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50-year commemoration of the Chicano East L.A. walkouts

By staff

Carlos Montes speaking at event commemorating Chicano walkouts.

Los Angeles, CA — An event commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the East L.A. Chicano walkouts was held at the Benjamin Franklin Library on March 3, 2018. Organized by adult librarian Patty Alvarado and Centro CSO, dozens attended the historic commemoration. Among those in attendance were Sal Castro’s son Gilbert Castro. Sal Castro was a Chicano public-school teacher who helped organized the walkouts.

On the panel were four Chicanos involved in the first student walkouts: Vicky Castro, Margarita “Mita” Cuaron, John Ortiz and Carlos Montes. The panel addressed repression, spying and intimidation leading up to the walkouts, and in the aftermath. Moderated by Sol Marquez of Centro CSO, the panel caused the audience to at times laugh, cry and gasp.

“After being jailed and away from school for over 12 days, when I returned to my high school at Garfield High some of my teachers said I’d organized the walkouts just so I could smoke dope,” said Mita Cuaron. “But the truth is we had our demands, and we were tired of the racism and the discrimination against us for just being Chicanos. I was only a sophomore at the time and I had never been in trouble with the law. I quickly learned the hard lessons of what it’s like to be Chicano.”

“Many of the pictures you see today of the walkouts and Chicano Movement were actually taken by undercover cops and sheriffs,” said Carlos Montes holding up one such photograph in his hands as he spoke. “The Chicano movement, like the Black liberation movement was heavily surveilled and posed a threat against the U.S. system.”

The walkouts led to many victories, including making Chicano history an elective, the ability to speak Spanish without being punished, less discrimination, and more Chicano teachers and staff at their public schools. However, many in the audience expressed the need to do more to support public education and to continue the fight for Chicano liberation.

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