Chapter 10: "Si Se Puede!"1Chicana/o Activism in San Diego 1965-2000
6. Who was Herman Baca and what was his leadership in the Chicano Movement?
Throughout 1970 in San Diego, Chicanas and Chicanos also protested the war in Vietnam, an action rooted in part in knowledge that Chicana/os were dying at disproportionate rates in Vietnam, while continuing to experience oppression at home. One, Ricardo Romo, became the gubernatorial candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party and promoted its anti-war platform. Others, in addition to participating in local protests in San Diego, organized and attended the largest Chicano protest against the war, the Chicano Moratorium held on August 29, 1970, in East Los Angeles. Planned as a non-violent event, the protest was disrupted by violence by law enforcement authorities. The experience proved to be traumatic, memorable, and painful, as Herman Baca, one of the many attendees, later recalled:
As the police advanced, I witnessed scenes that I will never forget. Before my eyes, hundreds of our people—children, women, young and old persons—were beaten, tear-gassed, maimed and arrested. The police and the sheriff deputies appeared to be totally out of control and crazed with a desire to hurt, maim and kill Chicana/os. Many of us remembered the zoot suit riots, and it was 1940 all over again.
The experience also was instructive and became a turning point in Chicano activism, as Baca noted:
I learned a lesson…organization. …things were never the same for Chicano movement activists. Many individuals fearful of police violence and government’s surveillance left the movement and never returned. A large number, simply buckled down and started to “work within the system,” while others…became angrier, lost their fear, and had their political resolve strengthened, and continued the struggle.
Baca was among those who continued the struggle. In the succeeding months the fruits of activism emerged. An educator, Peter Chacon became the first Chicano from San Diego elected to the California State Assembly. Upon assumption of office he introduced and carried the legislation that implemented bilingual education in public schools of California, an achievement that led to his designation as “the father of bilingual education” in the state. The achievement also marked victory against cultural imperialism.
Sí, se puede" is Spanish for "
Yes, it is possible" or, roughly, "
Yes, it can be done."