The Chicano Movement

The Fight For Mexican American Rights

Stirrings of Protest

In 1960, almost 4 million Mexican Americans lived in the United States. They were some of the poorest and most uneducated people in the country. Throughout the 1960's, Mexican Americans began to fight for equal rights. They did so through a series of strikes and demonstrations to get their voices heard.

Strikes and Boycotts

In September of 1965, Filipino workers went on strike in Delano, California. They refused to harvest grapes until they received an increase in pay. Many other migrant workers, Mexican Americans included, began joining the strike. Though the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) had previously won a labor dispute with rose growers, they worried that this strike would prove more difficult to win. Led by Cesar Chavez, the NFWA decided to join the strike.

On September 16, 1965, Mexican Independence Day, Chavez asked a group of NFWA members to join the Filipino strikers. Chavez and other leaders collected donations of money and food to support the striking workers.

Chavez realized that the strike alone would not win the union any concessions, so he began to adopt other strategies previously used in the civil rights movement to gain support, like his 300-mile march to Sacremento. Due to the support he gained, when Chavez called for a nationwide boycott of grapes, people responded enthusiastically, and an estimated 17 million Americans refused to buy grapes. The resulting economic pressure forced grape growers to negotiate a settlement. The Delano grape strike lasted until 1970, when the last of the grape growers signed contracts with the union.

Discovery Education Video: Cesar Chavez (Link Below)

Mexican American Activism

Many Mexican Americans worked tirelessly to gain rights. One of these people was Reies Lopez Tijerina, who led the Alianza Federal de Mercedes, or "Federal Alliance of Land Grants", an organization which worked to regain land that had been taken from Mexican Americans (often through fraud and deception) over the years.

While Tijernia fought his battles in New Mexico, students in California began to take active protest when some students began to plan a mass demonstration. On March 1, 1968, about 300 students at Wilson High School walked out of their classes to protest the cancellation of a school play. The walkout quickly spread, and within one week, around 15,000 students had joined the protest. Police responded by arresting students, and, in some cases, beating them.