Preserving history and leaving a legacy was the mission of organizers of a Chicano event in southeast Fresno Saturday that drew about 250 people.
"Chicano History Revisited: Fresno County" had 10 speakers on three panels that talked about social activism and civil rights struggles in the county from 1966 to 1971.
The gathering at Sal Mosqueda Community Center was organized out of sense of desperation for some, eager to preserve the knowledge of elders.
"We want to develop a legacy and history of our people," said Jose Barraza, one of the panelists and a volunteer with El Concilio de Fresno, Inc. that helped sponsor the event. "We realized we need to get this documented or we'll lose it forever."
The event's organizing committee is working to create an archive of stories and photos of Chicano history in the area.
Featured speakers Saturday included many pioneers who worked as community leaders, organizers and professors fighting for social justice issues throughout the Valley.
Barraza was involved in the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles 43 years ago and said he saw people killed during that protest of the Vietnam War. Shortly after, he was involved in a student protest at Fresno State in 1970 to reinstate the Raza ("Race" in Spanish) Studies Program that he felt was being closed due to political pressure from the community.
"(The youth) need to know the history," Barraza said.
David J. Rodriguez of Fresno attended Saturday's event to connect with old friends.
He also recalled the Vietnam War era. He had fought in the war and was angry when he returned home, plagued with the feeling that he had been sent "for nothing."
"My attitude is if I'm going to put my butt on the line again it's going to be for something I believe in and that was civil rights," said Rodriguez, who went on to work as an investigator for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Rodriguez said more issues lay ahead for the next generation to tackle.
"This is the first annual event of its nature and hopefully it will continue," he said. "The movement is not over. The movement is getting revitalized in Fresno."
Gloria Hernandez of Fresno helped spearhead the event. She spent much of her life championing civil rights issues for farm workers through California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. and said Saturday's gathering was a "dream come true."
"You don't repeat history," she said. "You try to learn from it and make it better and that is what we are trying to do here."
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