The Brown Berets as an organization can trace their origins back to East Los Angeles in the late 1960’s at the height of the Chicano Civil-Rights Movement. At the time, many young Chicanos were struggling to make sense of their own cultural identity and were faced with daily acts of discrimination and even violence. Founded by David Sanchez in wake of the 1968 East L.A. Student Walkouts the Brown Berets were formed with the intention to help the Chicano community, specifically organizing against police brutality, inadequate public schools, farm worker’s struggles as well as anti-war activism. And since their founding numerous autonomous chapters have sprung up across the United States. The National in Barrio Logan were one of several antonymous chapter founded during the 1970’s and remains one of the most prominent and active chapters operating in the country today.
For close to fifty years the National Brown Berets de Aztlán have been defenders of the Barrio and vanguards of Chicano Park. It’s no coincidence that the history and politics of the Brown Berets can be seen across the walls of Chicano Park, adorning a myriad of murals painted throughout the years. In April of 1970, alongside a coalition of students, community activists, Barrio residents and others from nearby neighborhoods, through militant force and occupation the National Brown Berets de Aztlán helped liberate the land that would eventually become Chicano Park. After a twelve-day occupation, the eventual liberation of Chicano Park was not only a defining moment in Chicano history and the City of San Diego; it was also a defining moment that helped cement the Brown Berets as the paramilitary arm of the Chicano Power movement throughout the rest of the 1970s. Now, almost fifty years later Chicano Park is not only a monument to Chicano empowerment and self-determination; it has served as the home base for the Brown Berets.
For this very special episode of Step Off! Radio we had the pleasure of interviewing members of the National Brown Berets de Aztlán, recorded right in the heart of Barrio Logan’s historic Chicano Park. We spoke with Unit Commander Eddie Alvarez, Officer of Aztlán Desiree McFadden and Officer of Aztlán Mike Geck. We had a chance to discuss the origins of the chapter, the role the Berets played in the founding of Chicano Park, their dedication to the defense & advancement of Barrio Logan & Chicano people, the Beret’s work within the community that they are helping address, as well as what the future holds for the chapter. We want to remind listeners that this interview was recorded at Chicano Park, a week prior in preparation of Chicano Park Day, the sounds and noises that you hear in the background are the sounds of community.
Featured below is our full interview with the National Brown Berets de Aztlán available through our SoundCloud page. Apple users can also listen to episodes via the Podcast app, be sure to subscribe to the Step Off! Radio podcast to get episodes directly on your Apple device.