Alicia Escalante was born in 1933 in El Paso, Texas. Alicia had a difficult childhood and arrived in Los Angeles in 1947. Alicia’s early experiences shaped her political consciousness during the Chicano Movement.
In 1962, Alicia became a single mother with five children and was forced into welfare: “When I took my oldest to the doctor, he said the governor was going to cut-off Medi-cal and told me about a demonstration. I went, we stopped the cuts, and a movement of the poorest was born.”
Five years later, in 1967, Alicia founded the East Los Angeles Chicana Welfare Rights Organization. Alicia was concerned with the county social services racist treatment towards Chicana and Black women who found themselves on welfare due to racist and sexist legislative policies that waged war against low-income families, especially single women with children.
Alicia became an active participant within the Chicano Movement lending her powerful voice at the Chicano Moratorium rallies and sacrificing herself many times to advance the Movement’s goals, such as getting arrested as part of the Católicos Por La Raza’s protest at St. Basil’s Catholic Church on Christmas Eve.
After the Chicana/o sit-in at the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education to reinstate Sal Castro as a teacher, Alicia Escalante made this statement to the Chicano Student Movement newspaper:
“I am a Chicana mother and was one of the 35 arrested at the Board of Education sit it. For you who may not think it was a just cause do you think if it wasn’t Castro would have been reinstated? As the Pledge of Allegiance states, “one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.” This is all we asked for and justice was done.
My two oldest children are involved in the movement of the Chicano, and it won’t be long until my other children become involved. And simply because we as Chicanos have to fight the school system, the welfare system, police brutality just to name a few. Since my children were old enough to speak they were taught to answer “I am a Mexican” when asked. They were taught to speak up when abused to fight back tooth and nail, to get ther rights as human beings.
I for one won’t hide behind the cloak of hypocrisy and say these things do not exist, because they do and we know it! Only some mothers are still not willing to face reality so there will be many mothers that criticize me. The same mothers are critical of the word “Chicano.”
Castro’s case was one of our many victories to come, we in the Movement will at least be able to say that we haven’t submitted to the gringo or to the pressures of the system. We are brown and we are proud.
I am at least raising my children to be proud of their heritage, they demand their rights, and as they become parents they too will pass this on to their children until justice is done. Perhaps we may see the day when there will be enough Chicano teachers, principals and even a Chicano President. For those of you mothers who may think I may not be a good mother because I am a militant, on the contrary my children are well taken care of in every respect.”
The above photo captures Alicia Escalante in the East L.A. Chicana Welfare Rights Organization office.