An Overview of the History of the Chicano National Question

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This was inspired by an inquiry on a Reddit forum about information and texts about the “Chicano Question.” Here is a history of the development of this thought from a Marxist perspective.

One of the first ones to look at the Chicano/Mexicano national question from a Marxist-Leninist perspective was Emma Tenayuca. She was a labor organizer in southern Texas in the early 19th century when she was in her teens and twenties. She became chairman of the Texas Communist Party, and her husband was Homer Brooks, the first secretary of the state party. Together they wrote “The Mexican Question in the Southwest.” It’s available here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/101053725/The-Mexican-Question-in-the-Southwest They went by Stalin’s definition of a nation, and saw that the Mexicans in the Southwest (they didn’t use the term Chicano at the time) had all the criteria except an independent economy. Their analysis saw that after independence from Spain in 1821, the northern part of Mexico (now the southwest U.S.) traded heavily with the U.S. with the opening of the Santa Fe Trail, up to the invasion and occupation of 1846-1848. Thus the Mexicans in the Southwest were not a nation but a national minority, to struggle not for an independent nation but for its democratic rights in the U.S. , although they did advocate for open borders because of its historical ties with Mexico. With that, they probably had the best position on this question with the CPUSA, for the party’s positions on Chicanos got worse after that, not surprising since they were a New York based party infected with white chauvinism.

Another group of interest is the Communist Collective of the Chicano Nation, founded around 1973. They were based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and may have been affiliated with the Communist Labor Party, an anti-revisionist group founded in the 1970’s. The took Stalin’s nation definition and saw that, yes, Chicanos were a nation, for they had all the criteria including economics, for the northern settlements had a thriving sheepherding economy that was its basis for hundreds of years even when it was part of New Spain. They saw the area of the Chicano nation as New Mexico, Southern Colorado and South Texas, the areas most settled through the Spanish empire and with the strongest Chicano roots. California was not part of it. Some of their documents are here: https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1a/index.htm#cccn

The August 29th Movement was founded in 1974, a mostly Chicano ML group that came out of the Chicano Movement, particularly a Labor Committee of La Raza Unida Party and other collectives. They put out a position paper “Fan The Flames,” that argued that Chicanos in the Southwest U.S. were an oppressed nation that had a right to independence, based on the U.S. invasion and acquisition of the northern territory of Mexico in 1848 and its separation from Mexico as it was forming as a nation. Some of their documents are online here: https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-1a/index.htm#a29m

They involved themselves in many struggles, often antagonistically, up to 1978 when they merged with other non-white ML collectives to form the League of Revolutionary Struggle. They also had antagonistic relations with other groups, especially Chicano mass organizations like MEChA, which led the latter to change their policies about outside groups. They collapsed in 1990 after the fall of communist regimes in Europe and later the Soviet Union, and some of their remnants went on to form Freedom Road Socialist Organization, which itself split in two around 2000, both keeping the name. A reflection by a former member now with FRSO is here:https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-7/ncm-chicanos.htm

Another group around the time was CASA, the Center for Autonomous Social Action, or Centro de Accion Social Autonomo. Founded by labor organizer Bert Corona in 1968, it operated as an advocacy and mutual aid group for undocumented workers, which is significant in that the Left and Chicano groups didnt really deal with this population at the time. It later merged with the Committee to Free Los Tres, formed to advocate for three activists arrested for targeting drug dealers in their neighborhoods, and this group turned CASA into a Marxist-Leninist pre-party formation. Their line was one of Socialist Reunification of Mexico. They saw no difference between workers in Mexico itself and in the occupied territories of northern Mexico now under U.S. control, and rejected the Chicano identity. One of their slogans was sin fronteras. Here is an academic paper on them from Stanford, where their archives now sit: https://web.stanford.edu/dept/csre/pdfs/WorkingPaperSeriesNo5.pdf. It argues that their turn to a revolutionary party made them pass over their organizing of undocumented workers, which led to their decline.

Other groups in the New Communist Movement in the 1970’s dealt with the National Question, often with the Black Nation, based on the COMINTERN policies of the 30’s, and fewer dealt with the Chicano Nation, and when they did they saw us as only a national minority. The Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism Online of the Marxists Internet Archives has many of their old documents on this site, one can do a search if interested in those positions.

The Socialist Workers Party I believe had a line on the Chicano Nation during the Movimiento, and participated in it directly. Old issues of The Militant are a good news source for items about the Chicano Movement of that time, and Pathfinder had a few books on it too. Their involvement seemed opportunist, like other groups, and I could say a lot more about their politics today, but that is one group that at least looked at the question for a time.

One present Marxist-Leninist based group is Union Del Barrio, active in California through their party and other mass organizations. They also have a Socialist Reunification of Mexico line too. Their website is http://uniondelbarrio.org/main/.

Overall, while I think many of these tendencies writings have helped in understanding the National Question, they are inadequate in many ways. They tend to be dogmatic and have a superficial understanding of the history and culture of the Chicano people. A pamphlet that came out in the late 1970’s, “Mexicans in the United States and the National Question” by Antonio Bustamante gives a good critique of all these groups lines on this question.

Also to note that their have been many theorists have looked at the Chicano National Question through an Internal Colonial analysis. It’s an academic way of saying oppressed nation while keeping it useful for professional community organizers. Nevertheless it is useful in looking at. Rodolfo Acuna’s classic book Occupied America took that analysis in the first edition, although he moved away from it in later editions. Other writers include Mario Barrera and Armando Navarro.

Also look at the Plan of San Diego, presented around the Mexican Revolution. It was reportedly put out by adherents of the Magon Brothers, Mexican anarchists who also operated in the U.S. The right wingers get freaked because it calls for the execution of all whites over 15. But it is a document calling for national liberation. It calls for an independent Mexican nation in the Southwest, with the option of rejoining Mexico. And it also calls for an independent nation for Blacks in the South U.S., and an independent nation for Japanese (likely referring to all Asians in California).

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New Book – Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat from Mayflower to Modern

siglodelucha:

It is exciting news to hear about the (re)release of the seminal book by J. Sakai, Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat. Reprinted by Kersplebedeb press, this book has been a key influence on many national liberation and anti-imperialist forces, giving an eye-opening retelling of Amerikkkan history as that of a settler empire that has always benefited its white settler population at the expense of its captive nations. One of the additions is an interview with J. Sakai with Ernesto Aguilar, likely the Stolen at Gunpoint interview that deals with the Chicano/Mexicano nation that myself and RAIM have distributed. Without saying, I encourage anyone who has not read Setters to do so, and those who have to order a copy and reread it.
-Antonio Moreno

Originally posted on Onkwehón:we Rising:

Onkwehón:we Rising is pleased to promote the (re)release of Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat by the comrades at Kersplebedeb. Settlers is a uniquely important text that has been critical in shaping the views of many comrades and warriors within the Onkwehón:we, Xikano, Boricua and Afrikan liberation movements regarding what we here call the north amerikan nation.

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The Legacy of Los Seis De Boulder, and all Martyrs of the Chicano Movement

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This past May this year a series of events were held in Colorado to commemorate the martyrs of the Chicano Movement that came from this state. It happened this year because 2014 is the 40th anniversary of the deaths of Los Seis De Boulder, six Chicano activists and supporters who were killed in two separate car bombings in May 1974 around the University of Colorado campus at Boulder, Colorado. This commemoration was for these six people, along with three others from Colorado who died as a direct result of their activities in the Chicano movement. Their adherents call them the Symbols of Resistance.This commemoration was a needed reminder of this turbulent history, and one to give direction to the movement now. Here I will briefly examine the importance of the legacy of this time.

Beginnings

These nine people from Colorado were killed between 1972 to 1978 during their activities in the Chicano movement. They include: Ricardo Falcón (1972), Luis “Junior” Martinez (1973), Los Seis de Boulder:  Neva Romero, Una Jaakola & Reyes Martinez (May 27, 1974), Florencio Granado, Heriberto Terán & Francisco Dougherty (May 29, 1974), and Carlos Zapata (1978). For many years starting back in 1979, the friends and fellow organizers of these people who died as a result of their movement activities have done commemorations to honor and remember them. The commemorations each time also bring in many younger people who were born after these events and who through their participation keep this history alive.

This years commemoration had its beginning at another commemoration less than a year before in Ft. Lupton, Colorado. This one was for the first martyr from Colorado, Ricardo Falcon, a Chicano activist from this city who was known as an effective and influential organizer as a student and community member. Falcon was murdered in 1972 when he and a caravan of cars were traveling through New Mexico to El Paso, Texas for a convention of La Raza Unida party. The car overheated, they stopped at a gas station in Oro Grande, New Mexico owned by a right wing white vigilante. Falcon and him got in an argument that ended in Falcon shot dead by this man. Falcon is one of the martyrs of the Symbols of Resistance. In 2012, the 40th anniversary of his death, an event was held in Ft. Lupton, where he is buried, where family and supporters marched to his gravesite. Another commemoration was held the next year in 2013. Afterwards at that last gathering, talk began on a commemoration for the 40th anniversary of Los Seis. It was decided to have monthly planning meetings, in different cities in Colorado where participants would come from.

The result of this organizing was a multi-faceted event held in Denver, Colorado on May 31st, held at Su Teatro theater. People from all over the U.S. came for this event. There were items of theater, music, poetry and film shown throughout the day to the audience in the packed theater. A number of Brown Beret chapters from around the country attended and provided security. The response to the program of the event that day was overwhelmingly positive. A feeling of enthusiasm was in the air in the building that day, with both younger and older participants coming away with it positively.

It finished off with a panel discussion featuring speakers that brought a range of discussion from different national liberation and anti-imperialist forces. Speakers included: Kathleen Cleaver, former leader of the Black Panther Party; Rafael Cancel Miranda, member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party who participated with other nationalists in an armed attack on the United States Capitol in 1954 and subsequently imprisoned for this; Michael Deutsch, an white activist lawyer involved with campaigns to free political prisoners such as Miranda; Ray Luc Levasseur, a white Canadian anti-imperialist imprisoned for armed campaigns against U.S. foreign policy in Central America and South Africa. The panel also included Debra Espinosa, who was active in UMAS in Boulder during the time that Los Seis De Boulder were killed and now resides in Pueblo.

Other speakers included: Priscilla Falcon, wife and widow of Ricardo Falcon, and now a professor at University of Northern Colorado and remains a Chicana activist; Ricardo Romero, who went to prison for refusing to testify to a grand jury convened to go after the Puerto Rican independence movement, and now runs the Al Frente De Lucha center in Greeley; and Francisco “Kiko” Martinez, who was framed for a series of bombings in Colorado in 1973 and forced to flee the United States, who continues to practice law today, and the brother of  Reyes Martinez, one of Los Seis de Boulder.

The next day in Boulder there was a march and rally from the CU campus to Chapultepec Park, the site of the first car bombing that killed the first three of Los Seis. Over 100 participated in this event. Many former activists talked about their experience in struggles at the CU campus, specifically the occupation of Temporary Building 1 (TB1), over plans to cut minority programs there. The bombings occurred at the same time as this occupation.

The website symbolsofresistance.org was set up for this commemoration and will continue to provide information about these historic events.

The Struggle in Colorado

Ever since the United States invaded, occupied and colonized the northern half of Mexico after 1848, the Chicano people have engaged in various forms of resistance since that time. The Chicano Movement, which most scholars date as a period of activity from around 1965 to 1975, was an era in the history of the Chicano/Mexicano people in relation to the United States that was symbolized by more militant and nationalistic activity by its people.  At the same time the Chicano Movement took off there was the struggle against the war in Vietnam and the Black/New Afrikan liberation movement often called the Civil Rights movement, as well as many national liberation and anti-colonial movements around the world. Chicanos participated in these struggles as well, and helped influence many activists in the Chicano Movement also.

Much of the activity was of a reformist nature, attempting to allow more Chicanos access to the system, in combating discrimination and gaining access to education and economic opportunity. These struggles resulted in many successes, as much blatant discrimination was eliminated. Yet there was also a striving for national liberation. The realization that we were a nation occupied, that our land to build our future was in possession of a colonial power. This often was expressed in terms of Aztlan,  named for the historic northern homeland of the Mexica Aztec peoples, which asserted that the Chicano and Mexicano people were not immigrants but had a right to the land they were on.

Colorado itself was a major focal point of the Chicano Movement. One, a significant portion of the state was part of the land of Mexico annexed through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Colorado itself is a Spanish word, showing its heritage. Many struggles involving Chicanos happened here, most notably the Ludlow Massacre. One of the Four Horsemen of the Chicano Movement was from Colorado, Corky Gonzalez, the head of the Crusade for Justice in Denver. It was in Denver in 1969 that the National Chicano Youth Liberation conference happened in 1969, organized by the Crusade for Justice, and where El Plan Espiritual De Aztlan was put out. Even though Denver and its surrounding areas were never historically never part of Mexico, the fact that it has been populated by Chicanos who inhabited it made it a part of Aztlan.

The movement in Colorado suffered many attacks, and with it came more militant forms of resistance. In 1973 an attack on the Crusade for Justice resulted in the death of Luis Junior Martinez and the bombing of an apartment owned by the Crusade because of the police attack. That same year a series of bombings and attempted bombings happened around Denver blamed on Chicano activists, and lawyer Kiko Martinez was framed up for them. Knowing the repression he faced, Martinez fled the United States for seven years.

There was much struggle in nearby areas around Denver also. Ricardo Falcon, mentioned above, was from Fort Lupton, and organized in the community and nearby prisons along with being a student activist in UMAS up to the time he was killed in 1972. UMAS had a strong chapter with hundreds of members in Boulder. The tensions in Boulder created a tense climate of action and reaction. In Boulder in 1974 there were three bombings before Los Seis. One at an elementary school, another on campus, another at a police station. Many of these armed actions likely were not part of any organized groups but more from spontaneous reactions to injustice, and they remain unclaimed to this day. In the spring of that year UMAS took over TB1 over the university’s plans to cut programs that increased minority enrollment. Chicano enrollment at CU Boulder went from 50 in 1968 to 1500 in 1972, yet the university, influenced by its right wing forces, fought  even that. The occupation went on up to the two bombings two days apart that killed those activists who came to be known as Los Seis de Boulder. Most had connections to the university and UMAS, and some were involved in the TB1 takeover. The police blamed the victims saying they were setting up the bombs themselves, and never looked at any other motives. A grand jury was convened, but it was set up solely to go after the Chicano movement, and many activists refused to participate. The movement took off in different directions, but many see these events as a turning point for it.

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Along with those killed, many others from this time were jailed and imprisoned, some resisted repressive grand juries. The facts about the deaths of Los Seis are disputed and many remain unknown. But however they died, it was in the process of the struggle for the liberation of their people. For that they should forever be remembered.

Our Martyrs

Martyrs are those who died fighting for a cause. The Chicano Movement produced many martyrs, not only in Colorado. This fact shows that for us today, we are here because other people struggled. The importance of martyrs in liberation movements is universal.

During the Chinese Revolution in the 1940‘s, led by the Chinese Communist Party and its Chairman Mao Zedong, Mao gave a speech later entitled Serve the People. It would become one of the Three Constantly Read Articles in that country after the revolution. It was given at a memorial meeting for Comrade Chang Szu-teh, who died in a battle during the revolution.

“All men must die, but death can vary in its significance. The ancient Chinese writer Szuma Chien said, “Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather.” To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather. Comrade Chang Szu-teh died for the people, and his death is indeed weightier than Mount Tai.

…Wherever there is struggle there is sacrifice, and death is a common occurrence. But we have the interests of the people and the sufferings of the great majority at heart, and when we die for the people it is a worthy death. Nevertheless, we should do our best to avoid unnecessary sacrifices. Our cadres must show concern for every soldier, and all people in the revolutionary ranks must care for each other, must love and help each other.

From now on, when anyone in our ranks who has done some useful work dies, be he soldier or cook, we should have a funeral ceremony and a memorial meeting in his honour. This should become the rule. And it should be introduced among the people as well. When someone dies in a village, let a memorial meeting be held. In this way we express our mourning for the dead and unite all the people.”

Other national liberation struggles have also honored their martyrs. The Irish liberation movements have always saluted their comrades who have died in the struggle against British imperialism. The most visible way they have done this is their many murals around Northern Ireland. Other movements remember their martyrs similarly.

The Chicano and Mexicano people should remember their fallen comrades similarly. One speaker at the commemoration rally, Guillermo Suarez of the Mexican National Liberation Movement, stated that these remembrances are not to be separated by each different national state of the U.S. they were in, but more of our own occupied nation. The Chicano Movement was one that encompassed nearly everywhere the people were at and struggled. While we remember our comrades, the best way to honor them is to continue the struggle until we have victory, that of a liberated nation.

-Antonio Moreno

Commemoration of Los Seis De Boulder

Here is some photos and video of the march and rally on June 1st, 2014 in commemoration of the two bombings 40 years ago that killed six Chicano activists who became known as Los Seis de Boulder. This happened the day after a commemoration in Denver for the Symbols of Resistance, the nine people who died from their actions in the Chicano Movement in Colorado.

Related to these incidents were many struggles waged by the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) organization at University of Colorado-Boulder at this time. One of them was the sit-in occupation of Temporary Building 1 (TB1), which housed minority programs at the university. Here, former activists talk about their experiences during that time.

Guillermo Suarez of the Mexican National Liberation Movement calls for a united national consciousness to bring about liberation.

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COINTELPRO and the Chicano Movement – video from Freedom Archives

This is a clip from the recent documentary COINTELPRO 101, named after the official FBI program of the same name to target dissident movements in the United Snakes. The people who exposed it came public recently.

While much has been written about counter-intelligence programs of the federal government, the impact it had on the Chicano people has been lacking. This video serves to be an effort at correcting that error.

This video names some of the martyrs of the Chicano Movement. From New Mexico, Linda Montoya,  killed by Santa Fe police over the opening of a Chicano alternative school, and Rito Canales and Antonio Cordova, members of the Black Beret organization, killed in a police ambush. From Colorado, it discusses the cases of Ricardo Falcon and those who became known as Los Seis De Boulder, all who were involved with the UMAS chapter at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It includes interviews with Ricardo Romero, Priscilla Falcon and Kiko Martinez.

Go to Symbols of Resistance to get more information on the martyrs of the Chicano Movement from Colorado, and for information on a commemoration event in Denver this May 31st.

Kiko Martinez Interview, 1987

 

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Francisco “Kiko” Martinez has been a revolutionary, political activist and people’s lawyer ever since the early days of the Chicano Movement in the 1960’s. Born in Alamosa, Colorado, he used his legal skills to aid the poor and marginalized, and to further the advancement of the movement, which made him a target of state repression. In 1973 he was wrongfully accused of a series of bombings in the Denver area. Justice in the Amerikan courts not being a reality for Chicano people, and in a time of massive repression against the movement, with many leaders being killed, Martinez fled the country. He remained in exile in Mexico until his return in 1980, where he was arrested and went through a series of trials that lasted through that decade. A defense fund and mobilizations were done on his behalf. Kiko Martinez continues to practice law and organize for social justice today. Siglo De Lucha will hopefully publish more on his story here in the future, and encourage others to study his cases.

Below is a short statement by Kiko Martinez that appeared in a 1987 issue of Forward Motion, a journal of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. They are a nominal Maoist organization that had roots in New Communist Movement groups that ended up supporting Deng in China when the country went revisionist. They are an organization that I and others have differences on, but to their credit they uphold national liberation in the Maoist tradition.

This particular issue was titled “Both Sides of the Border,” referring to the U.S. – Mexico border. The article this interview was conducted in is titled “Bright Promise: the Chicano and Mexicano Movements,” that had statements by Kiko Martinez and five other activists. The below interview and the graphic above are reprinted here in its entirety from this issue, including the [-ed.] parts, for purposes of furthering debate and discussion.

-Antonio Moreno

Kiko Martinez

People in the United States Have to start orienting themselves to greater ideological, cultural and political interactions with the Mexican people. It is time for Mexicanos to grasp our political heritage and what our political prospects and prerogatives are historically in terms of reunification of the Mexicano people. We are a cutting edge within North America as well as within Mexico. Look at the political and cultural imperialism by the U.S. over Mexico. We occupy a very unique niche in terms of our capacity to fight that system. One of the tasks then is to work with the people of Mexico and all of Latin America. We must develop a consciousness of both being a part of the Latino people and being a part of North America.

The “Hispanics” are, in my opinion, a creature of the Democratic Party and the corporations – neither of which has been responsive to the Mexicano people or other working and oppressed people in this empire. The “Hispanics” have middle-class values. They are a product of all the reforms and gains that were made by the revolutionary Chicano movement. The gains that we won have been usurped by this class of people. They are the ones with money and skills to organize on a national level. Consequently, there aren’t resources for grass roots organizers who want to create change for the people at the bottom of our society. We need to formulate ways to get national resources to do that organizing.

Another task is to develop an ideology that will be responsive to the 21st Century. Even without a nuclear cataclysm, we are in for some serious trouble. There are classes within the Chicano nation; we have to look within our own class for our future. We must analyze the different possibilities of what it means to be Mexicano given the class structure of society. Where I am from [the San Luis valley of Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico - ed.] there has never been much industry. The proletariat is in agriculture, lumber and some mining. Our people work in the most exploited sectors of the working class…or they are forced to leave the valley to work in places like Pueblo or Denver.

You have another dynamic in this part of the Southwest. There are tycoons like Maurice Strong, Malcolm Forbes, Robert Anderson (from ARCO) and others who are getting wealthy by speculating on our land. The common people don’t know what these people are planning for us, but if we look historically at what their class has done the prospects could be very grim. Here in the San Luis valley we have the infamous “Taylor land.” [This huge land grant was once collectively owned by the original Spanish, Indian and Mestizo settlers and has now become “private” property - ed.] Many of the National Forests were built on what were historical land grants, communal properties for use by all our people. Now they are being exploited by big timber, cattle and mining companies. The struggle for the land is a very important issue in this region, but elsewhere there are overriding issues such as fighting the English-only legislation and for immigration rights.

-Interview with Kiko Martinez. “Bright Promise: The Chicano and Mexicano Movements.” Forward Motion (journal of Freedom Road Socialist Organization). November – December 1987. Vol. 6, No. 5. pg. 10

Murrieta Monday part 2: I Will Not Submit

JoaquinTheMountainRobberJoaquin Murrieta never left behind any statements of beliefs of his own. Yet his actions caused a wave of stories around him as he passed into a legend. In this excerpt from an early popular novel about Murrieta back in the early 20th century, the Murrieta legend is encapsulated in terms of national resistance against Amerikan colonialism.

-Antonio Moreno

I Will Not Submit

I was once a great admirer of Americans. I thought them the noblest, most honorable and high-minded people in the world. I had met many in my own country and all forms of tyranny seemed as hateful to them as the rule of the Gachupines (foreigners, or Spaniards) to the Mexicans. I was sick of the constant wars and insurrections in my native land and I came here thinking to end my days in California as an American citizen.

I located first near Stockton. But I was constantly annoyed and insulted by my neighbors and was not permitted to live in peace. I went then to the placers (gold mines) and was driven from my mining claim. I went into business and was cheated by everyone in whom I trusted. At every turn I was swindled and robbed by the very men for whom I had had the greatest friendship and admiration. I saw the Americans daily in acts of the most outrageous and lawless injustice, or of cunning and mean duplicity hateful to every honorable mind.

I then said to myself, I will revenge my wrongs and take the law into my own hands. The Americans who have injured me I will kill, and those who have not, I will rob because they are Americans. My trail shall be red with blood and those who seek me shall die or I shall lose my own life in the struggle! I will not submit tamely to outrage any longer.

I have killed many; I have robbed many; and many more will suffer in the same way. I will continue to the end of my life to take vengeance on the race that has wronged me so shamefully.”

-From “The Robin Hood of El Dorado,” by Walter Noble Burns, New York, Cowan McCann, 1932. Excerpted from: Valdez, Luis and Steiner, Stan.  Aztlan: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature.  Vintage Books.  1972. pp. 105-107.