Mario T. García, a Professor of Chicano Studies and History at University of California, Santa Barbara, tells us in the introduction to The Chicano Generation that there is a “Latin American tradition of producing oral histories, or oral memoirs, through the collaboration of political activists or revolutionaries with progressive scholars or journalists.”
For this book, García collaborated with three people who were active in the Chicano movement from the late 1960s to the early 1970s: Raul Ruiz, Gloria Arellanes, and Rosalio Muñoz. García writes that the book took twenty years to complete, from interviews to publication—I’m curious as to why.
Between the three activists’ testimonies, we get a fairly full picture of the Chicano movement, including the high-school walkouts and the anti-war moratorium. Ruiz had a close view of the Los Angeles Police Department’s assault on the 1970 anti-war march that resulted in the death of Latino journalist/activist Ruben Salazar, a death that many people claim was an assassination.
Arellanes was a member of the Brown Berets, a particularly militant group that modeled itself after the Black Panthers, and her testimony about the group is probably the book’s most compelling story—she worked hard and put up with a lot of shit, from outside and inside the group. All three of the book’s activists worked pause-givingly hard—when we celebrate activists, that is really what we’re celebrating: that they chose to take on so much drudgery.
From Muñoz’s testimony, I learned of La Marcha de la Reconquista, a 1971 march that began in Calexico, near the Mexican border, and ended in Sacramento, the state’s capital, a roughly three-month, one-thousand-mile journey (with some breaks, of course). The march was to address essentially all Chicano-political issues. Physical demands aside, that they made it to Sacramento despite all the factional conflicts was miraculous.
Each testimony features welcome glimpses of Los Angeles life in the mid-twentieth century (L.A. residents will be amused to learn that there was a time when white teens mocked Mexican teens for eating burritos). Fans of Alice Bag’s and Luis J. Rodriguez’s memoirs will enjoy The Chicano Generation.
The book costs $29.95 in paperback and $20.99 as an e-book—I don’t know what to tell you about that. I’m told that you can ask a public library to order a book and they’ll do it, but I’ve never tried it. –Jim Woster (University of California Press, 155 Grand Ave., Suite 400, Oakland, CA94612-3758, ucpress.edu)