THE NATlONAL CHlCANO MORATORlUM: AUGUST 29, 1970 A DAY IN THE LlFE OF THE CHICANO AND THE CHURCH IN SOUTHERN

CALIFORNIA Originally prepared for CEHILA - 12/5/86. Revised 8/29/95 and 2/23/14
Comisión Para el Estudio De La Historia de La Iglesia En America Latina y El Caribe [And by extension, the ecumenical study in the USA of primarily Spanish Speaking Church]

Rev. Juan Romero

Fifty thousand Latinos from throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles filled Dodger Stadium on June 1, 1986. It was the local culmination and cloture of the national consultation process of Hispanics sponsored by the Bishops of the United States: El Tercer Encuentro Nacional Hispano de Pastoral. The new Archbishop of Los Angeles, Bishop Roger M. Mahony told the people, to their great applause, "I am your bishop," and proceeded to declaim for the local church the Pastoral Plan that had emerged from the collective consultations on the national and local levels. It was a glory day that throbbed with excitement and life! Frank del Olmo of the L. A. Times called it the largest gathering of Hispanics for any event in L.A. history. It was the celebration of a pilgrim journey of a people in col1ective fulfillment of the Lord's will. What a contrast to that Christmas Eve of 1969 when a group of Chicano activists, calling themselves Católicos Por La Raza, demonstrated outside of St. Basil's Church on posh Wilshire Boulevard during Midnight Mass. They were denouncing James Francis Cardinal McIntyre and the Church of Los Angles for being insensitive and unresponsive to the needs of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the Church. Although those allegations had been made in anger, and received in great pain, the polarization between Mexican Americans and the Church that once existed was now symbolically healed. The Catholic Church was now overtly seen to be on the side of the Latino. Two seminal events, eight years apart, very strongly mark important moments for the life of the Catholic Church in Southern California as it relates to Chicanos. Both of these events have had impact on subsequent events, and qualify as historical moments. The National Chicano Moratorium was the one, taking place in East Los Angeles on August 29, 1970, and the appointment of the bishop for the new diocese of San BernardinoRiverside on November 6, l978 was another, but the subject of another essay. Shrill rhetoric sometimes characterized the movements the decade of late 1960's and early 1970's. With the impetus of the Civil Rights movement under the leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Black people had made significant strides along the path of justice and equality. Under the leadership of Cesar Chavez, California farm workers, mostly of Mexican and Filipino heritage, were improving their lot. Organized women

were seeking an Equal Rights Amendment, and the Peace Movement was trying to stop the War in Vietnam. Within the Catholic Church, various priests' councils or senates were forming within dioceses throughout the country as an expression of collegiality, a practical reform of the Second Vatican Council. These clerical groups certainly aspired to use their solidarity as a power-base to further their own agenda, but also to work together for the good of the whole church, especially in in its relationship to the world. The national Chicano priests' organization of PADRES became an important support group for Mexican American clergy, as well as an instrument to help move forward the social agenda within the Church and in society. A certain Father Patrick Flores from the Diocese of Houston, Texas had been one of twenty-five or so Chicano priests present for the first national meeting of PADRES in Tucson, Arizona during early February 1970. This newly formed Chicano priests organization issued its own clarion call for Mexican American bishops to be selected. At the time, there was not even one in the country with a 25% Hispanic population among Catholics. This organization, compiling a list of Mexican American priests of the country, was responsible for my receiving the invitation to the ordination of Bishop Patrick F. Flores on Cinco de Mayo 1970. Flying to San Antonio for the ordination, I read an early edition of the PADRES Newsletter that had been mailed to me, and came upon the name of Father Henry Casso said to be residing in Los Angeles. I was curious since I did not know him. At the ordination, I discovered that Fr. Henry Casso, one of the chaplains on either side of the new Bishop for the ordination ceremony, was a key founders of the PADRES organization. Later we conversed, and I found out he was in temporary assignment with MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Foundation), residing at Our Lady of Loretto parish in Los Angeles. After the luncheon, Father Casso took me with him and Deacon Al Benavides to visit with various San Antonio PADRES. It was my first face-to-face informal introduction to members of the organization and other local priests. The organization had its first national meeting in Tucson February 1970, and expressed the need for a Mexican American bishop. In spite of the large Catholic population in the country that was Hispanic, PADRES claimed a quarter of the Catholic population was Hispanic, there was not as yet even one Mexican American bishop. Within three months of the organization's first meeting, amidst great throngs and a variety of Mariachi groups playing, Patrick Flores was ordained as the first Mexican American Bishop in the United States. The Spurs' basketball stadium near the Alamo and along the city's famed River Walk was full! Cesar Chavez proclaimed a scripture reading at the Mass. The shootings at Kent State University in Ohio that took place the previous day were vying for space in the local newspaper that day. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds killing four unarmed students and wounding nine others, some of whom were active protesters against the Vietnam War, specifically the recent Cambodian invasion.

The Vietnam War was becoming ever more unpopular. Various demonstrations throughout the country protested the high toll of American and Vietnamese soldiers as well as civilian women, and children. The American Bishops issued a letter clarifying that a Catholic could be a conscientious objector to a specific war. The policy of the American government, however, continued to insist that a potential draftee could be deferred from military service only if he objected in conscience to all wars. The anti-war movement sharpened critical awareness about the war, and affected the lives of many people living in the United States, especially college-age students. An excessively high proportion of American soldiers killed on the battlefields of Southeast Asia were Mexican American, but that consciousness had not penetrated very deeply within the community. The National Chicano Moratorium was designed to remedy precisely that. Rosalio Muñoz, former student body president of UCLA, together with Gilbert Cano, began to organize students and communities to protest the "genocide" of the Vietnam War. Bumper stickers on cars, home meetings, and campus rallies invited people to the First National Chicano Moratorium that was scheduled to take place in East Los Angeles on August 29, 1970. Muñoz and Cano were operating from the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights in northeast Los Angeles, also known at the time as "The Parish of East L.A." under the leadership of Father John Luce. These activists were seeking the support of other church-people for the Moratorium. Muñoz and Cano met a few times with Mexican American priests at my family home in Lincoln Heights where I grew up, not far from the Church of the Epiphany. As a result, a few of us Latino Catholic clergy of Los Angeles decided to participate in the Moratorium. At the time, I was stationed at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in north Orange County contiguous with Los Angeles County. Originally a citrus and avocadoproducing community, many of its parishioners and workers were Catholics of Mexican heritage. Over time, the area had become a bedroom community of Los Angeles, and by 1970, a majority of the parishioners were upper middle class Anglos. I was celebrating a funeral for a Mexican American soldier at the parish at the rate of at least once a month, and with the same frequency was writing letters attesting to the sincerity of Anglo college students seeking deferment from service on the basis of conscientious objection. This fact impelled me to dip my toe into the cool waters of clerical activism and take part in the Moratorium that protested the disproportionate amount of Mexican American soldiers being killed in Southeast Asia. Several thousand people from all over the country came together for the march on the morning of August 29, 1970. Marchers gathered at Belvedere Park in East L.A., next to the County Sheriff's building on Third Street, a few blocks west of Atlantic Boulevard. A delegation of eight parishioners accompanied me on the march. One of parishioners, a young Mexican American widow whose Anglo husband had been recently killed in the War, came with her mother aunts and a few others. Two others who joined me that late August day were Henry Zuñiga, the brother of La Habra's Mexican American City Councilman, and Mike Clements, a seminarian and deacon of the parish who later became a community organizer for the Industrial Areas Foundation.

The day was bright and the mood was festive. The people gathered were mostly, but not all, Mexican Americans. A healthy and respectable mixture of others also participated: young wives and widows with children strapped to their backs or on walkers, student activists challenging the draft system, and a number of middle aged and older marchers who were sympathetic to the purpose of the Moratorium. Young people wearing Brown Berets accompanied the marchers along the way and served as security guards. Wellwishers and the merely curious lined the sidewalks along both sides of the parade route. Many waved Mexican and/or American flags as the marchers shouted the shibboleth in chorus, "Chicano!" echoed by "Power!" together with "¡Raza sí, guerra NO!" and variations of the anti-war chant "Hell no, we won't go!" A sense of solidarity and upbeat spirit characterized the number of people reported as over 10,000. The organizers of the Moratorium had negotiated with the Sheriff Department that they keep a low profile. The parade route, in the shape of a large "U," was about eight miles long. It proceeded about a half mile eastward to Atlantic Blvd., and then turned right, southward, passing St. Alphonsus Church towards Whittier Blvd. On this Saturday morning, a wedding was just finishing at the church. In a spirit of solidarity and in extension of their own marriage celebration, the newlyweds joined the march for a few blocks. Upon arriving at Whittier Blvd., the marchers---by now without bride and groom and entourage---turned right, i.e. westward, passing the Silver Dollar Bar west of Atlantic Blvd and continuing for about four more miles toward Laguna Park. Monitors of the march asked us to keep a respectful silence as we passed Calvary Cemetery, about a mile before coming to Laguna Park where the rally was scheduled to take place. Marchers walked behind various banners that announced their origin or allegiance to place, educational institution or political affiliation: Fresno, San Jose, San Diego, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and Colorado were well represented. Corky Gonzales' Crusade for Freedom had Delegates from Denver. The United Farm Workers of America, and the Socialist Party of America were also there, as were a variety of very different groups and organizations from all over the Southwest and beyond. Our group of eight from Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in La Habra, Orange County, felt most comfortable to march just behind the UFW flag. Fr. Frank Colborn, professor of moral theology at the Archdiocesan seminary, walked with us. As the march proceeded, the beautiful August morning turned into a hot afternoon. Upon arriving at the park, marchers were handed a sandwich and a cool drink that Green Peace distributed. As I entered the park, I could hear the voice of Rosalio Muñoz speaking over the public address system, but could not yet see him. He was saying that the name of this park should be changed from Laguna Park to El Parque Benito Juarez in view of its location in the midst of the largest concentration of Mexican and Mexican American population in the United States. The name of Laguna Park was eventually changed, but not to Benito Juarez Park as Rosalio Muñoz was advocating during the rally. Eventually the park was named in honor of Ruben Salazar, the journalist who so eloquently

interpreted the reality, experience, hopes, and aspirations of the Mexican American people. Morale of the marchers remained high upon arriving at the Park, although exhausted from the distance and heat of the day. Although the mood was still festive, there was, a collective sense of the seriousness of what we were doing: publicly bearing witness to our protest of the excessively high number of Mexican American soldiers killed in Vietnam. We enjoyed the opportunity to sit down, rest, and listen to music and various speakers. Further away, there seemed to be the beginnings of some kind of disturbance.

I approached closer to the stage in order to see Muñoz who was trying to ignore the distraction, and attempted to dissuade others from giving it too much importance. He communicated to the people in word and gesture not to pay attention to whatever was going on nearby. The distraction began in a corner of the park, and then continued along Whittier Blvd. It was about three o'clock on Saturday afternoon, time for me to be getting back to the parish for Confessions. As I began heading back to the parish, retracing the steps of the Moratorium route, I counted fourteen black and white Sheriff vehicles, sirens wailing, quickly exiting from a side street and pouring onto Whittier Boulevard. I thought to myself that something big must really be going on! Deacon Mike Clements, large of stature and dressed formally in his Roman collar, tried to help cool the rising temperature of hot tempers involved in the disturbance by organizing a human chain between police and protesters. Father Henry Casso of San Antonio, Texas, was also trying to stave off the police and demonstrators from confronting one another. The source of the disturbance seemed to be a transaction at a convenience store on Whittier Blvd. across the park. Sheriffs soon arrived en masse. Brown Berets, acting as marshals and internal security for the march, together with Mike Clements and Father Casso and others, attempted to fortify the human chain in order to prevent a clash with the Sheriff Department. Skirmishes erupted and intensified. Youth were throwing bottles and Sheriffs were using batons and tear gas to break through the human chain. Intense confrontation ensued. An old lady was knocked down, and the arm of a farm worker was broken. Within a matter of minutes, there was panic and pandemonium. Henry "Kiki" Zuñiga, the brother of our City Councilman, was consumed with rage at the explosion of what he perceived as a "police riot." He incredulously asked himself over and over, "Can this really be happening in these United States, and right here in East LA?" It was happening! Kiki witnessed with understanding a sheriff's vehicle overturned and an American flag burned. Some people tried to get away quickly by escaping towards the east from where they had come, but an entire section had been cordoned off. Nevertheless the area was soon cleared, and people began running in all directions. Mike Clements remembers being tear-gassed, and then invited to take refuge in the home of a Mexican family. The father of the household, in the calm eye of the raging hurricane surrounding him, reminisced and shared his own memories of harassment by Texas Rangers during the days of his youth.

Well-respected Chicano journalist for the Los Angeles Times Ruben Salazar, was sitting inside the Silver Dollar Bar on Whittier Blvd. looking for a reprieve from the melee at the park a mile and a half or two westward. Salazar had the unique ability to articulate the joys and sufferings of the Mexican people, and communicate those perceptions to the dominant community. A tragedy unfolded when a member of the Sheriff Department fired a bazooka-type armament into the Bar at the intersection with Clela Avenue, now a MetroPCS Corporate Store. Such a projectile is explicitly prohibited from being used for crowed control. Within a short time, news broadcasts announced the death of Salazar and all mourned! Although there was an investigation of Salazar's death, no member of the Sheriff Department ever went to jail for this killing. In the course of the day, three other Chicanos received fatal injuries. In my Sunday homily the following day, I spoke of my participation in the Moratorium, and explained my motivation: presiding at many funerals of young Mexican American soldiers, while at the same time being asked by Anglo college students to write letters testifying to their sincerity in conscientiously objecting to the Vietnam War. At Mass, we prayed for justice and peace in Vietnam, and for civil tranquility at home. As a result of the civil disturbance, the community of East Los Angeles was feeling hurt, angry, frustrated, and anxious. Panic gave way to fear as East L.A. became like an armed camp. An eerie quiet followed on its empty streets for the next few days. I witnessed an occasional Chicano youth---venturing out of his house and into the street--routinely stopped by a sheriff who asked the young man to put his hands on the roof of the official Black and White vehicle while he was searched. Bishop Flores had made plans to come to California for the second national meeting of PADRES scheduled for Delano in late August. The meeting was programmed there as a gesture of solidarity with Cesar Chavez leading the struggle of the farm workers for union representation. Upon learning that the Bishop was planning to come to California, I called by telephone to invite him to visit with some LA people of the Cursillo and Moviemiento Familiar Cristiano. I had also made plans to celebrate my birthday (August 31) with some friends, and thought it would be wonderful to have him present. He accepted the invitation, and at the same time, he informed me that the PADRES meeting at Delano was cancelled because of what the L.A. Times called "the largest walk-out in U.S. labor history" that took place in Salinas. Alas! Seven thousand UFW workers walked out of the fields because of sweetheart contracts the Teamsters Union was making with growers. Bishop Flores kept his promised coming to Los Angeles. However, by the time he arrived, East L.A. was a mess! Bishop Flores visited with the MFC and Cursillistas at a home on fringes of East Los Ange1es. Amazingly, there were no references to the Moratorium events of the previous days. The next day, Bishop Flores made a courtesy cal1 on Archbishop Timothy Manning, the new Archbishop of Los Angeles, who had recently returned from Fresno where he had spent two years as ordinary, i.e., the bishop in charge. Their meeting was cordial, relatively brief, and again there were no references to the recent explosion in East Los Angeles.

After the meeting of Bishop Manning with Bishop Flores, I escorted Father Casso, now residing at the rectory of Our Lady of Loretto in Los Angles while working for MALDEF of which he was a co-founder. Right after the meeting with Archbishop Manning, Bishop Flores met for lunch with Father Casso at Olvera Street. Over tacos and beer, Father Casso suggested Bishop Flores visit East Los Angeles and console the widow of Ruben Salazar who was lying in state at Bagues Mortuary on Brooklyn Avenue. Father Casso reminded the Bishop that many peop1e throughout the country came to know about him as the first Mexican American Bishop through the syndicated column of Salazar. Bishop Flores accepted the invitation go visit the body and console the widow at the mortuary less than a mile from where the Moratorium had begun. The three of us arrived at the mortuary at the same time as did another clerical trio made up on one bishop and two priests, this one of the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles: Bishop Eric Bloy and Fathers John Luce, pastor of "The Parish of East L.A." better known as Epiphany Parish, and Oliver Garver, a future suffragan (auxiliary) Bishop of Los Angeles. During the movimiento years of the late 60's and early 70's, Epiphany parish was the base for much of Chicano activism in Los Angeles, including that of Rosalio Muñoz and the Moratorium. After all of the visiting hierarchical clerics had signed the Guest Book, Father Casso added his signature with a special flourish while Bishop Flores consoled the widow and visited with mourners. Before departing, as part of a spontaneous prayer service, both Father Casso and Bishop Flores sang De Colores, the CursilIo hymn also sung by United Farmworkers as their theme song. KMEX-TV, Channel 34, for whom Salazar also had also worked, captured the duet for television. George Crook, former seminarian and present-day lawyer, was at that time a teacher of Chicano Studies at Salesian (Bishop Mora) Catholic High School on Soto Street at the intersection of Whittier Blvd. Two highly committed Mexican American Salesian priests and blood-brothers, Fathers Roger and Ra1ph Luna, both held positions of influence and responsibility at this high school. Mr. Crook asked me top approach Bishop Flores to ask if he would be wi1ling to meet with some people of the "community" that evening. The Bishop was supposed to be returning to his residence at the Cathedral of San Antonio that Claretian priests staffed. He was hoping to greet their counterparts in Los Angeles before returning home, and so agreed to meet with "community people" at the newly opened Claretian Center on Westchester Place. About thirty people gathered for the meeting that night. It was an interesting cross-section of student activists, business people, lay and clerical church people including both Catholic and Episcopalian clergy as well as Mexican American lay1eaders. Before the meeting began, Bishop Flores spent some time walking with Ricardo Cruz, one of the main instigators-organizers of the Catolicos Por la Raza demonstration that had taken place at St. Basil's Church the previous Christmas Eve. Father Casso chaired the meeting that served as a catharsis for those involved in the Moratorium. It was also an opportunity for all to reflect on some positive and healing action in which we as of people of faith might collectively engage. All expressed a desire

that the Church somehow speak to this historical moment and witness to justice and peace. The inhabitants of East Los Angeles were experiencing great fear, and Chicano activists were especially feeling anger at the death of Salazar and the three others who had died as a result of the violence. We wanted to proclaim Gospel values as they related to this specific situation, and try to exercise the ministry of healing. After a couple of hours, the group consensus was to call a press conference as a means of accomplishing some of this. Father Casso, in the name of the group, then asked Bishop Flores if he would lend his name to convoke the press conference. After minimal hesitation, and with head bowed and eyes cast down, Bishop Flores silently nodded his head in the affirmative. "With that," Father Henry Casso dramatically proclaimed, "Bishop Flores has just given up ever being named as ordinary (bishop in charge) of any diocese!" It truly was a gutsy thing to do, especially considering that he had been named an auxiliary bishop only three months previously! The people of El Paso and San Antonio can thank God that Father Casso was wrong in his assessment. At the meeting, Father John Luce suggested that the spokespersons for the press conference be priests, and specifically Chicano priests. "After all," he protested, "I'm from Massachusetts!" The Fathers Luna offered the facilities of Salesian High School to make the necessary preparations for the press conference. Several of us transported ourselves from Clarentian Center about eight miles east, arriving at Salesian High School about 10 pm. We began to get to work in preparation for the next morning. At the makeshift office, Bishop Flores postponed his flight to San Antonio, removed his roman collar, sat down and began typing his opening remarks. Young men and women of the nascent Raza Unida party began making calls to City News Service and other media outlets to alert and invite them for the press conference on the following morning. Father Henry Casso, Father Oliver Garver and I were on the taskforce to prepare the statement. Five Chicano priests were to be on a panel the next morning at 10 am, and I was selected as spokes person to read the statement. I took the statement with me back to the rectory in La Habra, about twenty miles away, to translate it into Spanish for the bilingual press conference. It was a fast night! Seven hours later I was back at Salesian High ready for the conference. We identified ourselves as participants in the Moratorium, and as members of the local chapter of PADRES. This is the first time priests in southern California had spoken as a group identifying themselves with the national Chicano priests organization. We stated that the intention of the Moratorium was to focus attention on the disproportionate number of Mexican American solders killed in Vietnam, and affirmed the right of the thousands of participants to freely express ourselves by means of the march and rally. We described the initial mood of the assembly as festive, and asserted that the internal security provided by Brown Berets seemed adequate to the large crowd. Furthermore, we contended, from our various vantage points and different locations along the parade route and at the park, it was our judgment that the force the Sheriff Department exerted to quell the disturbance was disproportionate and in itself provocative. We denounced the violence and the deaths, and demanded a thorough Congressional investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Ruben Sa1azar.

The Los Angeles priests wanted to be sensitive to ecclesiastical protocol regarding the participation of Bishop Flores. We delegated Father Casso to advise the Archdiocesan authorities there wou1d be a press conference at which some LA priests and Bishop Flores wou1d speak. Father Casso said he would take care of it, but did not. He may have been too caught up in the rapid pace of unfolding events, or merely chose not to relay the information. It is usual for the media to summarize the highlights of a press conference. Much of our statement was televised, but there was no visual or spoken reference to the participation of Bishop Flores in the press conference. It was as though his contribution was deliberately censored or deleted, perhaps through local ecclesiastical influence, in order to deprive the statement of any semblance of official approval. The fol1owing November, at the meeting of the Bishops in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Manning communicated to Bishop Flores both his surprise and displeasure at the San Antonio prelate's participation in the LA press conference. Later, I wrote a sixpaged letter to my Archbishop detailing the events that lead to Bishop Flores' involvement. In an aside, I mentioned having received an invitation to work for a couple of years in Guatemala with LAMP (Latin American Missionary Program, based in San Francisco). A very brief reply from the chancellor gave me permission (for which I had not asked) to go to Latin America for the pair of years. Bishop Patrick Flores in a sincere gesture of good will, while still an Auxi1iary of the Diocese of San Antonio and pastor of the parish of St. Patrick, invited Archbishop Manning to celebrate a Mass for St. Patrick's Day. The Irish-born Archbishop, who by then had been named a Cardinal, graciously obliged. Episcopal fences that March 17 were thereby mended. ENDNOTES 1 L.A. Times, Frank Del Omo, Editorial Page, June 2, 1986. 2 "Hispano" is the inclusive term invted by the U.S. Census Bureau and that came into popular usage within church circles during the 1970's. "Chicano" is used for those who identify as Mexican American, and it has the connotation of political activism. "Latino" is the term currently favored by the national media. 3 Padres Asociados para los Derechos Religiosos Educativos y Sociales 4 Our Lady of Guadalupe 5 "Largest Labor Walkout," LA Times, Harry Bernstein, August 24, 1970. 6 Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund 9 December 24, l969 8 Armando Morales, Ando Sangrando,(I Am Bleeding): A Study of Mexican AmericanPolice Conflict, 1972, Amazon.

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