Oral Histories

Interview of Carlos Montes

Founding member of the Brown Berets, and key organizer of the Chicano Blowouts. Member of La Vida Nueva and the movement to establish the Chicano Studies program at East Los Angeles College.
"La Batalla Está Aquí": The Chicana/o Movement in Los Angeles
Latina and Latino History
Social Movements
Chicano Movement
Biographical Note:
Founding member of the Brown Berets, and key organizer of the Chicano Blowouts. Member of La Vida Nueva and the movement to establish the Chicano Studies program at East Los Angeles College.
Espino, Virginia
Montes, Carlos
Persons Present:
Montes and Espino.
Place Conducted:
Montes' home in Alhambra, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Virginia Espino, UCLA Center for Oral History Research. B.A., UC, Santa Cruz (Psychology); Ph.D., Arizona State University (History).Espino prepared for the interview by consulting numerous secondary sources on the history of the Chicana and Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, such as Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement by Carlos Muñoz, Chicano Politics Reality and Promise 1940-1990 by Juan Gomez Quinones, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America by Vicki L. Ruiz, and Racism on Trial: The Chicano Fight for Justice, by Ian F. Lopez Haney. The Historical Los Angeles Times database was consulted along with primary resources from the Chicana/o Movement housed at UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center.
Processing of Interview:
The transcripts for sessions 1-5 are verbatim transcriptions of the recording. They were transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Montes was then given an opportunity to review the transcripts but made no corrections or additions. Center for Oral History Research staff prepared timed logs of the audio recordings for sessions 6 and 7 of the interview. Montes was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes.
16 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The interviews in this series document the ideological transformation of the Chicana and Chicano generation in Los Angeles. Dissatisfied with their position in U.S. society, Chicana and Chicano activists built a civil rights movement from the ground up. Interviewees were selected based on their experience as members or leaders of Chicana and Chicano Movement organizations from 1962 to 1978. Collectively the oral histories document a variety of social justice struggles that include, but are not limited to, educational improvement, union advocacy, voting and political rights, gender equality, and anti-war activism.
Family's history during the Mexican Revolution--Childhood memories of Mexico-- Early experiences crossing the border between Juarez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas-- Ethnic identity in Mexico and Los Angeles-- Playing house with the neighborhood girls and lessons about free sexuality-- Childhood pranks in Juarez and El Paso, Texas-- Arriving in Los Angeles--First experiences in a Los Angeles classroom-- East Los Angeles neighborhood recollections-- Comparing Juarez, Chihuahua to Los Angeles, California-- Developing an appreciation for rock music-- Street culture during adolescence in South Los Angeles-- Experience of corporal punishment at Miramonte Elementary School-- Reflections on skin color and passing for white-- Experience with a "whites only" Los Angeles-- School interests in middle and high school-- Decision to cheat on school work during high school.
Experiences attending high school in East Los Angeles-- Developing an appreciation for the "Chicano Sound" in music-- Interracial dating in middle school-- First experiences with police harassment-- Participation in high school sports-- Evolving musical interests-- Parents' lessons about work and education-- Sexuality and gender during high school years-- Impact of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Cold War culture-- Desire to join the Green Berets-- Experience working for Teen Post, a War on Poverty program-- Impression of Tony Rios from the Community Service Organization-- Ideological differences with Tony Rios-- Attempt to save the Community Service Organization in the 1990s-- Tony Rios and his anti-communist views-- Experience working with Teen Post.
Student life at East Los Angeles College (ELAC)-- Tense encounter with students from ELAC's Mexican American Students Association (MASA)-- Influential moments from the Black Civil Rights Movement-- Genesis of the East Los Angeles College organization La Vida Nueva-- Organizing for Chicano studies-- East Los Angeles College protest in support of the United Farm Workers-- Argument for direct action versus non-violent peaceful action-- Explanation of Brown Beret symbolism-- Brown Beret relationship to the Black Panthers in Los Angeles-- Reflections on the "uneven" intellectual development of the Brown Berets-- Developing consciousness of the Brown Beret members-- Participation in the Poor People's Campaign-- First experience with the East Los Angeles Walkouts-- First direct action with the Brown Berets at the East Los Angeles sheriff's station.
Meaning attached to the Brown Beret uniform-- Reflections on skin color prejudice-- Formulation of an ideology in relation to African American groups-- Importance of the year 1968 and the Tet Offensive-- Brown Beret opposition to romantic relationships with whites-- Political position toward Spain as a colonial power-- Commitment to improve the educational system for Mexican Americans-- Remembrances of Sal Castro organizing students-- 1960s ideological debates-- Late 1960s gender issues-- Genesis of the “walkout” as a form of protest-- First arrest for a stolen car-- Anger and its expression through protest.
Experience with social justice activism against police brutality-- Establishment of La Piryana coffee house-- Brown Beret "no drug" policy-- Redbaiting against Brown Beret members-- Raid of La Piryana coffee house-- Experience with the Garfield and Roosevelt high school student walkouts-- Impression of Edward Roybal in the late 1960s-- Ideological shift to a radical position.