By Melisa Valenzuela
The Centro Community Service Organization held their annual event commemorating the 49th anniversary of the 1970 Chicano Moratorium.
On August 29, 1970, over 30,000 Chicanos and supporters marched the streets of East Los Angeles.
The march was a collective effort between the Chicano Moratorium and other anti-war activists to raise awareness of the problems that plagued the Chicano community at the time.
The issue at the center of it all was the high amount of Chicano/Mexican American casualties in the Vietnam War.
Even though Mexican Americans only made up ten percent of the population in southwest states, they made up 20 percent of those killed in combat.
What was supposed to be a peaceful protest ended in bloodshed just hours after it began. Dozens of protestors were injured, over 100 were arrested, and three were killed.
Ruben Salazar, director of news at K-MEX channel 34 and Los Angeles Times columnist, was among those killed.
Salazar was a prominent figure in the Chicano community and reported issues that mattered to them.
Sol Marquez, outreach/media person for Centro CSO and member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization said, “Centro CSO was founded in 1947 and what we are doing now is a revival. We are fighting against police brutality, to protect our public schools from privatization and for legalization for all.”
She spoke about these points in her speech and also addressed the shared interests of Chicanos with the people of Venezuela, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Marquez was just one of the many speakers at the event. Among the others were Carlos Montes, Rudy Chavez, Lisa Vargas and Ernesto Vigil.
Montes is a long time Chicano activist who not only co-founded the Brown Berets, he is also among those responsible for creating Centro CSO.
In his speech, Montes spoke against U.S. imperialism and the modern-day attacks on Chicanos from police and others.
Rudy Chavez, Vietnam War veteran and graduate of East Los Angeles College and the University of Southern California, performed a poem he wrote exclusively for the moratorium.
Sitting in a wheelchair, he rolled himself to the center of the stage dressed in old army fatigues, wielding toy guns and knives.
His poem told the story from the time he got drafted into the war to the time he got out and all of the trauma he experienced in between.
Lisa Vargas, mother of Anthony Vargas, who was shot and killed by the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, spoke about the current Chicano struggle against police terror, about what happened to her son and what she has done to make a change.
One of the main focuses of the Centro CSO is to fight against police brutality.The keynote speaker Ernesto Vigil is an author, historian and activist of the original Chicano Moratoriums.
Vigil talked about the long time surveillance and repression of the Chicano movement and recounted what he remembered from that fateful day in 1970.
“My favorite speaker was Rudy Chavez,” said Adrian Rodriguez, student of East Los Angeles College.
“He did something like slam poetry. It was so interesting and emotional.” Rodriguez had never attended a Centro CSO event before, but plans to continue in the future.
“We need as many people as we can get. Attend the meetings, come to our events and fundraisers,” said Sol Marquez.
“Next year we will have a march for the 50th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium. So let’s start getting ready for that.”