October 2nd is an historical date remembered by the Mexican and Chicano people both in México and in the United States.
On October 2, 1968, ten days before the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, police officers, military soldiers, and snipers shot unarmed student demonstrators who had descended to the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City to protest the poor social and living conditions of the Mexican people.
Hundreds of students were shot dead, hundreds more were disappeared and hundreds more were arrested. The actual numbers remain a mystery as the government has repressed most of the information surrounding the events of October 2, 1968.
Forty-five years later, many questions remain unanswered. What is evident, however, is that the orders to unleash the military firepower on the students came from then Mexican president Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and then Interior Secretary Luis Echeverría Álvarez, who would later become president himself in 1970.
During June 2006, Echeverría was charged with genocide in connection with the student massacre. He was placed under house arrest, but was cleared of genocide charges.
October 2nd is also significant in the political history of the Chicana/o-Mexicana/o community in the United States.
The contemporary urban Chicana/o Movement begins in the morning of March 1968 when over 15,000 students from East Los Angeles and neighboring areas went on strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to protest the racist and inferior educational system.
For nearly two weeks, LAUSD was virtually shut down as students presented a list of 39 demands that included, among other things, the hiring of Chicana/o teachers, the implementation of Chicana/o Studies, bilingual education, the end to corporal punishment, and access to restrooms.
On May 27, 1968, thirteen Chicanos were arrested and indicted by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury for their participation in the high school Blowouts.
The East LA 13, as the group came to be known, were charged with conspiracy to disturb the peace, a felony charge. Eventually, all were released on bail and through community pressure.
Sal Castro, a teacher at Lincoln High School, was one of the thirteen arrested and indicted for his role during the Blowouts. At the beginning of the Fall school year in September 1968, Castro was not allowed to resume his teaching duties and was told to report to the LAUSD headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles.
As a result, Chicanas/os protested with daily pickets at Lincoln High School and at the LAUSD board meetings in order to have Sal Castro reinstated to his teaching position.
After recognizing that their demands were ignored, Chicana/o activists decided to stage a sit-in at the school board beginning on September 26, 1968. For the next seven days, Chicanas/os occupied the school board.
Chicanas/os slept there, read books, sang songs, engaged in political discussions, planned future actions, and even celebrated mass. School officials attempted to make life difficult for the Chicana/o protestors by turning off the lights, the phones, the air conditioning and the heat.
Eventually, LAUSD board members decided to vote on the Sal Castro matter, but demanded that the protestors end the sit-in.
On October 2, 1968, LAUSD school officials along with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) gave the Chicana/o protestors orders for dispersal or be subject to arrest.
35 Brown Beret members, parents, students, and community activists refused to leave.
At 10:00pm the LAUSD building was to be closed and anyone inside would be considered trespassing and in violation of California Penal Code Section 602n. The 35 protestors still inside the board room were arrested and put into paddy wagons.
The following day, on October 3, 1968, LAUSD school board members voted 5-1 to reinstate Sal Castro to his teaching position.
It was a Chicana/o community victory. It came as a result of sacrifice and struggle. It was an act of self-determination that showed the community that change was possible if enough pressure was applied against the powers that be.
October 2, 1968 is a day of resistance and remembrance. Let us never forget those who sacrificed their lives for the betterment of our Chicana/o community. La Lucha Sigue!!!