Colorado Springs Bicentennial Speech of July 4, 1976 by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales

Donald Trump’s anti-Mexican statements and the response by the corporate Hispanic/Latino so-called civil rights organizations have, as expected, been reduced to profitable soundbites for both sides.

With the mainstream “news” media more than willing to cash in on the invented crisis by providing a reality-type platform along with the outright silence and failure by the Obama Administration to condemned Donald Trump is revealing because it highlights the legacy of Obama on “immigration” and one which presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton will certainly carry forward. [Note: it also was reported that President Obama’s views aren’t that different than Trump’s. Obama gave a speech in Nashville, Tennessee and referred to Mexican migrants as “gang-bangers”].

As the United States readies itself to celebrate yet another “Independence Day” on the backs of Blacks, Chicanas/os, and Indigenous Peoples, this is the perfect moment to reflect on the past for it forces us to analyze and bring into focus the present so that we have the power to determine our future and not allow deceptive leadership to control our self-determination as their only interest is pure profit.

On July 4, 1976, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales gave a speech at the Colorado Springs Bicentennnial celebration in which he urged Chicanas/os to reflect on their own past to better understand their present and make sense of what the future might possibly bring.

Corky was the leader of the Crusade for Justice, a Chicana/o activist organization based in Denver, Colorado. Through the poetic, philosophical and activist work of the Crusade for Justice, and, most importantly, through Corky’s voice and leadership, the political framework for Chicana/o cultural nationalism was given birth at the First National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference with the drafting of the document El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, which articulated the goals of the Chicano Movement.

Unlike today’s corporate appointed leaders, who only speak when given permission by their puppeteers and only with the help of a carefully prepared statement, Corky was uncompromising in his beliefs and he did not acquiesce to anyone always confronting the system on behalf of the people. As Rodolfo Acuña once wrote about Corky, “you know where he stands.”

In his Bicentennial speech, Corky addressed several topics and issues that remain particularly relevant to our community today, such as:

• police brutality in our barrios
• police infiltration and disruption of liberation movements
• the prison industrial complex as it impacts Chicanas/os
• the economic exploitation by both the U.S. and Mexican governments
• the existence of false leadership and false idols (vendidos) within our community
• the need for Chicanas/os to know their history (Chicana/o Studies)
• the need to dismantle capitalism and the entire racist system
• the acknowledgment that Anglos do not know their own history
• Chicanas/o have a history and legacy of resistance against oppression
• Chicanas/os must reconnect with La Familia de la Raza

Corky also had the foresight to understand the larger significance for Chicanas/o of living “in the belly of the monster” as he saw the increasing power and proliferation of the surveillance state in Colorado. Corky was ahead of his times and the work of the Crusade for Justice highlighted this fact.

The Crusade for Justice understood the need to connect the struggles of the Chicano Movement with other Third World Liberation movements, such as the American Indian Movement (AIM) , Mexican revolutionary student movement and the Black liberation struggles.

Corky understood that the capitalist system needed to be destroyed as it empowered politicians (politically and economically) to destroy Indigenous Peoples worldwide. Because capitalism was based on greed, Corky said people were loyal to the corporations for the check rather than to society. Chicanas/os, on the contrary, Corky affirmed, “liberate themselves for love of each other.”

Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales was working on his version of the Chicano Movement, but an auto accident in 1988 delayed his work. He stated that the title of his book was The Chicano Revolution, A Poetic Account and Philosophy of the Chicano Movement. He had written several chapters and it was his intention to finish it. Unfortunately, Corky passed away on April 12, 2005 at the age of 76. Corky stands as one of the most important historical figures in the history of our people. Corky’s children continue the legacy of resistance.

As you read Corky’s Fourth of July speech, it should be clear that the ideological and historical errors were errors of the time, and in no way diminish his message or his work. After hundreds of years of both Spanish and American colonization, Chicanas/os in the 1960s and 1970s began asserting their identity and connecting with their historical and cultural roots.

In hindsight, that journey was often mixed as even Corky was not immune to looking at the Spaniard as a point of convergence for our people.

In our present moment, however, and in the larger analysis, we should take Corky’s message and example to heart and return to fighting for self-determination by any and all means necessary.

cultural sovereignty

— by D.Cid

Colorado Springs Bicentennial Speech of July 4, 1976

Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales. September 19, 1975. via the Denver Post Archive

Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales with Crusade for Justice member Ernesto Vigil. September 19, 1975. via the Denver Post Archive

You have to understand that in order to make progress, in order to gain justice from any society, you have to take a stand. So when we talk about organizing people, when we talk about organizing Chicanos, organizing La Raza, that we have to know what our contributions were to this area and to this continent. We aren’t just Chicanos, a minority in the United States of America; we are Chicanos and Latinos who are a majority of Aztlán, of México, Central America, and South America. We are a part of a majority.

We have to look at it that way. We have to remember that those brothers and sisters that cross that border are the same people that came before there were was anyone out here, except the Indians. We predate 1776 by more than one hundred and eighty years. That Pike’s Peak, named after Zebulon Pike, and they say you’re a “Piker” if you’re a dummy and you get jived. Juan de Ulibarrí was here one hundred years, a whole century, before Pike ever reached here, and the indio was here possibly 50,000 years ago before he got here. So we understand that we have to look back at our history and realize what we read about. Just like the Bicentennial today, they’re talking about a revolution, but let me tell you that the people who talk about that revolution don’t know what they’re celebrating.

They are celebrating that “All Men Are Created Equal,” but when they signed that Declaration of Independence, remember that they were not considering Black people, who were their slaves, they were not considering Indians, whom they considered savages and whom they were murdering; they were not considering Mexicanos, who would be the people they would conquer in 1848, a hundred years later.

So you see, they were only considering themselves. So we have to look at that history and ask what have all the struggles been about? What about the indios and the Chicanos in Taos and in that area? When they were told that they were going to be ruled under a new flag by Governor Bent, they didn’t mess around with a celebration. They shot him with arrows, scalped, and killed him. That’s right. It took three expeditions to go in there and finally overcome those people who were in the mountains, who understood that the land and the culture and the history was theirs; it belonged to nobody else.

We are the children of those people; we’re the children of Zapata, who gave his life for the idea that the land belonged to the people. We’re the children of “Pancho” Villa, who was willing to stand up for a cause and gather hundreds of thousands of Mexicanos and Yaquis to fight the oppressor and to liberate México. However, México was not liberated because the despots remained there and ran México. And today México is not liberated, nor are we liberated. We are not liberated when the prison population in Canyon City consists of forty percent our people, sixty-five percent in Buena Vista, and sixty to sixty-five percent in every juvenile hall in every one of these cities across the Southwest. We’re not liberated, not any one of us.

And the people in México are not liberated as long as the corporate structure in this country controls the country. As long as it controls their businesses and controls their economy. When inflation comes up here five percent, in México it goes up twenty-five percent; if inflation is up thirty percent in this country, in México it’s two-hundred percent. And the people there suffer from the same things that the people here suffer, only ten to twenty times more. So you realize when the average American in this country suffers inflation, the poor people and the minorities, the Mexican and the Chicanos, los indios y los negros, suffer twice as much.

When unemployment is 7.2 percent in this country, you have to realize that with us, it’s anywhere from fifteen to thirty percent unemployment or underemployment. We can’t get the jobs that we deserve to have. We say that the Movement has changed some things. Until we dared to speak, until we dared to stand up, until we dared to march, until we dared to confront everybody from the pigs to the mayors to the políticos nothing changed. Not in the mass media, not in the jobs, not in affirmative action, not in programs, not in food stamps or anything else, until we said “Ya basta.” And they say, “We’ll give them just enough to keep them quiet,” and they give us a program. They created some políticos and gave them some jobs. And now those políticos are saying, “I’m sorry, you’re not qualified.” But the only thing that qualified him were the people in the streets.

We have kids and young people in the universities who have to understand that they’re there because of the blood of Freddy Granados and the blood of Ricardo Falcón and blood and jailing of the young people, who dared to take a stand, to say that if we’re going to be part of this nation, then we want equal percentage in those schools. And you judge the progress of a people by how many we have in prison and how many we have in the university. And if we have too many in the prisons, then that is not progress; it’s regression. When we don’t have enough in the university, then that’s regression and somebody is cutting us short.

So when we look back at history, remember the land struggle, remember those union strikes in the fields, remember the strikes in the mines, remember the confrontations, remember that your children had to suffer because we were not able to take a stand. Now we are saying that there is a new Chicano. We didn’t start the revolution; the revolution started with the first resistance of Cuauhtémoc, who dared to fight the Spaniard Cortez. And now when we have false leadership, false idols, we say analyze them.

Recognize whether they belong to the people or they belong to the establishment. Either you are the people or you are the pig; and realize that we have to get rid of them, too, or we have to change them into brothers and sisters to understand that they deserve what they have if they share with their people for getting it for them. We have to teach our young people that they have to go out there, not based on how much money they are going to make for themselves, but how much they can learn to bring home to their own community. I think that’s taking place, but it’s taking place slowly.

When you see the young people up here, don’t criticize them, cheer them on, help in whatever they do. Because on different levels, the different levels of political attainment, some people talk about political power within the system, some people talk about fighting that political power, some people talk about reform, and some people talk about destroying the system that created the problem. You don’t build hospitals after they create the disease; we don’t have to have the disease. So we have to evaluate, what is Bicentennial? Do you realize that if you would go and you would read about the statements made by the people who signed the Declaration of Independence, and would go to the average American citizen who watches Archie Bunker, who is getting fat in front of the TV drinking Coors, that if you would repeat some of the words of the Declaration to those people, they’ll think its radical, they’ll say it’s communist, they’ll say it’s socialist, and they’ll say it’s un-American. So ask them, “What is American?” If a revolution means change, if a revolution means freedom, then we all deserve it. And if they have gotten fat and forgot what it meant, then we have to educate them to understand what it meant.

The Declaration of Independence states that we the people have the right to revolution, the right to overthrow a government that has committed abuses and seeks complete control over the people. This is in order to clean out the corrupted, rotten officials that develop out of any type of capitalistic systems. Now, if they had done that, they would have never gotten to the point of having Watergate, they would have never gotten to the point of having criminals like Nixon and Agnew and fifty-five in the administration found to be guilty as crooks in this society, in this free democracy. How do those people develop? Where do they come from? What happens when you wipe them off the cake? They’re just icing. Because you can change the icing but the cake remains, and the cake is full of maggots, it’s full of disease, it’s full of liars, it’s full of hypocrites, its full of murderers, and up at the top they change the icing of the cake, but the same structure remains.

I want to tell you why that structure remains. Any country based on capitalism is based on greed. They teach young people that if they go to the twelfth grade, they can earn so much money; if they get a B.A. in college, they can earn a little more, if they make a master’s degree, they earn a little more, and if they have a Ph.D., they earn more. So it’s all based on how much money, and not on what you can do for humanity. How much money they can make. So greed is infected into our veins, and everybody wants to hustle, everybody wants to jive. If you can’t get a degree, put a piece in your hand. If you can’t get a degree, be a pimp. If you can’t get a degree, be a hustler. If you can’t get a degree, be a jiver. And if you can’t do that, sell yourself to the corporations, and they take care of you for life, as long as they control your life. People say, “You can make those statements, but you have to have some facts to back them up.”

Let me show you something. In Angola, the sons of African slaves from Cuba are going back to liberate Africa, the land of their birth, the land of their origin. Let us look at that. In Vietnam, there were ships waiting for the sons of the capitalists, ships waiting for the people who work at Bank of America, at Texaco, at Exxon, ships waiting to take home the sons of the capitalists; people were killing each other to get away from Vietnam. In Cambodia, there were ships waiting for Americans, for sons of capitalists, to come home. In Laos and Thailand, the same thing. In China, the same thing. In Mozambique, in Angola, in Rhodesia, in Arabia, in different areas where they (capitalists) have been forced out, they are getting on ships and coming home, because the sons of the indigenous peoples and the sons of the liberators are starting to stand up and are ready to do what they have to do, and that is to liberate their own people. So we understand that.

Just look at your everyday newspaper to learn what is happening. The sons of Mexicanos and the sons of Latinos are standing up against the oppression all across Latin America, México, and Aztlán. We’re looking at each other. What happens when we don’t care about each other? We are one familia, we are one family, we are related across this country and across these two continents. From Chicago to California, every one of you has a primo, you have a tía, you have a compadre and comadre, you have a suegro and a suegra, you have an abuelito and abuelita, from San Francisco to San Luis to México. All across, we are interrelated, and that’s what makes us so powerful and so hard to destroy.

Here we are. We are in the belly of the monster and we are tickling him. Right over here you have Cheyenne Mountain, you have a city built under the mountain that is part of NORAD; it keeps track of everything that happens around the world. A $176-million plant is being built here to record anything that goes into orbit across the world, even the size of a half-dollar. You have the United States Air Force Academy right over there; you have Fort Carson over here; you have a Central Intelligence office in this city. You have the National Rifle Association (NRA) that moved from Washington, and they’ve picked the most right-wing community, Colorado Springs. And Mexicanos don’t care; we’re here to speak out, and we don’t care if they are sitting around here. If you don’t know they guy next to you, check his I.D.; he’s probably with the CIA, the FBI, or one of their undercover snitches that they buy, and they are here.

So I’m just telling you that it takes a lot of guts. Remember that everybody wants to be part of history. So two hundred years of bicentennial to them is saying, “This is our history.” But we’re giving them a new step in history, and we’re saying, “We’re here.” In this city you’ve got more retired army generals than anywhere in the country, who are the most right-wing element of this country. Remember, they live off of war and murder. And they live in this city, and this is where most of the millionaires come to retire and build their houses. That is why your community is controlled politically by them: because they control the money.

So we look at that and say, “How does capitalism affect us?” Capitalism affects us because for every millionaire you find, you’ll find too many people breaking their backs to make his million dollars. He’s not making it off his own back; he’s making it off the sweat and blood of working people. And he’s making it off our people. And we fatten this land. Our people have worked in the fields, they’ve been the economic slaves, and then the man comes and creates taxation. They tax the land instead of the produce, and if they would tax what the land produces, most of our people would have the land back in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. If they would not have come in with crooks, with corrupted jive artists, we would still have our own method of governing ourselves, we would still be sharing our work and sharing our produce. We would still be sharing our songs and our culture, we would still be sharing the cantos y cuentos del alma, de la raza nuestra; we would still be doing those things. We would still be living in a humane fashion, believing in people and believing in the words “dignity” and “honor.”

These are some of the things that are contradictory in this society, and that’s because capitalism is based on hustle, jive, scuffle, ruining people. How many of the Congressmen will go to Congress and come out millionaires? How many Senators will go in and become millionaires? And not just Anglos, but some Hispanos will become rich off of what their people gave them, their vote, but the people will have nothing in return.

So we have to understand how that history affects us, individually, every day of our lives, and how we can start to change it. And we must always think positively. Just think. Just think. We are the fastest-growing minority in this country. Our families are bigger than any other families. We have doubled our population in the last twenty-five years. Most of our people are under the age of twenty-five: sixty percent of us. We are a young group: we are twelve to fifteen million people and we are growing. We have grown because our parents were strong enough to face racism, worse and harder than we’ve ever faced. They have faced work ten times harder than we have had to work. They’ve faced repression and oppression and brutality, just for us to survive, and we’ve survived. It’s up to the youth now to carry it on, to develop it and to understand that we have a new political direction to take.

We have to destroy capitalism, and we have to help five-sixths of the world to destroy capitalism in order to equal all people’s lives. We have to support our Indian brothers, who are the indigenous people of this country. We have to support the Asians, who are indigenous, and the Africans, who are indigenous, and the South Americans, who are indigenous. People should have the right to liberation and the right to control their own destiny, and the way to do that is to have a formulated plan to say that some of us will learn. As a baby starts to crawl, then starts to walk, then starts to run. Some people are running faster. Some people understand politically and then take a political action a lot heavier than other people. Instead of rejecting those who haven’t learned, then we say, “I’m going to help my brother and I’ll do it for them.” And the masses of the people have to understand that when certain actions are taken across this country, when demonstrations are taken and formed, when this kind of thing happens, then people gather together and it’s for our people. It’s not for money, no. One cannot pay us.

People are loyal to corporations for the check. People are loyal to the Mafia for the payment. They kill for money. But our people, I have to say liberate themselves for love of each other, and that is the most important thing that we can have. Nobody can destroy that; nobody can destroy the spirit of our people. And they can kill individuals, they can shoot us down in the streets, and they have. They can throw us in their jails, but they cannot destroy an idea or a philosophy, and they can never destroy love, because we’re going to win. We’re going to beat them, whether it takes this generation, the next generation, or the next generation. We’re going to win. Viva La Raza! Viva La Raza Libre! Viva! Viva Aztlán Libre!

Editor’s Note — Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, Colorado Springs Bicentennial Speech of July 4, 1976. Corky’s speech had previously been unpublished. The speech was eventually published in Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, edited by Antonio Esquibel. Houston: Arte Público Press, 2001.

This entry was posted in AmeriKKKa, Aztlan, Barrio, Capitalism, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o Community, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Politics, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Underground, Chicana/o Youth, Chicano Movement, Colorado, Community, Cultura, Decolonization, Denver, Education, Family, Globalization, History, Indigenous, Knowledge, Labor, Land, Language, Law, Mexican, Movimiento, Neo-Liberalism, Nepantla, Palabra, Police Brutality, Politics, Race, Racism, Resistance, Sin Fronteras, Social justice, Solidarity, Xicana, Xicano. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *