years old. “I believe that the same thing will happen that happened during the Vietnam actionthat Chicanos in disproportionate numbers will be sent to die needlessly.”
On Sunday the 25th, a panel discussion at the Lincoln Heights library drew a large crowd of interested community members. Dr. Mario Garcia of UC Santa Barbara and Dr. Raul Ruiz of Cal State University, Northridge discussed the largest Chicano demonstration of the Viet Nam period on August 29, 1970. On that day, approximately 25,000 people protested the war and three people, including L.A. Times reporter Ruben Salazar, were killed by police. Dr. Jorge Mariscal of UC San Diego, author of Aztlan and Viet Nam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War, explained how military recruiters are invading our public schools and targeting Latino/a youth whose opportunities are limited. “Latino/a youth will make up the largest pool of available 18 year olds for well into the next century,” Mariscal said. “The Latino/a high school drop out rate is still high and Latino/as have been essentially excluded from most campuses in the UC system. The Pentagon knows this and has an aggressive propaganda campaign to exploit the situation.”
Original Moratorium members Rosalio Munoz, Robert Elias, Gloria Arellanes, and David Sanchez were present at the events in Los Angeles. Munoz, who refused induction into the military when he was drafted in 1969, spoke about the current crisis: “We are again at a time of military escalation as the Bush administration is calling for a prolonged war on terrorism. That has many of us worried about the denial of rights in our Constitution.” In response to the present situation, Munoz and Elias have decided to resuscitate the Moratorium Committee. “Our youth need to have more opportunities than prison or the military,” said Munoz. “We will not stand by and allow war fever to overwhelm our people.”