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''by Francisco FloresLanda, 2010''
''by Francisco FloresLanda, 2010''
[[Image:Marty Montemayor and Roger Alvadaro.jpg
[[Image:Marty Montemayor and Roger Alvadaro.jpg|left]]
'''Marty Montemayor, a youth from the Mission. Roger Alvarado, President of the Third World Liberation Front, coordinating body of the SF State College student strike in 1969. Here they staff a booth at a 1969 community fair at Precita Park in the Mission District of San Francisco.'''
'''Marty Montemayor, a youth from the Mission. Roger Alvarado, President of the Third World Liberation Front, coordinating body of the SF State College student strike in 1969. Here they staff a booth at a 1969 community fair at Precita Park in the Mission District of San Francisco.'''
"I was there..."
by Francisco FloresLanda, 2010
Marty Montemayor, a youth from the Mission. Roger Alvarado, President of the Third World Liberation Front, coordinating body of the SF State College student strike in 1969. Here they staff a booth at a 1969 community fair at Precita Park in the Mission District of San Francisco.
Photo: Francisco FloresLanda
It was Thursday, May 1, 1969, the extraordinary day I saw helicopters flying over the Mission. I was not at Mission High, I was across the street at Dolores Park with friends; cutting class getting high across. We saw helicopters hovering over the Mission, our beloved Mission District. After school I went to 20th and Mission and saw the hood was crawling with squad cars, sirens blaring, and still, SFPD Gestapo helicopters hovering all around. Word was something crucial had happened on Alvarado Street in Noe Valley.
The afternoon Examiner declared that "Latino hoods” had attacked and killed an officer. Finally, we learned that the young men were part of “La Veinte.” A large group (not a ‘gang’ in today’s vernacular) of Spanish speaking young male immigrants who either linguistically or culturally had not integrated into the ‘melting pot’ of the Mission. I belonged to this group because I had come to the US at age ten, and in 1969 I was seventeen years old and, significantly, lived around the block on Capp. I spoke Spanish and culturally identified with Latinos and Mexicanismo, instilled in me early in primary school in Mexicali.
Out of the brothers that soon became known as Los Siete de la Raza, I was more familiar with José Rios AKA “El Popo” but I knew most of Los Siete since they came by “La Veinte” to hang out and socialize, play pool, or get into other stuff. We were teens, young adults, and some ‘viejos’ who hung out at the ‘billar’ on Mission Street between 20th and 21st Streets, and at Hunt’s Donuts, across the street, the coffee shop was famous for being “open 25 hours a day.” In contradistinction to other young Latino groups of the Mission La Veinte had not lost their Latino culture and language, like the 26th Street Boys, Lucky Alley, the 22nd Street Boys, Landers Street, 24th Street, 22nd and Florida, 30th and Mission, Precita Park, among others.
Brodnick and McGoran were plainclothes narcotics officers who provoked a brutal confrontation with Tony and Mario Martinez, Gary “el Pinky” Lescallet, “Bebe” Melendez, Jose “El Popo” Rios, Nelson Rodriguez, and Gio Lopez, the result was that someone killed Brodnick. I think a couple of Los Siete weren’t there. But one gotta give it to the guys, they stood up and they didn’t let the pigs push them around. These two pigs were well known among Mission youth for their brutality and for planting dope on their victims. During the trial, Los Siete lead lawyer Charles Garry, who also defended Black Panther Huey Newton, suggested the only other person on the scene with a gun besides Brodnick was his partner, McGoran, so he must have been the person who killed the pig. Garry portrayed McGoran as a violent person and he lost all credibility. To back this claim up, his ex-wife testified that he had kicked her out of a moving car on the freeway. Garry managed to persuade the jury that Los Siete were not guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
Unlike most of the Mission who identified with and supported the cause to “Free Los Siete” I had a direct connection to Los Siete. Today, when I hook up with OGs (Old Guys or Old Gangstas) who were as close to the case as me the memory and influence of Los Siete and the Committee are remembered, felt, and hashed out. This case had a tremendous influence on individuals and the community, and has been immortalized in the various ways, a movie, a book by Marjorie Heinz, a play by Richard Talavera, and chapters in several books on Bay Area history. Los Siete continues to be remembered and motivates others who become familiar with the case. Men and women who were tots at the time speak of Los Siete in their families and social circles.
After the May 1st incident, The Committee to Free Los Siete de la Raza organized itself and published the “Basta Ya” newspaper with the message: Free Los Siete. Other articles related to the oppression and exploitation of the community and the Third World, it also emphasized national liberation struggles all over the world. Not only did it have a national but an internationalist perspective as well. The first issue was printed on the back of the Black Panther Party newspaper, “The Black Panther.” Los Siete folded it back to show only the “Basta Ya!” side. One morning at Mission High School one of my staunch student allies, Diana Monge, felt that because the Panther paper was attached to a brown people’s paper it would not do well. Then as now there was much competition between Blacks and Browns.
I didn’t actively participate in the campaign to Free Los Siete outside of speaking out in their support. I would explain to people that they were victims of police brutality and completely innocent. Some of us knew that our Los Siete were not perfect and, but we always made them out to be organizers and heroes, we never mentioned that when the pigs approached them on Alvarado Street as they were transporting an alleged stolen TV into the Rios home. In our zeal, we made Los Siete into heroes and messiahs of the Brown Movement, even though we knew and ignored the facts but it was the spin we put on the story. We had arrived at group-think mentality a la Brave New World . But there was a large grain of truth in our portrayal. Tony, Mario, and Popo were active in the movimiento, recruiting brown youths into college and organizing in the movimiento. In the ghetto the political and personal overlapped as the need for survival leads the lumpen-proletariat to participate in the black market.
For a few months I was on the fringes of the Committee. Since I was in the same cultural, social, political, as well as geographical circles as Los Siete, I couldn’t help but being around the group. I use the term “Los Siete” to refer to the committee. The term was used to refer to the “brothers” and sometimes to the support group. The Los Siete committee adopted a serve the people style of work. We were applying a method of service the Black Panthers had adapted to their own community work. So, our Committee, adopting the serve the masses style, began a breakfast program, a community paper, also called, the “Basta Ya!” and a restaurant, also called the Basta Ya!, where the community could get a coke, a hamburger, and fries for a dollar! The Basta Ya! Restaurant is where my link with the Committee strengthened. I attended functions at the restaurant, with a wide range of people, community and movement. It was there that I first attended a poetry reading, and what a poetry reading it was! Many of the people I had recently met performed revolutionary poetry, including Roberto Vargas and I was really impressed by Tony Miranda, it was quite an inspirational experience for a kid in the US only six years.
At the Basta Ya! on Valencia between Duboce and 14th Streets, next to the Levi Strauss factory, was an intersection of the movement: Black, Brown, Yellow, Red, democrats, Communists, Panthers, Red Guards, Puerto Rican nationalists, revolutionaries from across the country, Latin America and the world. All trekked through the Basta Ya! progressive and revolutionary whites came. It was not a reformist hang out. During those times the spirit of the times was organizing and mobilizing, every sector of society was on the move, prisoners, soldiers and sailors, welfare moms, workers, Blacks, Latinos, Indians, and throughout the world; Asia, Africa and Latin-America waged national liberation wars. Boy! those were the days. There was a sense of effervescence in the Mission I would walk down the street announce marches or pickets and people would show up on the day, time and place. One time when Art Agnos was running for Mayor, he came by to feel us out and seek support, but since no one bothered with him, he just walked back out the door. People were about the truth, radical change not electioneering lies.
Two social-political currents clashed during the founding of the defense committee. One was the reformist current represented by the work-within-the-system side and the other was the overthrow the system current (the revolutionary side). To my understanding the reformists wanted to wage a strictly legal defense while the revolutionary wing pushed for a political defense and a legal team be engaged). The anti-system side won the struggle took control and a political defense ensued tactics consisted of politically mobilizing the community exposing the racist nature of the “system” and police brutality, which the system caused. The idea was to consistently expose the class nature of society and it’s oppression of “the people,” domestically and internationally. That was called “raising the level of consciousness” and to show that that was the reason for the Brothers being attacked and being in jail. On the reformers side there was a desire to avoid controversy because it might upset the funding source; aka the man.
The brown movement as a whole ranged from brown nationalist groups like the Brown Berets, whom we referred to as narrow nationalists because of their La Raza first and only. We self-defined ourselves as revolutionary nationalists, eventually we studied Marxism and began moving along its proscriptions. At that time, that was our analysis instead of narrow nationalism, it was that a multinational working class would join forces during the struggle and lead to the revolutionary triumph. The Committee was Latinos only, no whites could join the committee but could participate in the serve the people programs. The reformists’ strategy was to integrate a la Martin Luther King—Civil Rights style. The broader multinational international movement ranged from anti-imperialist “revolution now!” people to peace activists (remember this is 1969 and the Viet Nam War was at its height), counterculture types: hippies and the gamut of the white counterculture youth and back-to-nature people. It definitely didn’t include government program people, Mission Coalition and Model Cities types (even though model cities did not exist yet) according to us these were Tio Tacos (Uncle Toms), they were in with the enemy, enemy agents in our midst, whose purpose was to pacify the spontaneous revolutionary movement of the masses and part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program). They existed to get the crumbs off the master’s table. No names here; these people and orientation are still out there.
At one point, an emergency meeting was called by the Los Siete Defense Committee at the restaurant. A group of interns from San Francisco General Hospital wanted Los Siete’s help because they were going to shut down General Hospital during a strike. They wanted a place for patients to receive free medical care during the strike; this shows how conscientious the strikers were. They proposed a partnership with our group to open a free community clinic where patient care could continue for the Mission. Doctors who volunteered included Ed Bernstein, Corey Weinstein, Jerry Frank, Dick Fine, and Richard Basford, who later performed the autopsy on Vicente Fernandez and diagnosed that his death was due to a beating, and not from an overdose of reds as the police claimed. Lab workers, Stan Rose I remember, and pharmacists were also on board for the project, Larry Kline and Stephanie. Los Siete agreed and chose to help get it together. Initially I worked with other Los Siete members, Nilda Alverio, Tom Oneida, and later on Tony Herrera, and many community volunteers to get the Los Siete Clinic up and running. By opening the clinic, the committee expanded its serve the people network. And, I was in the mix of the Los Siete Defense Committee now.
Demonstrating in favor of the Mission People's Clinic/Centro de Salud, spring 1970. More pictures. . .
Photo: Basta Ya
As time went on, as a clinic volunteer, while simultaneously being actively a clinic organizer, I was informed by Nilda that people in the Los 7 committee felt I should be attending the general committee meetings of Los Siete. At first I didn’t go but word came back that I needed to attend those meetings. I had the idea that those meetings were for the important heavies. So I went to a Saturday general meeting at La Casa de La Raza. This house was a mini-mansion a doctor, unconnected to the clinic, had donated for the use of the Los Siete organization on Guerrero Street between 21rst and 22nd Streets. It served as our headquarters and as a halfway house for the pintos, ex-cons, who were allowed out of prison under the supervision of Mike Molano. Work with pintos was viewed as another area of work in the serve the people projects. It was also used as a work space for our newspaper, as housing for some of the members, and as a crash pad and sleeping quarters for out of town visitors, among other things.
I arrived at the meeting in awe (well not quite at awe). I was attending this organizational meeting it meant I was going to be a member of the hallowed group (in my mind). Los Siete partially carried the mantle of the 1968 San Francisco State Strikers led by the Third World Liberation Front. It was kind of an elite revolutionary group, which ranked up (or out there) there with the revolutionary people-of-color groups—the Panthers, the Red Guards, the Young Lords, I Wor Kuen, KDP a revolutionary Filipino group, among others in the Bay Area. Circa 1969 marked the year when the student movement moved from the campus to the community across the nation. The movement had analyzed and concluded that revolutionary change wasn’t going to be achieved on campus but in the community. Later on, after the movement had matured, the emphasis was to change into organizing the working class in work places (circa 1974). In other words, another re-evaluation concluded that revolutionary change would not occur in the community but at the point where the capitalists and the workers face each other daily, on the job. Essentially, the thinking was that the fight was a class fight between the capitalists and the workers and that Latino liberation depended on the unity and triumph of the multinational working class. For the United States is made up of many ethnicities or nationalities. Nowadays, we Marxists are like the Christians awaiting the day of judgment when Jesus will return likewise for Marxists who await the day of liberation.
When the community came together to defend seven of its members in St. Peter’s Hall in 1969, persons who were fresh from the strike at SF State College confronted reformers who viewed that integration was the way to liberation. These people had confronted the San Francisco Police Department Tactical Squad, Mayor Joseph Alioto, SF State College President S. I. Hayakawa, Governor Ronald Reagan, and the FBI and all its secret agents. They weren’t going to allow the reformists lead the defense of Los Siete without exposing the contradictions of the system and its culture i.e., class exploitation, colonialism, racism, sexism and so on. So most of the reformers retired from direct defense work even though most continued to support Los 7. In the Mission, the Mission Coalition Organization (MCO) was the vehicle of reformism, Model Cities money was the bribe by the Federal Government, after the money arrived the MCO became irrelevant by factional divide, to put it differently, because fighting for control of the money (“da monies”) in Mission Model Cities Corporation became primary. Precisely the intent of COINTELPRO.
25th Anniversary group photo of the Committee for Los Siete de la Raza (bottom row left to right) Jorge Chacon, Alberto Martinet, Nilda Alverio, Gary Perez, Linda Perez, Yolanda Lopez, Stella Richardson, Stella's son. (top row, left to right) Francisco Flores, Paula Martinet, Tony Herrera, Judy Drummond, Donna Amador, José, Maria, Chente, Reynaldo Aparicio
As I looked around the room I saw Roger Alvarado, President of the Third World Liberation Front, brother and sister Gary and Linda Perez, Donna James, Nilda, Chente, Alberto Martinet, Oscar Rios, Reynaldo Aparicio, Yolanda, Jimmy, Greg, Veda, Paula, Judy Drummond, Ralph, Tony Herrera, Estella Richardson, Marty Montemayor, Tom Oneida, surely I missed someone. of all the participants some had retired by then and others arrived later. A prominent feature of the men was that they wore Army fatigues and boots; of course long hair goes without saying. Ralph told me that the dress wasn’t just for show, but because of its sturdiness, that when on the picket line and under attack by the SFPD Tactical Squad one should have sturdy protective clothing. It was also what Che Guevara, one of our revolutionary heroes, wore and for sure the clothing was an identity thing and a fashion statement. I was more into the red bandana and the sarape. Surely some egos were pleased by the show. For sure the women had the look of the counterculture fashion of the day.
I was one of the youngest so I felt like a kid among giants who had taken on the power of the state. I realized that I knew all of them, not intimately, but I was familiar with all. I was like at “I know them all” and the fantasy burst. This relatively small group had an influence far larger than their numbers. This small number could mobilize hundreds of people in a moment’s notice. We had a large influence not only in the Mission, but throughout the Bay Area. For example, when Vicente Gutierrez was murdered by the pigs we leafleted San Francisco so thoroughly that the Chief of Police went on Spanish language stations saying that the leaflets were lying about the actions of the police and were not to be believed. Whoever it was, they were just troublemakers outside agitators, typical comment of the authorities when faced with political resistance. The same charge was used in Egypt and Libya in January 2011. It wasn’t just a large network, but the consciousness Los Siete created in our community was large. The committee continuously brought up the fact that we live in an exploitative capitalist system that enjoys tremendous wealth due to the imperialist exploitation of people of color in colonized countries throughout the world. These were precisely the politics that had been struggled over with the program people, the reformists and the narrow nationalists. In their zeal to integrate they were unwilling to bring up these kinds of issues because their funding would be jeopardized. Historically it is common for governments to fund the opposition in order to control its direction and activities. Just like what happened to MCO. The Committee didn’t take government money. Of course the radical political orientation has its own shortcomings.
By the time of the Los Siete incident I had been politically aware and active in some minor stuff. I supported Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers Union, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) I sympathized with. One of the earliest political memories was my father’s rants and raves when he listened to the news over the radio when we lived in Mexicali, Mexico. Listening to the radio was the prevalent medium at that time and place. From my father’s outbursts, I deduced that he possessed class consciousness and nationalism. I now believe that it was the triumph of the Cuban revolution that he heard on the radio that day when he began cheering wildly. I must have been seven years old. He was soooo happy. I remember that he would say that if he was president he would drop a bomb on Washington (or did he say Mexico City?). He and his sister, Conchita, were both atheists and possessed political and social awareness. I think I got that message from things my mother said later in the course of my life. As a teen I found out that my Tia Conchita had been visited by the FBI for allegedly subscribing to communist literature. This must have been during the McCarthy era in the 50s in San Francisco. She was totally radical and an atheist, which is my theological point of view. I suppose that they sympathized with each other. I also recall conversations father had with his friends on job conditions they faced as migrant farmworkers and their anti-authority sentiments (this is a kind of class consciousness and resistance). Once he came home early from working in the fields in the US side of the border by the town of Calexico, he said that he had told his boss “que se vaya a chingar a su madre” (to go fuck himself) and walked off, this is individual class resistance. I suppose this is where I got my awareness from! Intergenerational cultural legacy!!
In the 10th or 11th grade my history teacher at Mission High, Mrs. Barranco, had the class respond to a question about inspiration or contemporary sympathies to which I responded that I sympathized with was the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). She pulled me aside and asked me why that my response and how I arrived at that. I can’t say what I said. I had heard and saw reports on the television newscasts about SDS and what they were doing at UC Berkeley back in the day. I must have been 14 or 15 years old. At the time the SDS embodied the embryonic stage of the nationwide student movement and the Free Speech Movement at UC. For some reason I identified with and sympathized.
Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Union was an issue that moved me to action. I recall that some of the students and I organized walkouts at Mission in support of the Union. Some of my friends, Joaquin, Diana Monge, Martin Ordenana and others led the walkouts and took the marchers to picket Safeway stores at 17th and Valencia, 21st and South Van Ness and at 24th and Potrero. The marchers were Mission High students and supporters. It was through these activities that I met Cesar Chavez. I thought the walkouts were spirited and well attended. The walkouts provided an outlet to the discontent latent in the students and in La Raza in general. The nationalist fervent that was stirring among Latinos nationwide was evident locally. We must have tapped in a reservoir of energy, rebellion and resistance when we called for walkouts. We did this several times before the Los Siete incident occurred. We were calling for relevant education, Latino history and Latino teachers and last but not least for Mexican and Soul food in the café we had united with the Black Student Union.
At Mission High we organized a political Latino group. At first we attempted to work with the existing ‘Spanish’ group sponsored by Mrs. Buchard, but to my amazement the group would have none of it. When I became politically aware I though everyone would join this important stuff. But still I was dumbfounded and it was not to be but importantly we did not falter. They were a conservative social cultural group, only about tacos and Jarabe Tapatio and other traditional cultural stuff. That is relevant and important stuff but it misses the mark of changing socioeconomic conditions, the status quo that Latinos and other ethnicities live under. We formed a separate group and came up with four demands. About this time a race riot erupted between blacks and Latinos luckily students from SF State, Al Martinet, Jimmy Queen and Ricardo Laraniaga, not from State, and others from Horizons Unlimited like Roberto Vargas, Georgiana Quinones, Judy, Ricardo Carrillo, Rachel and others, who were on strike at state came to counsel us, explaining that the enemy was the system not the black people. Black people, some Panthers among them, also came to work with the black students. Finally we united and formed a united front of black and brown students. We developed a joint list of fourteen “unconditional” demands. When we presented the demands to the principal in his office one of the students began smoking cigarettes and someone else followed suit. The principal was stumped. After a while he told us that there was, “no smoking in the principal’s office,” this really really sounds funny today.
At one point, Laraniaga really screwed my mind up by dropping acid with me and reading the poem, ‘I am Joaquin’ by Corky Rodriguez supranationalist stuff quite good though, I returned to school the next day full of rage about Latino oppression, etc. I ran into Diana she looked at me like I was crazy and ran off never to support our politics again. When I told Martinet my new orientation he got pissed and said, “Fucking asshole ruining my work (with me about multiculturalism)” or interethnic unity.
So after fighting with the African American student for a couple of days, we turned the race riot into a political strike. This went on for a few days but basically we didn’t have the leadership (me and others) to continue. I remember going before the board of education to present the demands. That is the only time I’ve been in the newspaper. Some of the activities were not sustained because in my case I was influenced by what the counterculture celebrated; drugs, LSD. In my case, due to personal issues along with the influence of the 60s, I went on to harder and harder drugs and disengagement with the movement and or at best a haphazard involvement. Later, at one point political consciousness pushed me to stop getting high altogether especially after I returned from Cuba in 1971. But unfortunately my drugging and using continued off and on for years after that. But my involvement continued along with my addictions. Sometimes I was into drugging and drinking or into involvement and sometimes doing both concurrently.
I went to Cuba in 1971 as part of the Venceremos Brigade, ‘Norte Americanos’ who wanted to show solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and break the US blockade. I was selected because I was in Los Siete, I recall my interview I was kind of stuck in my brain after having been on an acid trip the day before, I couldn’t answer the questions, I’m sure I was chosen only because of my membership in the ‘chic’ Los Siete. In Cuba we cut sugar cane for six week and toured for two weeks. We visited work centers, farms, towns, cities, schools, a mental hospital, universities, tourist centers (of course), most of the time they let us go by ourselves without guides, it wasn’t about being indoctrinated. The Cubans wanted us to see and hear what the revolution and socialism is all about and return to our home the United States and spread the truth of what Cuba was like. This way “Norte Americanos” (includes Latinos and African Americans) would learn about Cuba and the truth instead of the lies, propaganda, distortion, and disinformation, we are accustomed to, things that we “Americanos” do not even question, we are that brainwashed and conditioned by US institutions.
I participated in Los 7 for about two-plus years, it’s hard to fathom that a period of time so short had such a large influence in my life—politically and mentally, my values stem from this time, it was a time of change. To quote Nilda Alverio at a recent reunion, “this time made me who I am today.” Nilda was my girlfriend at the time for a time. The trial of Los Siete lasted about two years; my area of work was at the Centro de Salud Para la Gente, I fought to name it Centro de Salud Del Pueblo but my motion was voted down, I wanted that name because the other is how pochos (US born Mexicano) speak and that kind of Spanish is awkward. But I also did other political work required of members. I was so dedicated and zealous that I tried to carry through all the tasks the collective set out, I really was into the “collective” I realized that not all people felt like I did way after I was out of the group. At the clinic we, nonprofessional staff , were classified as ‘community worker’, see I got something in common with Barack Obama he was community worker too, our job included being trained to do medical work, the belief was that common people could do medical work, sort of China’s barefoot doctors, like taking blood pressure, taking temperatures, doing hematocrits, etc. Also, we were translators for the non-English speaking patients. The most important work of us was doing political work; that would be “raising the level of consciousness” of the community. As part of doing political work with patients, we even read readings from Mao’s Quotations of Mao Tse Tung, up to today people make fun of that practice. Even the old members make fun of that practice.
As a member of Los 7, I sold Basta Ya! Newspapers in the street my favorite place was U.S.E. department store on Mission and 22nd, translated newspaper articles, the Basta Ya was a bilingual newspaper, helped organize demonstrations and picket lines activities not only for Los Siete but other stuff in solidarity with other struggles. We picketed at the Hall of Injustice during the trial. I recall that, once the Black Panthers called the left together to a march around the Panther headquarters in West Oakland because Huey Newton had dared the Oakland Police Department to come and get him in his headquarter. We also attended the Angela Davis trial. A major activity for me was showing the Los Siete de la Raza movie as part of the defense of Los 7. This movie was put together by Newsreel. This collective distributed many radical movies that the mainstream media wouldn’t touch. Hanoi Tuesday the 13th, and Battle of Algiers, are two films I recall. The high school members of the Los 7 defense committee showed the Los Siete movie all over the bay area, Magali Perez, Marty Montemayor and Estela Richardson, Domingo Leon was also my collaborator but he was so egoistic that people rejected him, they just couldn’t warm up to him, he was a bad fit. Sympathetic teachers would contact us and invite us to their classes and hold political discussions with the students. I was always nervous and self-conscious because I was in the film quite a bit and quite drunk. Newsreel filmed us of La Veinte who had formed a group called Latino America Despierta and we were filmed at one of our drinking sessions. The organizer of Latino America Despierta was Aurelio Palacios and the chairman was Guillermo AKA PeeWee. We rented a storefront and had business meetings and so on. Newsreel came to our storefront and interviewed everyone and wound up putting me in a lot of the film because of everyone there I was able to articulate the political ideas behind our activism most clearly. We were having a drinking party, we always did that, and I was really drunk. Now when I see the movie I can see how drunk I was. As I am more mature now (sometimes I think that) I can see how clearly I articulated the topics.
Even within the activism of Los Siete, we made time to have fun, including going to parties and events, people would smoke pot, drink, and socialize. Within our group some couples and babies developed. When yet someone else came up pregnant, I remember hearing Alberto yelling out, paraphrasing, “Damn, what are we a political group or a babysitting collective.” I’m hesitant to discuss the personal history of others and myself because i don’t want to out anyone’s secrets. The gamut of human drama was there: romance and fun, sobriety and addiction, after all these were the seventies! The end of my involvement with the group came when I was kicked out for hitting my girlfriend when we were in Cuba and for an argument we had at home. I think that was the reason, I was never told anything about the proceedings or given a chance to explain myself or what happened or whether it was true or not. In the argument I remember my needs weren’t met when she refused to answer my questions, my ego and machismo and pride turned ugly. I heard a paper was written on the situation. I was denied due process but then there was no due process to speak off, there weren’t rules like that.
The women in the group, our group was by now a collective under strict discipline, met and had a “women’s meeting” where women’s issues were aired. Feminism was at its high point around this time in the movement. For example, one time when I stayed at the Casa de la Raza when my turn to cook came, no woman would show me how to cut up a chicken, something I didn’t know how to do, until Paula Martinet explained that one had to cut between the bones. I suppose some women felt that I would be oppressing them if they showed me, I guess. This is an example of the feminist practice I faced for being a poor man. Speaking seriously, in Los Siete I learned about women’s liberation and now support the issue, as I supported it then—women’s rights. Of course it is difficult to put principles into action. Second wave feminism expressed itself as “the personal is political” this quote was a touchstone of second wave feminism. Relationships and the home were under change in all spheres of society, progress or equality has been made in society but patriarchy is still deeply entrenched in society.
After two years the trial of Los Siete ended with an innocent verdict, technically we could not be a committee to free Los Siete. the political work continued since we had moved from only defense work to community organizing that. So the group continued and I moved on after being ostracized, I began to participate with El Tecolote newspaper. Simultaneously, I was helping in the solidarity movement supporting the Nicaraguan Revolution. For I was a self-ordained organizer, by now I was a Marxist revolutionary. And since I lost my political practice group I was looking elsewhere to continue my quest and my calling.
When I returned from Cuba in 1972 while still in the group, one of Los Siete and a friend of his, close to Los Siete but not one of them, robbed a liquor store, or so I was told. What a blow to the community supporters this was, after it had backed up the guys. As a result we lost a lot of support in the Mission. As part of a restructuring I went to organize at CCSF as part of the student collective we created. It was at this time I was booted out. After some time, the Committee to Defend Los Siete de la Raza changed its name to La Raza Workers Collective along with its methods and areas of work. Some headed to job sites and factories and others left the group and worked on their own or with others from the group. Not everyone agreed with this change and people went on with their lives. Some people continued in the Clinic and at the La Raza Legal Defense.
Eventually La Raza Workers Collective, combined with a other groups who called themselves the August 29th Movement. August 29th is the day Ruben Salazar was killed in Los Angeles during the Chicano Moratorium in 1970. So the movement of those days continued in different alliances and formations until 1989, then the whole of the socialist left became disoriented and fragmented with the fall of the Soviet Union. Revolutionaries and Marxists realize that the class struggle continues, the struggle of the exploited and oppressed will continues until a just society can be established. I still feel like this but my cynicism leads me to believe that the planet will not make it to that time with the environment changing like it is.
In conclusion, my time in the Committee to Defend Los Siete de la Raza had a profound effect on me. In politics I learned about the enemy being the capitalist system not white people and the fight has to be a multinational alliance of all ethnicities. I learned that change has to be systemic not just ethnic integration. On the personal level, I learned to view women differently than the traditional way. I had a son whom with after years of estrangement we have mended our relationship continually improving. I also learned that value as a person doesn’t depend on accumulation possessions. I am grateful for all the gifts I got from the experience.