Subversive Mobility in the East L.A. Walkouts: A Final Assessment by Joshua Mandell
In March of 1968, thousands of East Los Angeles high school students walked out of class to protest the poor quality of the public education available in this Chicana/o-majority region of the city. The students leading the demonstration presented a list of 38 specific demands to the Los Angeles Board of Education. They wanted more of their classes to taught in Spanish, the incorporation of Mexican culture and history in school curricula, smaller class sizes, more counseling services, and improved school facilities. At marches and demonstrations throughout Los Angeles, the protesters gained new visibility and influence for themselves and the entire U.S. Chicana/o population. During these protests, which came to be known as "blowouts," the students' freedom to move was challenged on many fronts. The Los Angeles city government believed that these students did not have a legal right to exercise mobility during school hours, and tried to suppress the blowouts with a forceful police response.
The students' protest demonstrated subversive mobility, meant to undermine dominant power structures and reshape the landscape of Chicana/o Los Angeles. In this digital essay, I will examine the students' use of physical mobility, obstacles that threatened to obstruct this movement, and the mobility of their ideas through print media. I will show different ways that students used subversive mobility to make their presence known across the vast urban space of L.A., and to unite the student population despite the geographic challenges this space presented.
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