Eugene A. Obregon Park
Eugene A. Obregon Park is spread over a sprawling seven acres at the crossroads of Michigan Avenue, Marianna, Avenue, and East 1st Street. The western side of the parks follows the undulating path of Sunol Drive.
The park serves the unincorporated community of East Los Angeles. It has various recreational fields as well as an open field filled with mature trees.
Obregon Park was developed in the 1960s, and its athletic structures were added in 1967. The park is named in honor of Mexican American marine Eugene A. Obregon, who was killed in action during the Korean War on September 26, 1950. Obregon was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on August 30, 1951.
In addition to commemorating a local war hero, the park is significant to the history of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and ‘70s. On December 20, 1969, it was the terminus of the first Chicano Moratorium demonstration, in which 1,000 people marched in protest of the Vietnam War.
The march began at Los Cinco Puntos, before protestors headed south on Indiana Street then east on Michigan Avenue to reach Obregon Park.
This event was key milestone in the broader struggle for Chicanx rights and equality in East Los Angeles.
A number of groups representing Mexican Americans and Chicanxs were vital to the formation of the Chicano Moratorium Committee, the entity responsible for organizing the December 1969 march.
In early December 1969, local organizations like the Brown Berets and Chale con el Draft (“to hell with the draft”) convened with other Chicanx groups in Denver to discuss the formation of a national organization against the Vietnam War. In particular, they focused their attention on the disproportionate number of Mexican Americans serving and dying the war, when compared to other populations.
Though activists had originally tried to organize with other nationally active student groups, they did not gain acceptance from other predominantly Anglo student groups.
One of the first acts of the newly formed Chicano Moratorium Committee was to plan a march on December 20, 1969 in East Los Angeles. The march was to be a small demonstration that would be an impetus for another march that was scheduled for summer of the following year.
Paying homage to Eugene A. Obregon and the symbolism of his service and sacrifice, the march took on a procession-like manner. Brown Berets were at the lead carrying a casket complete with pallbearers. One thousand community members attended the march, making it the first large-scale successful demonstration by the Committee.
As the local anti-war movement evolved, this event reinforced the emergence of a new nationalist identity for Chicanx people and helped empower communities throughout the United States.
Eugene A. Obregon Park has multiple layers of significance to local Mexican Americans and Chicanxs. In particular, the park highlights the complex history of Mexican Americans serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The Chicano Moratorium Committee and its local members used the Vietnam War as a rallying point in their larger struggle against inequality and discrimination in Mexican American and Chicanx communities. Though Mexican Americans had a strong tradition of military service in past wars, Chicanx activist denounced the neglect the community experienced in the aftermath.
The 1969 march, in particular, relied on the legacy of a prominent local serviceman to make the case for anti-war agenda. The success of this march garnered public support and attention for the Chicano Civil Rights Movement and the later Chicano Moratorium demonstration in August 1970
In addition, the creation of the Chicano Moratorium committee galvanized marginalized groups to invoke a nationalist identity that spread from the Southwest to communities throughout the country. The march was a keystone event that drew attention to the contribution of the Chicanx communities to the United States.
In the context of the broader struggle for civil rights, the Chicano Moratorium Committee urged people to question a desire to serve a country that discriminated against them and worked to instill a new form of cultural nationalism. For example, the Committee and other Chicanx activists brought people together through the reimagining of a new homeland, expressed as the mythical place of Aztlán. Aztlán became a cross border symbol of unity that encompassed the people and territories ceded to the United States in the 1848 treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the Mexican American War.
These ideas regarding an emerging Chicanx identity helped influence the planning and execution of the anti-war demonstrations of the late 1960s and early 1970s, including the inaugural march in East Los Angeles on December 20, 1969.