The Brown Berets placed Catalina Island under observation for two years beginning in 1970 in preparation to reclaim stolen lands. Through intense study, the Brown Berets had discovered that the nine channel islands off the coast of California had not been included in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and thus were not subject to American laws or boundaries and therefore remained Mexican lands.
Initially, the Brown Berets wanted to begin the invasion on August 29 to mark the assassination of Ruben Salazar, Lyn Ward, and Angel Gilberto Diáz at the Chicano Moratorium in 1970 but were forced to postpone because last minute information did not arrive on time.
In Expedition Through Aztlán, Brown Beret Prime Minister David Sánchez wrote: “Our mission will be to land and occupy this area as a symbol of the Chicano movement. Our forces will represent the mounting strength of la Raza. The worst consequence that may happen is arrest – or at least the most probable. But regardless of what happens, it will be a victory in the hearts of all Mexicans. We cannot wait for next year to make the invasion; by next year it will be too late. Already, the momentum of the Chicano Movement is on the decline. We cannot delay. The winter is coming, and we must move now!”
The proclamation below was read on the anniversary of Mexican Independence Day (September 16, 1972). Later that evening, Sheriffs disrupted a celebration organized by allies of the Brown Berets who had brought supplies to the group. The Sheriffs pushed the allies around and beat some of them to the ground.
September 16, 1972
Año de Juarez
Isla Santa Catalina
For Historical Record
We, the people of Mexican descent living in the United States, as well as the people of Mexican citizenship, and the people of Indian descent, do proclaim the Channel Islands as sacred lands. Governments, through their implementation of laws of changing boundaries, have suppressed these people and threatened their very survival. These people are left with but one desire; to find a place where they may live in freedom. Because Mexico is tied to domestic and foreign affairs and is unable to assist, we, the original inhabitants of these lands, protest the further taking of lands from Mexico. The islands belong to us! Chicanos living in the United States, as well as the people of Mexican citizenship, and all of the people of Indian descent are united in this belief. We proclaim the right of survival by native right. The need to occupy space in which to live is our inevitable destiny.
(This statement was made during the Brown Beret occupation of Isla Santa Catalina in 1972)