Soldado de la Raza: Carlos Montes & the Struggle for Self-Determination (Part Four)

Carlos Montes speaking at a rally.

Carlos Montes speaking at a rally.

Carlos participated in organizing the first Chicano Moratorium in December 1969 against the war in Viet Nam. This would lead to the historic August 29, 1970 National Chicano Moratorium march when over 30,000 Chicanas/os protested the high casualty of Chicanos in the Viet Nam War, and where Ruben Salazar was assassinated by the LA County Sheriffs, along with fifteen year-old Brown Beret Lyn Ward and Angel Gilberto Díaz.

The Brown Berets were a constant target of police surveillance and infiltration, since the YCCA days when Richard Avila, became the first LAPD agent to infiltrate the group. In November 1968, Fernando Sumaya, an undercover police officer, infiltrated the Brown Berets. Immediately, Sumaya advocated direct violence. In April of 1969, Governor Ronald Reagan was scheduled to speak at the Biltmore Hotel. As Reagan spoke, fires broke out in several floors of the hotel.

Six weeks after the Biltmore incident, a secret grand jury indicted ten Chicanos, including Carlos Montes. Sargent Lee Ceballos physically and verbally threatened Carlos, “I’m either going to kill you or see that you spend the rest of your life behind bars.” The Brown Berets and Carlos faced the repression of the LAPD and the LA Sheriffs. He was arrested over twelve times on false charges, he was beaten and threats were made against his life by the police numerous times.

La Causa, the Brown Berets newspaper, covering the Free the Biltmore 6 case.

La Causa, the Brown Berets newspaper, covering the Free the Biltmore 6 case.

With the realization that law-enforcement officers had threatened Brown Beret members with death, Carlos decided to leave Los Angeles in early 1970. Carlos went “underground” from 1970 to 1977 going to Juarez then to El Paso. Prior to leaving Los Angeles, Carlos married to his girlfriend Olivia through ceremony conducted by Father Luce. Carlos lost contact with the Brown Berets.

While “underground,” Carlos organized along the Juarez-El Paso border region on issues of police repression, immigration, labor, and worked with El Partido de La Raza Unida. As a member of the rank and file of the Centro Obrero in El Paso, he became an organizer during the two-year Farah Strike, which saw almost 5,000 Chicanas on strike demanding better wages and union recognition. His politicization continued with his work with the August 29th Movement (ATM) and other Marxist and socialist groups.

– C/S

Cultural Sovereignty 

– part of an ongoing series of essays on the Chicano Movement, the Brown Berets, and Chicano Studies as part of my thesis/dissertation.

This entry was posted in Boyle Heights, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Studies, Chicano Movement, Community, Cultura, East Los Angeles, Education, History, Knowledge, Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles, Politics, Resistance. Bookmark the permalink.

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