(Photos from 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures. Elizabeth Martinez, editor. 1991)
January 29th 2017 was the 45th anniversary of the police murders of Rito Canales and Antonio Cordova, two organizers with the Black Berets of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Rito Canales was an ex-convict, and through the Black Berets organization became an outspoken prisoner activist .
Antonio Cordova was a reporter and photographer for the Chicano movement press, which included the Berets own newspaper Venceremos, and El Grito, the movimiento newspaper edited by Elizabeth Martinez.
Many militant organizations formed from the Chicano Movement. The Brown Berets were formed in Los Angeles in 1967, appealing to many Chicanos with their militant postering and rhetoric. Many other chapters formed around the country. These organizations were mostly autonomous, and their ideology was a mix of cultural and revolutionary nationalism Other organizations took up black berets and named themselves as such, in honor of Che Guevara. . The Black Berets groups took on a more internationalist approach.
The Albuquerque chapter, Los Gorras Negras, was formed in 1969 by Richard Moore and other Chicano activists. They created a 12-point program that was anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and internationalist. In it the organization pledged to commit their lives to “Service, Education, and Defense of La Raza.” The titles of each of their points are as follows:
- We Want Self-Determination and Liberation for All the Chicanos in the USA
- We Want Self-Determination for All Latinos and Third World Peoples
- We Want Community Control of Our Institutions and Land
- We Want a True Education of Our Mestizo Culture and Spanish Language
- We Want Freedom for All Political Prisoners
- We Oppose the Amerikkkan Military and Its Unjust Wars of Oppression
- We Want Equality for Women, Machismo Must be Revolutionary…Not Oppressive
- We Want an Immediate End to Police Harassment, Brutality, and Murder of La Raza
- We Want For Our People to Have the Basic Necessities to Exist
- We Want Full Employment For Our People
- We Oppose Capitalism and Alliances Made By Our Treacherous Politicos
- We Believe Armed Self-Defense and Armed Struggle Are the Only Means to Liberation
New Mexico was part of the northern land forcefully seized from Mexico by the United States in the war that ended in 1848. Remaining a territory for 64 years after, it only became a state of the union in 1912 after Anglos became a majority in the state. The Chicano people remaining on the land were subjected to colonization, making them an internal colony, an oppressed nation within the United States. The Chicano people became second class citizens in their own land. The Black Berets formed out of this oppression of the Chicano people, responding to this colonial oppression.
The Black Berets did many serve the people programs, such as food distribution, community patrols and other activities, modeled after the Black Panther Party. They were involved in many community issues and made alliances with other groups, showing their internationalist practice. Many members also participated in the Venceremos Brigades to Cuba in solidarity with the socialist country.
In 1969 in New Mexico, Bobby Garcia, a VISTA volunteer, disappeared and was later found dead in an arroyo outside of Albuquerque from a bullet to the back of his head. The Berets established the Bobby Garcia Memorial Clinic in remembrance. It was run by volunteers and gave health care to the people free of charge. It stood for independence and self-determination, accepting no government money for its operation and relying on the community.
The issues of police brutality and prison conditions, directly mostly against Chicano and Native peoples, became main issues for the Berets.
With resistance came repression by the state and reactionaries. The Black Berets and other Chicanos became targets of the police and right-wing vigilantes. One group, the Minutemen, an underground right wing paramilitary organization, mailed Berets death threats of cards with cross hairs, a tactic they used on other leftists. There was increasing amounts of police shootings in this time, and up to 12 Chicano activists in New Mexico, in the region ranging from Albuquerque to Taos, were killed in this violence.(source) here were rumors of a death squad operating within the Albuquerque Police Department and the New Mexico State Police.
The Black Berets uncovered evidence of the existence of the Metro Squad, an inter-agency group made up of officers from the APD, New Mexico State Police, Bernalillo County Sheriffs Department, and having the involvement of federal agents. The Metro Squad had worked with reactionary groups like the John Birch Society and the Minutemen, sharing dossiers they kept on activists. This was a time where the COINTELPRO operation of the FBI against internal dissidents was exposed. While no account has shown the extent of what COINTELPRO has done to the Chicano Movement, it is clear that most state repression against the Chicano national movement was done through local and state police departments and independent fascist paramilitary groups.
The Black Berets also brought attention to prison conditions in the state, these institutions of which were made up mostly of Chicano and Native peoples. In November 1971 the Berets attempted a citizen’s arrest of New Mexico State Penitentiary warden Felix Rodriguez.
The Berets were going to have a press conference to expose wrongdoings at the state prison and the police terror inflicted through the Metro Squad. Before this happened the police ambushed and murdered Antonio Cordova and Rito Canales.
On the night of January 29th, 1972, a man named Tim Chapa lured Canales and Cordova to a construction site on the west side of Albuquerque. Officers from all three departments in the Metro Squad were there, and engaged in a shootout with Cordova and Canales. Both ended up dead.
The official story alleges that the police were tipped off on January 19, 1972 that a burglary would happen on that construction site in order to steal dynamite. When officers from the Metro Squad departments attempted to arrest Canales and Cordova, they engaged in a shootout, where both of them were shot dead. No police were ever brought up for charges in their deaths. With the demonization of Chicano radicals in this time, the police narrative was accepted.
This author would not fault Canales and Cordova for having weapons on them and using them in self defense. They believed in and upheld the right to self-defense for oppressed people, even against the state that upheld settler colonialism. Also, others allege more nefarious motives, that they were kidnapped and brought to that site to be executed. The truth, having been buried, may never be truly known.
In January of 1974 the Canales estate filed a lawsuit in federal court for wrongful death. In September 1974, another lawsuit was filed by Mary Cordova, mother of Antonio Cordova, against the city of Albuquerque and various officials, along with the construction company, Wylie. The lawsuits raised the argument that Tim Chapa, who led the two to the site, was a police informant. Chapa denied being an informant in an affidavit filed with that suit, and was quickly dismissed.
Starting in 1999, other lawsuits were filed in court, this time because Tim Chapa changed his story about being an informant. Heres what the filing says:
“In 1999, Tim Chapa made an affidavit that purported to “clear [his] conscience in this matter regarding the homicides of Rito Canales and Antonio Cordova in January of 1972.” The affidavit stated that Chapa had been a confidential informant for the state police in the 1960s and 70s, that he was asked to infiltrate an organization called the Black Berets, that he had devised a plan in conjunction with the police to kill members of this organization, and that the plan had culminated in the shootings of Cordova and Canales. Chapa also stated that the police officers involved threatened to kill him if he ever exposed this plan and that he denied the existence of the conspiracy during all the subsequent court proceedings because he feared for his life.” (source: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/nm-court-of-appeals/1004022.html)
This case was also dismissed by the courts on technicalities.
The Black Berets as an organization declined, out of a mix of repression and cooptation. Many members continued to be community activists in other organizations up to today. The prison conditions highlighted by the Berets became visible in 1980 through the violent Santa Fe prison riots, with 38 killed being the worst in U.S. history so far. Police terror continues to effect Chicanos and other oppressed peoples all over this occupied land.
There have been a handful of cultural products to remember the martyrdom of Canales and Cordova. A play was written about the incident by Nita Luna-Davis, an ex-Beret who became an activist and playwright. A corrido by Roberto Martinez was written about them. A documentary and book are in the works about the organization. The fact that the names of Rito Canales and Antonio Cordova are not well known, as well of thousands of others who fought for the liberation of the Chicano people, is another example of how colonialism and neocolonialism has affected the national struggle.
The Black Berets represented the spirit of resistance for the Chicano people. We must always remember our fallen comrades. As white nationalism has raised its specter in our occupied land, we must organize to resist it. Part of this is preserving the memory of this history of resistance, while using it to build toward the liberation of our land and people.
Twelve Point Program of Las Gorras Negras, reprinted in Venceremos, Black Beret newspaper, 1971. From The Chicanos:
Correia, David. “The Return of the Albuquerque Death Squads.” Counterpunch. November 23, 2011. http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/11/23/the-return-of-the-albuquerque-death-squads/
Administrator. “The Black Berets Live On.” Frontera NorteSur. October 10, 2012. https://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/the-black-berets-live-on/
Mygatt, Matt. “Court upholds ruling in Chicano activists lawsuit.” Associated Press. March 5, 2001. https://www.policeone.com/legal/articles/34781-Court-upholds-ruling-in-Chicano-activists-lawsuit/
Hernandez, Alexandro D. “A Corrido of Struggle: Remembering Roberto Martínez and the Black Berets through “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales.” Smithsonian Folklife Festival blog. March 16, 2013. http://www.festival.si.edu/blog/2013/a-corrido-of-struggle-remembering-roberto-martinez-and-the-black-berets-through-el-corrido-de-cordova-y-canales/
The Democrats are no allies to the Chicano nation or any migrants and refugees. Clinton, Bush and Obama helped lay the way for the current regime.
I have been taking a break from this blog for a while. It is noticeable from the frequency of posts. Many things have contributed to this. For one, I have moved from my old residence to another state. I have been working on other projects as of now, along with keeping my own life together.
Also, this blog was intended to be an organizing tool. My new residence has had me shift my organizing priorities. This, along with the new political climate and realities in Occupied Amerika, has made me take a step back.
Yet I have many unfinished articles to post here. There will be more frequent posts on many different topics. To advancing the struggle in 2017.
I wrote this article back in 2011, five years ago, for the RAIM website antiimperialism.wordpress.com. Now in 2016 we have white supremacist Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for president, beginning his campaign in attacks on Mexicans, with his promise to build a larger wall “and make Mexico pay for it” being a favorite cheer from his overwhelmingly white settler audience. Along with the many reasons we revolutionary nationalists campaign for open borders, especially between the United States and Mexico, is the ecological impact of the wall, a most unnatural thing for the longest time of the continent’s existence. This election cycle some attention to the environmental impact has been written about, such as here, and the reporting of this article is still relevant. Fuck the border, up with Chicano and Mexicano national liberation! – Antonio Moreno
With sentiment against migrants in Amerika growing, construction of the barrier wall along the U.S. border with Mexico continues. This is a result of the increased militarization along the border regions. The border was imposed by military force over 150 years ago, and the desperate attempt to keep migrants out is not only causing a grave humanitarian crisis but also devastating ecological impacts.
The humanitarian crisis is already bad and is getting more deadly for people. Especially in Arizona. Not only is the terrain of the southern part of the state a desert, more migrants have been going through there due to increased border militarization in neighboring states. Increased anti-migrant sentiment in the state makes the journey more dangerous. According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2007 a record 218 bodies were found in Pima County (Arizona).(1) In August of 2010, the remains of 170 dead migrants so far were recovered, and the end of that year was expected to surpass the previous record. The hottest month, July, was one where 59 migrants were found dead, with seven on July 15th of that year alone. Some of the remains were reduced to skeletal ones, and 66% of the remains remained unidentified. Likely many more dead remains are still in the desert not found. Along with the increased anti-migrant repression with SB1070 and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, now neo-Nazi groups are conducting armed patrols of the border. (2) The Minutemen groups, who were big on media stunts in their vigilantism along the border, officially dissolved that year after a call to violent action sent the directors panicked, with many individuals from this entity entering into the larger Tea Party movement and into Constitutionalist militias.(3)
Along with the humanitarian crisis there is a crisis of the ecosystem.
Walls along the U.S – Mexico border had already been authorized and built in the 1990’s at ports of entry that encompassed mostly urban areas. This only made migrants go through more dangerous and isolated rural areas. More border wall construction was authorized in 2005 with the passage of the REAL ID Act. In Section 102 of the act it gave the Secretary of Homeland Security, which has authority over border policing, the power to waive any local, state, and federal law that would impede the construction of the wall. This authority was used to waive over 30 environmental protection laws that would have blocked border wall construction.(4) So far over 600 miles of walls and access roads have been constructed throughout the four border states. The expenses have been estimated to be around $4.5 million per mile for fencing, and $1.6 million per mile for vehicle barriers. The maintenance and other costs are expected to be still higher.(5)
The documentary put out by the Sierra Club, Wild Verses Wall, documents the environmental effects of the border wall.(6) The region around the militarily imposed border of Mexico and the U.S. is a sensitive ecological area. The ecosystem around the border is diverse, ranging from deserts to wetlands. Over 40 percent of the land along the border are public lands protected under Amerikan law, which include several Wilderness Areas, National Parks, National Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges, and National Forests.(7) In these areas vastly different species of plants and wildlife inhabit. These areas are being destroyed to make walls and access roads, along with other infrastructure to increasingly police the border area.
The wall is disrupting natural wildlife corridors. Migratory patterns of many animal species, some facing extinction, are threatened by this artificial wall. This is also causing interference with their abilities to obtain food and water, and disrupting natural mating patterns. Animals have been photographed being blocked by the wall, some even trapped permanently in different parts of the barriers. Stadium lights built along the border also hamper nocturnal animals. All this artificial infrastructure will have long term effects on animal population dynamics. In the meantime, human migrants will still cross the border, with the wall only making the journey slower and more dangerous.
Construction around the wall is also causing erosion in many areas, and affecting drainages. Already many floods have been caused by the border wall. The damage to plant life and vegetation, along with animal habitats, is vast, for these are some of the most biologically diverse areas in the world.
At the same time they are destroying the border environment with the wall, anti-migrant sentiment is clouded in environmental concerns. It is claimed that migrants are leaving vast amounts of litter along their journeys. While litter is left by migrants discarding their supplies, that trash is easily removable and has fewer long term effects on the ecosystem. The border wall will leave longer and more damaging impacts, many yet to be felt.
In the classic book North From Mexico, author Carey McWilliams tells of the relationship that Spanish-speaking people have had with the environment around the border. “The Spanish travelled as far, but only as far, as the gypsy of the cactus family, the prickly pear, had traveled. Did they stop where they did because the environment had ceased to be familiar? Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that geographically the Southwest is one with Mexico.” Further he states that the resulting U.S.-Mexico border was “one of the most unrealistic borders of the Western Hemisphere.”(8).
The militarily imposed border has no relation to its surrounding ecosystem. The border was created not through any consideration of the natural environment but solely for political reasons. It was formed after the conquest of the northern part of Mexico ceded by force to the United States in 1848. For thousands of years before this there were nothing of a border in this region. The people who went back and forth on this region, like the majority who do today, are indigenous to this continent. The settler nation of Amerika has ever since built up more walls to keep people out, a sign of their ever-increasing insecurity. Their increased militarization not only violates human rights but even their own environmental protection laws. Imperialist occupation here, like elsewhere, is not only is a threat to human life but to the broader natural environment. The border wall and the occupation that sustains it must be torn down not only for humanitarian reasons but also for the sake of the ecosystem.
7. http://arizona.sierraclub.org/conservation/border/solution.asp. Some of the areas along the border that have been affected by wall construction are: San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, Southern Arizona; Hidalgo County Levee, South Texas; Tijuana River National Esturine Research Reserve, San Diego; Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, Imperial County, CA; the Sky Island region (including the Sonaran and Chihuahua deserts); Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge, Hidalgo County TX; Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Southern Arizona; Otay Mountain Wilderness, San Diego County, CA; Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, Imperial County, CA; Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Southern Arizona; Nature Conservancy Southmost Preserve, South Texas; Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso TX. This list is not complete. (Cited in Wild Verses Wall).
8. McWilliams, Carey. North From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States. Greenwood Press, 1968 edition. p. 9; p. 59.
To: National Chicano Moratorium Committee
To: our friends and allies
To: the Movement for self-determination and national liberation
To: Our enemiesTo: the people
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MOVEMENT
ON WHY i LEFT THE NATIONAL CHICANO MORATORIUM COMMITTEE
The National Chicano Moratorium Committee (NCMC) was initially organized during the height of the Chicano movement in the 1970’s. It was first organized after a call issued by the National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver, Colorado. This first embodiment of the NCMC was infiltrated by agents of the federal government. One agent, Francisco Martinez, now known as Mohammed, even became the national coordinator for a time.
The NCMC was re-constituted in Dec. of 1989 at the initiation of the Partido Nacional de La Raza Unida and Union del Barrio to not only commemorate the 20th anniversary of our people’s resistance during the police riot after the 1970 NCMC march against the war in Vietnam but also to continue our people’s struggle for self-determination and national liberation. The NCMC has commemorated the historic march for the last 25 years. It grew to have chapters in Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego, California. Chapters also existed in Tucson, Arizona, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. The majority of these chapters/regions subsequently left the NCMC for differing reasons.
Unfortunately, recent development involving the possible infiltration of the NCMC has caused myself and the majority of members and organizations at the time to leave/withdraw from the NCMC process. This development is the participation of JAN B. TUCKER (JBT) in the NCMC. JBT claims to represent CALLAC, a California recognized organization. However, a check in 2015 of the webpage for the Secretary of State of California states that this corporation is ;suspended by the Franchise Tax Board (FTB).
In either late 2010 or early 2011, we were warned to be careful of the participation of JBT who was alleged to be a spy, without supporting argument. At that time, we did not follow-up on this warning. Because the allegation was a simple one sentence, we liberaled out and did not conduct any further investigation into this allegation.
JBT’s webpage has him pictured separately with both L. Head, an ex head of the FBI and with ex-president B. Clinton. As if that is going to make him acceptable to those in the movements for national liberation and self-determination. The FBI is the political police for the settler colonial state. It must be remembered that Clinton passed and implemented NAFTA, lead to the mass incarceration of Brown and Black folks as well as beginning the militarization of the militarily imposed border and the mass deportation of our people.
Sometime in 2012, JBT began an internet flame war against both the Partido Nacional De La Raza Unida (PNLRU) and the National Brown Berets. This included personal (not political) attacks upon the leadership of these organizations. It also seemed to push the organizations against each other. It also included personal attacks upon family members of the PNLRU. It included public allegations that the Partido had not complied with certain federal regulations, which could lead to a federal investigation of the Partido. These allegations also included sexist attacks upon members of the PNLRU.
These allegations began after a failed personal relationship between JBT and a member of the PNLRU, who is the sister of the Pres. of the Partido Nacional de La Raza Unida. Because of these allegations and insinuations, and the lack of action by the leadership of the NCMC in addressing these unprincipled criticisms, the Partido withdrew from the NCMC and has continued to organize independent commemorations of August 29. . I am self-critical that I did not strongly denounce these actions at the time.
We were told by long-standing Chicano activists that they would not join the NCMC as long as JBT remained or continued as a member of the NCMC.
After the successful 2013 annual commemoration, without prior approval or authorization, JBT sought to have new recruits of interested persons to contact him directly instead of directing folks to the NCMC coordinator.
In 2014, two independent Chicano activists alleged on a public internet email list that JBT was an agent based upon circumstantial evidence. To our knowledge, JBT has taken no action against these activists. Again, the NCMC took no action to investigate these allegations, nor to censor JBT.
During a meeting of the NCMC in June of 2015, JBT was questioned about his relationship to Infragard, which he alluded to in a post on his blog. It is interesting to note that his blog has pictures of JBT with Louis Freeh, prior Director of the FBI and with ex-pres. Bill Clinton. ON it’s webpage, Infragard is described as an FBI created organism to assist it with the collection of intelligence and information. Despite repeated requests to address the questions presented, JBT just walked out of the meeting. He did not ask that the matter be tabled for a future time when he could participate.
According to Infragard’s webpage the California office is housed by the FBI.
Rather than ask for a further meeting of the NCMC to address the issue raised, JBT sued over half of the then membership and several organizations of the NCMC for monetary damages. The suit even named the NCMC as a defendant and sti ll the NCMC allowed JBT to continue participating in the NCMC. The lawsuit continues.
Because of these actions of JBT and the lack of action by the NCMC, I terminated my participation in the NCMC process. I w ill continue to organize for the self-determination and national liberation of our people.
These actions by JBT bring to mind the following quote from a writing of Mumia Abu Jamal:
Here are the basic five techniques employed in domestic espionage:
2. Infiltration: Seeding groups with police agents or using members for the purposes of internal surveillance or as provocateurs to entrap others in illegal acts.
3. Intelligence gathering: the gathering or compiling of data to use in destabilization efforts.
4. destabilization: any effort that derails, disrupts, frustrates or weakens an organizations ability to function or fulfill collective efforts.
The struggle continues!
For self-determination and national liberation.
<>j<> <>j <>Seems to me that the actions of Tucker meet these criteria, especially item number 4.Because of an ongoing health issue I had not previously issued this statement .
We must be organized raza! In a speech Donald Trump delivered on August 31, 2016, in Phoenix, Arizona, he increased the intensity of his anti-Mexican rhetoric to a level we have not seen within a presidential campaign, in at least a lifetime. Win or lose, his candidacy “a soltado los demonios,” and “trumpism” has become an imminent threat to the security and well-being of our communities, our families, and our future.
The Democrats will not defend our communities from “la amenaza trumpista.” If anything, Obama has proven that mass raids and deportations are a central part of the Democratic Party strategy for “Latino outreach.” By the time he leaves office, he will have deported at least 3 million people. Hillary Clinton is no better. She is currently moving her campaign more towards the right wing, actively seeking to attract “moderate Republicans” into the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is not our friend.
Enrique Peña Nieto is the president of a murderous and corrupt narco-government. Today, as he shook Mr. Trump’s hand, he showed the world what a shameful, useless, lapdog he truly is. The Mexican government is not our friend.
There are 50 million of us living within the current borders of the United States. WE ARE NOT A MINORITY. When we unite, we will defend ourselves, we will shake the political foundations of this county to reshape the power structure, and never again will animals like Donald Trump threaten us, in order to advance their own political careers.
Raza – we must be our own liberators!