Oral Histories

Interview of David Sanchez

Founding member of the Brown Berets. Key organizer of the Chicano Moratorium Committee and the Chicano Blowouts.
"La Batalla Está Aquí": The Chicana/o Movement in Los Angeles
Social Movements
Latina and Latino History
Chicano Movement
Biographical Note:
Founding member of the Brown Berets. Key organizer of the Chicano Moratorium Committee and the Chicano Blowouts.
Espino, Virginia
Sanchez, David
Persons Present:
Sanchez and Espino.
Place Conducted:
East Los Angeles Library in Los Angeles, 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 transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Sanchez was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a number of corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
13 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 role in the Mexican Revolution; Family history of male heroes in the military; Father's early childhood life in downtown Los Angeles; Growing up Chicano in Los Angeles; Attending 79th Street Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles; Move to "rough" part of South Central and decision to join a street gang; Evolving into a peace maker while in a street gang; Developing a love for the guitar and deciding to leave gang life; First encounter with Father John Luce at the Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights; Lessons learned while a member of the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council; Firsthand experience with police abuse; Formation of Young Citizens for Community Action; First protest while a student at Roosevelt High School; Influence of the African American Civil Rights Movement; Founding the La Piranya coffeehouse in East Los Angeles; Origin story of the Brown Beret; Politicization; Explanation of post-World II racism in the United States; Rationale for entry into Chicano Movement politics; Disappointment with Los Angeles' educational system.
Origin of the terms walkout and blowout; Early challenges to United States educational system; Role of the Brown Berets in spearheading the Walkouts; Importance of rank and file system of the Brown Berets; Creation of La Piranya Coffee House and its role in the Movement; Police harassment of the Brown Berets; Experience with Garfield and Roosevelt High School Walkouts; Differences between "Mexicano" and Chicano; First experience being called a "dirty Mexican"; Reflections on white racism; Explanation of the Brown Beret patch; Personal philosophy of non-violence; Attempts by more militant Brown Berets to take control of the Brown Beret organization; Role of guns for Brown Beret members; Experience with infiltrators in the Brown Berets; Arrest for the school walkouts; Forty days at Wayside Prison for inciting a riot; Writing the Brown Book, the Brown Beret manual; Escaping the draft and personal feelings toward the war in Vietnam; Personal expectations as Prime Minister of the Brown Berets; Reflections on historical roots of Mexican people in the United States; Rationale for writing The Brown Book; Challenges experienced while Prime Minister of the Brown Berets; Explanation of the "movement science" used by the Brown Berets.
The ideological basis for writing Birth of a New Symbol; Reason for the emphasis on hope in Birth of a New Symbol; Reflections on Chicano History influences; Explanation of the Chicano Movement struggle; Complicated relationship with white individuals as friends and enemies; Commentary on the use of violence and the presentation of the Brown Berets as violent; Decision to take over the offices of the Los Angeles Board of Education; Experience with 1969 school walkouts; A typical week at the Brown Beret office; Robert Avina, the police infiltrator; Non-violent position of the Brown Berets; Personal position on guns; Role of violence in the Brown Beret activism; Role of the military look for the Brown Beret organization; Cruz Olmeda and Fred Lopez attempt to take over the Brown Berets; Reform goals for the Brown Berets; Explanation of the meaning of Birth of a New Symbol; Creating La Causa newspaper; Recruiting objectives of the Brown Berets; Successful Brown Beret chapters; Critique of modern Brown Berets.
Reflections on Mexican and Chicano identity; Use of Spanish and English in the home; Jail time at the Wayside Maximum Security Facility; Origin of the Barrio Free Clinic idea and the impact of Dr. Rona Fields on Brown Beret work; First anti-war protest in East Los Angeles; Loss of the Brown Beret Clinic and the resignation of Gloria Arellanes as Prime Minister of Correspondence and Finance; Role of the Free Clinic in East Los Angeles; Brown Berets post-Gloria Arellanes' departure; Role and character of Carlos Montes as Minister of Information; Role of Ralph Ramirez as Minister of Discipline and as the eyes of the Brown Berets; Connection to Rosalio Muñoz and the Brown Beret involvement in the anti-war movement; Chronology of rallies and protests; Reflections on August 29, 1970; Remembrances of January anti-war demonstration; Marcha de la Reconquista; Caravana de la Reconquista.
Carlos Montes’ decision to leave; Decision to be non-violent; Distrust of Fernando Sumaya; Spies within the Brown Berets; Discovery that Sumaya is a police infiltrator; Coverage by the media; 1971 March de la Reconquista (Calexico to Sacramento); Taking the movement on the road; Writing book Expedition through Aztlan; Preparing for invasion of Catalina Island; Hierarchy of Brown Berets; Mother’s house being firebombed; Rallies and walkouts in the Southwest; Main advocacy issues: education, prison reform, welfare rights; Demonstrations in Sacramento; Experience as chairman of Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council; Reasons for running for Congress; Gang riots in Southwest (1990-1995); Legacy of the Brown Berets; Lack of understanding between Anglos and Mexican-Americans in West and Southwest; Problems with incorporation of East Los Angeles; Getting attacked by West Fresno gang; Women’s experiences of violence in the Brown Berets; The caravan in Superior, Arizona; Brown Berets as a social revolution rather than a violent revolution; Removal from Catalina Island by ship; Visit from American Indian Movement; US Navy sent to investigate; Relevance of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to the Catalina Island occupation; Reasons for leaving the Brown Berets; Violence within the organization; Disbanding the Brown Berets; Evolution of the Brown Berets after dissolution; Members leaving the movement to return to school, take jobs; Role in saving the middle class; How to address these issues today; Chicano Round Table.
Rationale for disbanding the Brown Berets; Attempts to solicit donations from the larger East Los Angeles community; Raising money for a public history monument to the Chicano Movement; Reflections on assimilation, nationalism and the importance of Chicano Studies; Decision to pursue a college degree; Critique of current Chicana and Chicano political officials; Current goals as political and educational leader; Reflections on the current use of the terms Chicana and Chicano in scholarship on Mexican Americans; Main issues of the Brown Beret platform; Experience with the "hippie" culture; Reflections on La Raza Unida party and the attempt to incorporate East Los Angeles; Anger from the break-up of the Brown Berets; Gains of the Chicano Movement; Reflections on the "caste system" mentality and the need to gain power for Chicanos; Goals of the Mexican American University; Responsibilities as deputy for Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke; Creating a "Stop the Violence" movement in the 1990s.
Reflections on immigrant rights activism; Commentary on Chicano Studies and current need for a strong Chicano Studies curriculum; The 1990s Barrio Peace Conference and the reinstatement of the Brown Berets; Stop the Violence campaign; Critique of the prison industrial complex; The importance of the Brown Beret hat in the 1990s; Importance of conflict resolution skills for Chicanos; Importance of military discipline in the 1960s Brown Berets; Concept of ruling by consensus; Change name of the Young Citizens for Community Action; Purpose of the Brown Beret focus on the youth; Rewards from the Chicano Movement; Legacy of the Chicano Movement; Critique of the "Latino" agenda; Critique of the importance of gender; Public History projects in East Los Angeles; Explanation of the whitening of an institution; Explanation of the Brown Beret index cards; Aztlán as a state of mind.