Oral Histories

Interview of Cruz Olmeda Becerra

Co-founder of the Brown Berets who protested against unfair conditions in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Founder of the cultural nationalist group, La Junta.
"La Batalla Está Aquí": The Chicana/o Movement in Los Angeles
Social Movements
Latina and Latino History
Chicano Movement
Biographical Note:
Co-founder of the Brown Berets who protested against unfair conditions in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Founder of the cultural nationalist group, La Junta.
Espino, Virginia
Becerra, Cruz
Persons Present:
Becerra and Espino.
Place Conducted:
Becerra's home in Commerce, 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. Becerra was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
10 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 background--How grandparents and parents emigrated--Living with a Puerto Rican family--Father's knowledge of Mexican history and its influence--Presence of religion in early life--Influence Father had on identity formation--On growing up bilingual--Childhood neighborhood changes--Experiences with racism at a young age--Joining the Navy--Racism within the Navy.
Dealing with the risk of deportation--Rejecting religion--Beginning to form political ideology--Conflicts with American and Mexican patriotism--Early anti-Communist views--Discussing current events in school--Changing racial landscape of neighborhood--Traveling in the Navy--The Watts Riots--Race and Navy service--Observations of sex work in Asian countries--Sex education in the Navy--Pregnancy scares.
Emotional impact of naval service--Dehumanizing mindset of the military--Learning about colonialism--Becoming a socialist--Working at Douglas Aircraft--First encounter with La Raza magazine--Balancing work and community involvement--Formation of the Brown Berets--Brown Beret agenda--Black Panther Party influence on the Brown Berets--Defining Aztlán--Marxist theory and national rights--Right to self-determination.
Becerra's involvement in labor issues-- Early group of Brown Berets--David Sanchez and his leadership style--Developing an increasingly militant view--East L.A. walkouts of 1968--Cops' fear of the Chicano Movement--Dehumanization in law enforcement--Becerra's two arrests--Deciding to leave the Brown Berets--Founding of La Junta--Women in the Brown Berets--The need for an agenda or program in a movement.