I grew up in Northern New Mexico where evidence of the annexation of Mexico by the United States in 1848 remained evident. The seal for the state flag showed an American eagle pictured with its right wing over a Mexican Harpy Eagle signifying its paternalistic relationship over the Chicano people. However, at the same time, the state constitution was in Spanish and English. These contradictions were everyday happenings when punishment was meted out to children who spoke Spanish by the teacher with a ruler slap on the out stretched fingertips of the culprit for speaking Spanish on the playground. Speaking Spanish in the classroom was verboten and a 3-day suspension was in order.
My father, because of his Spanish accent, suffered this racist attitude by his mentoring teacher when he was doing his teaching apprenticeship. All his course work was fine with "B's" or better, yet his mentor told him that she could not give him anything better than a "C." This meant that he could not teach in the Albuquerque School system since they required at least a "B" to work there. Thus, my late father spent at least 20 years commuting over 60 miles a day for two decades to provide for his family.
When I was 11-years-old, my cousin Eddie Cebada was killed by a white man who claimed that god had told him to depopulate the earth with Mexicans. He shot my cousin with a high caliber rifle. My uncle, the local constable and the posse lamented that when they arrested him that, as he tried to escape to the Jemez Mountains, they should have killed him because when he went to court, the white judge sent him to the state insane asylum instead of the gas chamber.
On a trip to Taos I visited the site of the uprising against the racist U.S. cavalry to put down this act of indigenous resistance for having killed the imposed governor, a lawyer by the name of Bent of the American Party. The cavalry killed many Chicanos and many members of the Taos Pueblo who had also taken part in the uprising. This historical event was posted on a state historical bulletin in Rancho de Taos next to the Church that had been burned by the cavalry.
My grandfather was a member of the Allianza de Pueblos Libres which fought for the land that had been annexed by the U.S. He gave money in 1969 so that Reiies Tijerina could travel to Madrid, Spain, to research the archives for the original titles for the Spanish Land Grants that had been stolen over the years by the Santa Fe Ring in the 1880's. This helped some of the descendents of the original owners reclaim their land. My grandfather and fellow Allianzitas were very satisfied with the outcome. This was a big moment in our family's lives as it turned out that my family and I were documented members of two land grants, the San Joaquin de Chama land grant and the Nasimiento Land Grant, where I was born in what is now Cuba, New Mexico.
In 1967, I decided to relocate to Los Angeles, as did other Chicanos from New Mexico. I was an organizer for the Chicano Moratorium protest of August 29, 1970--originally conceived by my brother Ernesto. This was one of the first times that a worldwide audience became aware that we, as Chicanos, existed. The L.A. County Sheriff's brutal force attacked thousands of Chicanos and Chicanas during this peaceful protest against the war in Vietnam and other social injustices taking place in America's barrios. The Chicano Moratorium is widely known as the protest where L.A. Times reporter Ruben Salazar was killed, among others, including many injuries and arrests.
To read more stories from a veterano Chicano activist, see my recently released book, "Tiempo Robado"