Many scholars of the Civil Rights Movement focus their work primarily on the Black Power and the White New Left Movements. Consequently, Chicanas/os are omitted from the historical record of the 1960s and 1970s and are often viewed as non-participants in the decade of conflict.
When included in the Civil Rights narrative, however, Chicana/o political participation is belittled as reformist, a carbon copy of the Black Power Movement, or simply a farmworker struggle led by César Chávez.
Brian Behnken, author of both Fighting Their Own Battles: Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas and The Struggle in Black and Brown: African American and Mexican American Relations During the Civil Rights Era, makes the absurd claim that Chicanas/os “were uncomfortable with marches. But that was about to change” because Martin Luther King, Jr. came on the scene.
Behnken and others like him parade the lie that Chicanos just sit on their ass waiting for a savior to help them figure things out.
As such, the Chicano Movement and Chicana/o history is reduced to a caricature and its impact on American society is downplayed.
The Chicano Movement was neither reformist, a carbon copy of the Black Power Movement, or a farmworker struggle. The Chicano Movement was a radical, revolutionary nationalist mobilization of divergent organizations across the United States.
The Crusade for Justice, La Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres, the Mexican American Youth Organization, Católicos Por La Raza, the Brown Berets, the National Chicano Moratorium Committee, La Raza Unida Party, Casa Carnalismo were among the hundreds of organizations that advanced the struggle for self-determination in various capacities throughout Aztlán.
A few months after the assassination of Ruben Salazar, Lyn Ward, and Angel Gilberto Diaz at the August 29, 1970 Chicano Moratorium Against the Viet Nam War, a series of bombings rocked the Los Angeles area in early 1971. The main targets were banks, chain stores, government buildings, police cars, and so on.
A group calling itself the Chicano Liberation Front (CLF) took credit and issued statements declaring revolution to be a reality.
In one communiqué to La Raza magazine in 1974, the CLF stated: “today we celebrate with our people of the South, the Inauguration of Revolutionary action against the violence of economic exploitation, political subjugation, and social degradation by the Yankee Elite.”
In another communiqué, the CLF announced: “we advocate violence urban guerrilla warfare. For each Chicano attacked we will cause thousands of dollars of property damage. We believe that every Chicano home should be armed with a shotgun, M-1 carbine, and .357 magnum.”
In Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975, Jorge Mariscal states that FBI documents revealed the CLF “was composed primarily of hard-core Mexican American militants” that operated as a “guerrilla force.” Police agencies investigated the CLF until 1976.
According to news reports that appeared in the Belvedere Citizen and the Eastside Sun in 1970-1971, the CLF admitted to the theft of rifles from Lincoln High School. The CLF also took credit for two bombings at Roosevelt High School, and for the bombing of a police car at Cal State Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the CLF did not take credit for the bombing of a Spanish language station.
In A Community Under Siege: A Chronicle of Chicanos East of the Los Angeles River, 1945-1975 by Rodolfo F. Acuña lists the CLF bombing targets:
Roosevelt High School (twice)
Los Angeles City Hall
U.S. Post Office on East 8th Street
Bank of America on West Pico
Bank of America on Brooklyn Ave.
Bank of America in Monterey Park
Safeway Store on Brooklyn Ave.
Chevron Chemical in East Los Angeles
Bank of America in Woodland Hills
Shopping Bag Market in Altadena
Atlantic Savings & Loan in East Los Angeles
United California Bank in El Sereno
Patrol car at Lincoln High School
Belvedere Junior High
Montebello High School
Pan American Bank in East Los Angeles
Hazard Park Armory Reserve
The CLF even went as far as to criticize David Sánchez of the Brown Berets. In Expedition Through Aztlán, David Sánchez claims that one of the reasons he disbanded the Brown Berets in 1972 was to avoid the internal fighting that was “sometimes comparable to the gang level.”
Interestingly, the final Brown Beret policies were adopted in 1972, and appeared in the last Brown Beret newsletter, La Causa, in which Article XI (Stopping Foreign Insurgency) partially stated “Any Brown Beret who identifies as being part of the small scattered indents of the Chicano Liberation Front is terminated.”
The history of the Chicano Movement and its multiple ideologies need to be explored and documented to better understand the political trajectories of the Chicana/o people.