Walkout: The True Story of the Historic 1968 Chicano Student Walkout in East L.A.
“Walkout”-a new HBO film tells the story of the 1968 walkout by high school Chicano students in East Los Angeles to protest academic prejudice and dire school conditions. We speak with the executive director of the film, Moctesuma Esparza. An award-winning film producer and community activist, Esparza helped organize the 1968 walkout and was arrested and jailed along with 12 others for conspiracy to disturb the peace. [includes rush transcript]
The mass student walkouts this week across California and other states are not the first of their kind. In 1968, Chicano students in East Los Angeles staged a historic walkout in their high schools to protest academic prejudice and dire school conditions.
Students were forbidden from speaking Spanish in class or from using the restrooms during lunchtime. Schools taught a curriculum that largely ignored or denied Mexican-American history and Chicano students were steered toward menial labor and away from college by counselors and school officials.
In March 1968, the students decided to take a stand against the injustice and staged walkouts in schools across L.A. Many date the modern Chicano movement to the walkouts when some 20,000 teenagers took to the streets
Many of the students who participated in the walkouts went on to successful careers in politics, academia and the arts. One of them was Antonio Villaraigosa-he’s now the mayor of Los Angeles. Another was award-winning filmmaker Moctesuma Esparza, who was indicted for his role in organizing the walkouts. He is now executive producer of a new HBO film about the 1968 protests simply titled “Walkout.”
We are joined on the line by now by award-winning film producer and community activist, Moctesuma Esparza. He is the executive producer of “Walkout,” based on the historic 1968 student walkout in Los Angeles which he helped organize. Esparza and 12 others were arrested and jailed for conspiracy to disturb the peace. They became known as the East LA 13. Esparza is portrayed in the film by Bodie Olmos, son of the movie’s director, Edward James Olmos” son. And Esparza’s real-life daughter, Tonantzin Esparza, plays Vickie Castro, a protester who went on to become a principal and a school board member.