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Chicana/o Moratorium: Two Generations

By Laura Bernal

The following analyses, was written by two Chicana activists on the 30th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium.

East Los Angeles, CA – The streets here were filled with Chicanas and Chicanos of all ages on Aug. 26 to commemorate the Chicana/o people's struggle for liberation and self-determination. Aug. 29 marked the 30th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium.

Aug. 29 is a day to commemorate the 500-plus years of Chicana/o people's struggle. It has been a constant battle of resistance. It reminds the world that we have always been at war, from the invasion and attempted conquest by the Spaniards, followed by the Manifest Destiny plan of the United States, through the Mexican-American War that took away our lands.

We became wage slaves for capitalism.

Our ancestor's families became the wage slaves and suffered brutal exploitation – picking crops they couldn't afford to buy with what they got paid. On top of labor exploitation, these same families suffered a thousand abuses, including tuberculosis and other poverty-caused diseases – just like native peoples who were exterminated by illnesses brought by the western societies.

During the U.S. war in Vietnam, huge numbers of Chicanos were drafted. We went from the fields or unemployment lines, straight to the front lines as infantry. Mexicanos were recruited by offering them citizenship. They were killed in the so-called “War for Democracy” in Vietnam. It was a false citizenship. Chicanos and Mexicanos came back home to suffer wage exploitation or no jobs at all. Chicana's labor was demeaned, after they had been worked to death to maintain the country's war supplies.

In recent years, the type of work Chicana/os, Blacks, Filipinos and Native Americans are forced to do has changed, because of the new industries, but the exploitation has not changed.

What was fought for in the 60's and 70's was quickly lost with the coming of Reagan. No health care, along with welfare cuts, continues to plague communities of color. The current political system has brought new oppressive conditions for Chicana/os and Mexicana/os. We are facing attacks against every member of our families.

With Proposition 187, poverty diseases have returned, as its aim was no health care for the “undocumented”. It goes on, with Proposition 184, “Three Strikes You're Out”, for the adult Chicana/os; Proposition 209 for the dismantling of Affirmative Action to keep us out of education; Proposition 227 abolishing Bilingual Education to get rid of our language and culture, aimed at our children; and Proposition 21, “Baby-Three Strikes You're Out”, aimed to incarcerate our Chicana/o youth. Now youth are brutalized by police as we were by the marines during war times. The police represent the state at home as the army represents the state in the wars abroad.

The use of the propositions maintains these conditions by creating the idea that people of color are not deserving of basic services, without looking at how we sustain the country with our blood and sweat. The Chicanas of the last generation worked traditionally male jobs, contributing labor to the economy. Now as Chicana/os are going to be the majority of the nation, Chicanas are also the targeted to be among the poorest of women because of Welfare Reform.

The political system is a disguised war tactic. Today we are still under the repressive state. Manifest Destiny still exists, as the U.S. has its eye on the other half of Mexico. It has never stopped trying to take the rest of the land. They have continued to exploit and oppress the nation of Mexico through North American Free Trade Agreement – depriving the nation of its self-determination. The U.S. government supports the Mexican government in its attempt to suppress the indigenous nations like Chiapas.

The Chicana/o Moratorium reminds us that not much has changed as we continue at war. It took us 20 years to make some gains, and, in just a little over a decade – half the time it took to fight for them – the gains were gone.

Our second generation hasn't even gotten a taste of the hard struggle of the first generation. The journalist Ruben Salazar was to publish the realities of the Chicana/o peoples thirty years ago and was killed so that he wouldn't expose these realities. He was silenced. Many others have been too.

On Aug. 26, 2000 we marched again to show that our history is alive in the struggle of today. Even though our nation is brutally exploited and oppressed, we have been able to survive and fight.

Uphold the right to self-determination and liberation for the Chicana/o Mexicana/o people.

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