Anthony J. Garcia on the 1974 murders of six Chicano activists and his play Cuarenta y Ocho
Forty years ago, bombs exploded in Boulder, killing six Chicano activists. Their deaths are still shrouded in mystery: Who killed them and why? Were they plotting a bombing? Did the police and FBI entrap them? Were they murdered? Su Teatro's Tony Garcia has written Cuarenta y Ocho, a play that explores these questions and more. In advance of tonight's opening, Westword spoke with Garcia about his fictional work and the actual events of forty years ago.
Courtesy of Su Teatro Anthony J. Garcia's play Cuarenta y Ocho explores the deaths of six Chicano activists in 1974.
See also: Anthony J. Garcia on Ludlow: El Grito de Las Minas
Westword: Talk about the upcoming production.
Anthony J. Garcia: The production is called Cuarenta y Ocho, which means 48. It is set against a background of two bombings that took place in Boulder in 1974. They took place 48 hours apart. It's set against the time between the first one and the second one.
At the time there was a lot of student unrest, especially within the Chicano community then. There was a takeover of Temporary Building One. In the first explosion, two people were killed. Two days later, there was another explosion. Nobody really knows what took place there. There was a grand jury that was convened afterwards, and the grand jury sealed the findings. Then FBI files from there were disappeared, or were gone, so nobody really knows what took place or who did what.
The speculation was that the six people who were killed were getting ready to blow up something, and they ended up blowing up themselves. It was in a period of time when there were a lot of other possibilities that could have happened. There are a lot of unanswered questions in there. I don't think that the play will answer those questions, because the one thing we know is that this play that I wrote is fictional. I don't know what the truth is, but I know this is not the truth. This is pretty much what I made up. It's set against that background and it covers that tension, that possibility of what else could be happening.
The Chicano activists felt that there wasn't enough investigation looking into the possibility that somebody else had set the bombs and that these people were actually assassinated and that the bombs were exploded. There are a lot of inconsistencies in a lot of the conversations, but the police seem to latch onto that one argument and then nothing else was ever really explored. It just kind of went away.
That's what Cuarenta y Ocho is about. It's a drama. It begins with an explosion and it ends with an explosion, so you know the beginning and the end and can only speculate about what took place in the middle.
Talk about the tensions in the Chicano movement at the time.
It's complex. The movement drew people across a broad spectrum. There were people who believed and had interest mildly in getting involved. Some people were heavily involved. Some people believed that nonviolence was an absolute. This is a big question in the United Farm Workers movement. People were very angry with what was taking place and they wanted to retaliate. Cesar Chavez really held the line on nonviolence. On the other hand, you had people who believed that it was important to send a message that we were living in a territory that had formerly been Mexico and that we were treated like second-class citizens, and there had to be a change. There had to be a much more serious conversation than was taking place.
I don't know who did what. All I get is information from people telling me what other people did. (Laughs.) Nobody tells me about what they did, right? There was a definite rhetoric about how we need to do something. "We need to send a message. We need to send a wakeup call. I want the police to feel as intimidated as they made us feel." Actually, that's a line from my play. It's all speculation.
There were so many loose ends. It's possible that people did things on their own. It's possible that people were set up to do some things. There is a conversation and enough evidence to indicate that authorities were willing to allow them to get further and further into this kind of stuff with the idea that it would just blow up in their faces. That's part of the conversation, too.
People are not going to walk away with an answer to any of this stuff.
There was a real force recognizing that there were forces across the world that were not exactly thrilled with what the U.S. was doing and what those in power were doing. There's a great quote that I picked up. It says: "We seem to accept violence by those in power and to be appalled by violence from those outside of power." I think this is part of that same conversation.
Read on for more from Anthony J. Garcia.