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The East Los Angeles Walkouts or Chicano Blowouts were a series of 1968 protests against unequal conditions in Los Angeles Unified School District high schools. While the students who organized and carried out the protests were primarily concerned with the quality of their education, they were also motivated by the high minority death toll in the Vietnam War and the ongoing civil rights campaigns of the Chicano Movement.



East Los Angeles had been home to Mexicans since the establishment of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in 1781.During the 1950s and 60s, Mexican Americans' took part in the national quest for civil rights, fighting important court battles and building social and political movements. Mexican American youth in particular became politicized, having taken advantage of the many opportunities their parents never had.

Inspired by the charismatic Chicano educator Sal Castro, a Chicano teacher at Lincoln High School, and after attending youth leadership conferences where they learned about the discrepancies between Eastside and Westside schools, members of the Brown Berets and other student groups from Roosevelt, Wilson, Lincoln, Garfield, and Belmont high schools began organizing for change. First they took a survey of Mexican attitudes towards school and education. They presented a list of demands to the school board based on the results of the survey. After bureaucratic delays, the student leadership decided that only direct action would suffice to bring about change.

In a radio interview, Moctesuma Esparza, one of the original walkout organizers, talked about his experiences as a high school student fighting for Chicano rights. Esparza first started activism in 1965 after attending a youth leadership conference. He helped organize a group of Chicano teenagers, Young Citizens for Community Action. This group eventually evolved into Young Chicanos For Community Action, then later the Brown Berets, but still fought for Mexican-American equality in California. Esparza graduated 12th grade in 1967, then continued on to UCLA. There, he and his fellow Chicano students continued organizing protests. He and 11 friends started a group called UMAS. UMAS traveled around to universities recruiting Chicano students who wanted to help increase Chicano enrollment in college. UMAS members decided to separate into smaller groups, and have each small group go and mentor kids at certain L.A. high schools. These high schoolers soon became upset as they realized how unfair they were being treated by the school board. Wanting to do something to improve their school system, they decided to get organized. Ching and a few other UMAS members, along with teacher Sal Castro, helped organize hundreds of students in the 1968 walkouts. After only a few days, walkout participation increased dramatically and the Chicano students were on their way to better and fairer treatment.[1]


Many of the student organizers became prominent in their fields. Moctesuma Esparza, one of the 13 accused, became a successful film producer and went on to open doors for Mexican Americans in Hollywood. Harry Gamboa, Jr. became an artist and writer. Carlos Montes, a Brown Berets Minister, was charged with arson at a hotel during the Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War. Paula Crisostomo went on to prominence in the school system, where she continues to fight for reform. Vicky Castro went on to serve on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. Carlos Muñoz, Jr., went on to a distinguished teaching and research career at the University of California, Berkeley.[2]

The student actions of 1968 inspired later protests that used similar tactics, including the 1994 student walkouts against California Proposition 187, the 2006 student walkouts against H.R. 4437, as well as the walkouts in 2007 for the recognition of the Cesar Chavez holiday.[3]


  1. ^ Walkout: The True Story of the Historic 1968 Chicano Student Walkout in East L.A.
  2. ^ The Santa Barbara Independent UCSB Conference Looks at 1968 East LA Walkout
  3. ^ "Walkout" recalls key event in Chicano history

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