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Joseph Ordaz
Professor Rockwell
English 114B
15 March 2016
No Hablo Espanol
During the twentieth century the Mexican American community living in the United
States were socially, financially, and educationally discriminated. There was a demand for selfdetermination, for all people to have the same opportunity. As a result, the Chicano Movement
started in the 1940s; it was movement where Mexican Americans took pride in their own
identity. Mostly made up of Chicano parents, students, and working organizations the people
participated in non-violent marches, protests, and walkouts wanting change in the United States.
A historical event not taught in school, is the 1968 East Los Angeles Walkouts, a Chicano student
movement created in response to the unfair treatment of Mexican American students in the
United States.
In the 1960s East Los Angeles was home for nearly 100,000 Mexican Americans. The
Chicano community felt that East Los Angeles was a very isolated and segregated neighborhood
separated from the rest of Los Angeles. Only one out of four Chicano students completed high
school (Racho). The needs of the students were not being addressed by the school, therefore,
most were pushed out, not for their lack of intelligence but, because they were not receiving the
same education as a predominately white school. Also, the unemployment rate was almost
double the national average for Mexican Americans, those who had the opportunity of working
earned about two thirds of what most Los Angeles people earned (Racho). As a result, this
effected the children raised in Chicano families.

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In the Chicano PBS Documentary produced by Susan Racho, the film discuses a
Chicano movement of taking back the school from firsthand experiences of people growing up in
East Los Angeles during 1960s. Chicanos wanted to take back the schools because they faced
racism and discrimination at a young age of learning. Harry Gambodia, now an adult gives an
experience when he was discriminated by his kindergarten teacher for being a monolingual
Spanish speaking student. He was instructed by his kindergarten teacher to make a cone shape
hat out of paper; printed on the cone hat was the word Spanish. Gambosias teacher made him
wear the hat and told him he can take the hat off once he learned how to speak English.
At such a young age, students felt ashamed of being a Mexican that it led to some
abandoning their cultural living habits taught by their parents. Mexican teenagers that were
bilingual avoided being made fun of by only speaking English at school. This is significant
because it strips peoples identity of not wanting to participate in Mexican cultural that has been
practiced their ancestors for years. The Spanish language for many Mexicans is a characteristic
of being Mexican. Young people were told that their cultural background was negative a
hindrance for success. For example, Carmen Lomas Garza would only want to bring baloney
sandwiches to lunch in junior high because she was humiliated for bring her Mexican dishes to
school. This effected everyone else living in East Los Angeles in different ways. The burden
was pretty heavy of feeling your parents were not worth anything because the teachers in
schools treated them like children said Moctesuma Esparaza. There were clear signs of
prejudice and discrimination in the East Los Angeles school district.
In addition, Mexicans were not receiving the proper education. They were stereotyped
and pegged to join labor systematic jobs not having a choice in what they wanted to learn, such
as, shop or vocational classes. Students with a lower IQ were grouped and placed in different

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classes from those students with a higher IQ. These students did not get the same benefits and
college advisement, they were treated unfairly just based on their lack of intelligence. Was it the
students fault for not learning or the teachers for not caring to teach?
With a lot of Chicano students with the same complaint of their educational needs not
being met by school officials, they were desired to no longer be discriminated. The students felt
like the school district did not care if they graduated high school, we have the lowest reading
rate in East Los Angeleswe have people that graduate that can only read at an eighth and ninth
grade reading level, we believe this is a crisis said Fred Resendez a student leader. This shows
that, teachers were not really concerned for the education of Mexican kids. Soon Chicanos
become culturally aware of their background and history, which led to more involvement. Young
Chicanos figured that the system would not change unless you use direct action. At Roosevelt
high school Chicano students walked out of their school protesting, Chicano Powerwith their
head held high, with dignity said Sal Castro a high school counselor. This was the start of the
East Los Angeles Walkouts from 1965-1968.
The Brown Bureau supported the movement, a group of Chicano college students, while
the police tried to stop the protesters. The Brown Bureau served as a security, they were a
paramilitary group that advocated direct action. For this reason, this organization became a
concern for the police and local press. The Mexican American community is frustrated by the
social injustice they are facing because of the lack of community is causing destruction between
the community. The popularity of the young Chicano movement gained public attention. There
was a lot of excitement, therefore, the police was called in to maintain order. Many students were
arrested, we did not commit a crime, we were just protesting said Patssi Valdez. The police
treated the high school students like any other Mexican with brutal force.

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School authorities started to threaten the striking students. School principals threatened to
suspend, expel, and take away college grants to student who have already been accepted into
college away because the schools were losing money since there was no attendance. Still with no
improvement for change the students needed a public official to agree with the taking back the
schools. Bobby Kennedy the public official that supported everything the students did. Also,
parents became actively involved we are not going to let young people below the age of
eighteen do the work that belongs to us said Vahac Mardirosian the founder of the Educational
Issues Coordinating Committee. It was time Chicano became doctors, lawyers, and pharmacists
instead of becoming labor workers. This was a very frustrating time for Mexican Americans
because most felt their voices were not being heard.
The walkouts demonstrated a mass involvement of people not just individuals which is
another reason why it is a significant time in American history. Thirteen Chicano leaders
involved in the movement were arrested because of conspiracy charges, if convicted they faced
sixty-six years in prison. The conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor was a felony which is what
the leaders were charged with the arrest of these thirteen leaders was designed to stop the
movement. For this reason, the Chicano movement was now on defense against the police. The
students faced a new struggle of keeping their leaders out of jail.
Chicanos were paranoid and distressed after these unusual arrests. Carlos Munoz, Jr. was
one of the leaders arrested did some further research on some FBI documents. His research
resulted in, Munoz and the rest of the twelve leaders being identifies as dangerous subversives,
when they were only doing non-violent protests. The police thought that if they could arrest the
leaders of the group the protests would stop. With the Chicano needs still not being met by L.A.
Board of Education officials instead of walking out they stayed in, until the needs of the Chicano

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movement are taken care of. They pressured L.A. Board of Education officials to make a move
in freeing the thirteen leaders. Chicanos slept, sang, read, and had mass it was a time to talk
about the next step for the movement. One significant event the Chicanos won was the appeal of
Castro a Mexican teacher being restated to work again. Although they won the sit-in,
The walkouts were the first significant urban struggle for Mexican Americans
The East Los Angeles walkouts was only the beginning soon after, Chicano students across the
country staged similar protests. The 1968 walkout initiated a movement for education reform that
would continue for years after by smaller events. The East Los Angeles movement was one of
the first educational movement to be publicly viewed by the people, addressing the concerns of
the Chicano people. It gave the people a power they never realized they could achieve until they
started to see changes.
This student reform movement was a very important event that todays generation is
positively affected by. I did not know anything about the 1968 East Los Angeles Walkouts until I
entered a Chicano Studies class at the University of Northridge. I found it shocking how most of
the other Chicano students in the class were unaware of this event too. This goes to show, that
this kind of history is not taught to us in schools until a higher education. It is so important that
every Chicano students understands what other Mexican American people had to physically and
mentally sacrifice in order for the young people to receive proper education today. Although
racism occurs today, there is no reason why Chicanos should be ashamed of their culture
anymore. Instead we should be proud of for how far we have come as Mexican Americans by the
blood, sweat, and tears shed for equality amongst all living in the United States. The 1968 East
Los Angeles Walkouts showed what the Chicano community can do if they are united, their

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voices and actions as one can change the world. No more shall we say no hablo espanol out of
embarrassment of being Mexican, instead be proud of who we are with dignity.

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Work Cited
Racho, Susan. "Chicano! PBS Documentary - Taking Back The Schools." YouTube. YouTube,
n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.