A comrade directed me to a new blog, Notes From Aztlán, a blog dedicated to Chicano national liberation.  I would recommend checking it out.  Among its posts is one about the story of Ricardo Chavez-Ortiz.  The short history of Chavez-Ortiz is this:  An unemployed Chicano restaurant worker hijacked a plane in 1972, with his only demand to get media time to speak on the plight of the Chicano people.  After he gave many statements over the media, he peacefully surrendered, and subsequently served time in prison.

The year this took place, 1972, was a time of increased awareness and action by the Chicano people.  Awareness collectively of Chicanos as an oppressed nation, and action that at times expressed sentiment for national liberation.  Actions like Chavez-Ortiz’ happened at a greater capacity in the land that was increasingly being called Aztlan. Not all of it was organized, and though they attempted to link Chavez-Ortiz to a well-known militant Chicano organization of the time, it appears he did this action by his own volition.  As there was increased organizing by the Chicano people, there was increased repression.  With increased repression there was an upsurge in militant actions.  Chavez-Ortiz is a hero for bringing attention to our people.  He would be labeled a terrorist today, as the U.$. does with other liberation fighters conducting militant actions.

As many people do not know this history, it should be spread farther.  We repost this excerpt from a recent post dealing with Ricardo Chavez-Ortiz.  It is reposted to further debate and dialogue on these issues.  Would also recommend checking out the book Somos Chicanos by David F. Gomez, which has a chapter that discusses Chavez-Ortiz hijacking, including excerpt of his entire speech.

From “I’m Ricardo. Fly Me to Freedom”:

Between 1965-1975, a new style of Chicano politics emerged that saw many of the changes most people take for granted today. These changes are now being revoked through congressional laws and/or supreme court decisions along with the idea that racism, discrimination, and segregation are a thing of the past.

During the Chicano Movement, it was understood that direct militant organizing in education, politics, health, and other areas was brought about by the idea that people were willing to die for La Causa.

The idea that we have nothing to lose is a very powerful one indeed. Of course, this post is not advocating that we risk our lives simply for the sake of risking it, but it is calling attention to the fact that unless people are willing to go beyond the safe confines of cyber activism and online petitions nothing will change.

This reminded me of an incident that took place at the height of the Chicano Movement in April of 1972. It is a very little known event now. But if you take a Chicana/o Studies class you’re more likely to learn about y(our) history.  At the time that it took place it reverberated throughout Aztlán.

This incident wasn’t a survey distributed in some barrio. It wasn’t a fancy speech by an intellectual. Rather, it was direct action taken by a simple man who grew tired of the injustices taking place. It was a call to action then and it is a call to action now. It is important to know y(our) history.

What follows, then, is a brief history of the events of April 1972.

On the morning of April 13, 1972, rumors began circulating in Albuquerque, New Mexico that a member of the Black Berets, a Chicano militant group similar to the Brown Berets, had hijacked an airplane to demand the release of Chicano political prisoners.

Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz live on Spanish language media on April 13, 1972.

Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz live on Spanish language media on April 13, 1972

The hijacked Frontier Airlines Boeing 737 jetliner from Albuquerque, New Mexico was ordered flown to Los Angeles, California. As the jetliner descended on the runaway of the Los Angeles International Airport, the hijacker demanded to speak to the local Spanish language media.

Immediately on the scene was KMEX TV cameraman Octavio Gómez. Since 1969, Gómez had covered the Chicano Movement, and was with Ruben Salazar on the fateful afternoon in August 1970 when the L.A. Sheriffs shot a tear-gas canister into the Silver Dollar Bar killing Salazar at the Chicano Moratorium.

As luck would have it, Gómez knew the hijacker, a Mexican national named Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz, 36. As Chávez-Ortiz began speaking on the live broadcast of the Spanish language media, it became quite evident that he did not belong to the Black Berets nor any organized organization.

Although he had .22 caliber pistol with him, Chávez-Ortiz repeatedly remarked that he did not have any criminal intentions. In fact, at the end of his remarks it was revealed that the pistol was empty.

But what did Chávez-Ortiz want? Why take such a monumental risk to his personal safety and family?

All Chávez-Ortiz wanted to do was to tell the world about the plight of the Chicana/o community. He wanted to air a century of grievances on behalf of all Chicanas/os. He spoke in general about the political, economic, and social oppression subjugating all Chicanas/os.

He spoke about the need to save the “younger generation” and the “family” from a life of rampant poverty, racism, and discrimination. He spoke about the monster that was the “Anglo society,” which needlessly destroyed the dignity and self-respect of the Chicana/o community.

Chávez-Ortiz used personal testimony to share the grievances of not only his family, but of an entire Chicana/o community.

Chávez-Ortiz had lost his job six-months earlier and moved to Albuquerque, where he found employment in a restaurant but that didn’t last long either. Eventually, his family was forced to live off welfare.

Chávez-Ortiz did not ask for monetary ransom nor for the release of political prisoners. Instead, Chávez-Ortiz used his on-air time to eloquently state the following (partial transcripts follow):

…I have felt an obligation to do this bad deed but not only for the situation of my family but the thing is that it is much more delicate and dangerous for the new generation than you can imagine. You can see things are all screwed up. Nevertheless you don’t stop to think about what it is we can do. All you do is let the days go by and maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, there’ll be a chance there will be a new governor or a new President, yakkity, yakkity…

…And so, finally what I wanted was, after having made this flight, I wanted to attract the attention of everyone in the nation and say to everyone once and for all, what type of human beings we are. The destruction amongst our children is fantastic. The children that I have, go and ask yourselves, they have attended school for many years and they know absolutely nothing. And so, this act that I have just committed I did it knowing that I would probably die because of it and that I would probably go to hell. However, my life does not have as much worth as the lives of so many children. However, the thing is very simple, we do not ask for anything for free. This land we are walking on is Mexican land and so, for this simple reason, we do not come to beg for anything or that anything be given to us or anything else…

…This land is Mexican land and the conquerors horde it all based on massacres and bad tricks. Certainly this that I am doing is criminal. It is against the law of these persons, these conquerors, because I don’t have the right to arrive at a hospital and be attended to as a human being. So I don’t have that right…

…We are Mexicans; we live with the cockroaches and in the most unworthy conditions one could have in this land. The Americans go and send rockets to the moon. Yes, go ahead and do whatever you want to do while we become rebellious because now we can’t endure anymore. We cannot tolerate more; we cannot endure more…

…If that is what the laws are like, then the laws are for the protection of the capitalists or, in other words, to protect the government…

At this point, there was an apparent interruption in the broadcast. He was still broadcasting, but it was not picked up by the station:

…These wars [Vietnam War] that have been fought have been a crime. They have been a crime because these people have gone to join and fight with others and for what reason? For myself, if someone, I have to fight and kill, let it be for maintaining justice for my home or for my children or for their future…

…They say the police have written on their cars “to protect and to serve.” To protect and serve whom, only themselves. The police are the only ones who have authority to carry a pistol and the license to kill. Very simply, I have a great fear of going out on the street because I am afraid that at any moment a policeman will take out his pistol and shoot me, or someone else might kill me…

…All I want is for Mexicans to know that this is Mexican land and always will be. There does not exist in the whole world a nation that is for sale…

…I could very easily force this plane to go to México and I could have demanded three or four million dollars. I could have done this, and I assure you that I would have been able to avoid capture there because I know my country very well. I am a pretty smart person. And I know how to use my intelligence so that I can get along well with my friends and family…

Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz appearing in court

Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz appearing in court

After nearly thirty-five minutes of airtime, Chávez-Ortiz surrendered without incident.

The live broadcast tapes along with taped interviews with newsmen were immediately confiscated by the FBI.

His bail was initially set at $500,000 later reduced to $350,000 and finally to $35,000 thanks to community pressure.

At the time, Celia Chávez-Ortiz, wife of Ricardo, indicated that her husband was innocent and that the real crime being perpetuated was the subjugation her family and other Chicanas/os were forced to endure because of racist practices by a capitalist system whose only concern was profit over people. Unemployment, for example, was almost 20% in East Los Angeles.

In an April 17, 1972 report that appeared in the Miami News, Celia remarked that Ricardo “got paid for eight hours of work, but was expected to work 15 or 16 hours.”

The Nashua Telegraph, on July 24, 1972, reported that Chávez Ortiz was charged with one count of air piracy. The jury included two Blacks but no Chicanas/os.

Free Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz button

Free Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz button

Tragically, the defense attorneys for Chávez-Ortiz argued that he had diminished mental capacities.

The clash between reason (on the side of the dominant power) and insanity (on the side of those who are subjugated) is still reflected in the current struggle to create, maintain, and preserve Chicana/o Studies.

The State of Arizona sees itself as the guardian of reason, while those supporting Chicana/o Studies are seen as irrational for not subscribing to Western concepts of knowledge and practice.

Furthermore, Chicana/o Studies is not seen as a viable academic discipline. Is this perhaps the reason why those in LATISM refuse to defend and support Chicana/o Studies? Has LATISM bought into the falsehood that Chicana/o Studies is a victimization course? Has LATISM bought into the “rationality” of the State of Arizona which falsely accuses Chicana/o Studies of being anti-American?

I don’t know, but the failure of LATISM to respond, support and defend Chicana/o Studies is questionable. Historically, anyone who does not the support the status quo has been marginalized as a non-team player.

In reading the brief transcript, you can easily observe how Chávez-Ortiz, despite telling the truth of the lived experiences of Chicanas/os, was forced to plead insanity in order to invalidate Chicana/o ownership to the land, identity, and culture.

Chávez-Ortiz spoke about the inferior schooling received by young Chicanas/os. He spoke about the constant police-brutality experienced by Chicanas/os. Yet, he was forced to plead insanity by the State.

In July of 1972, Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz was found guilty by a federal grand jury and sentence to life in prison. His case was later appealed. On November 7, 1973, the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit ruled on the case.

The Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz direct action for self-determination will not be forgotten by Chicana/o history. It is also a reminder that his words were about direct action.

I’m certain that in today’s political climate, AmeriKKKan society and even LATISM would see a new Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz as a crazed “terrorist” complaining about things that have no merit because, such things as racism are remnants from the past.

Justice for Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz poster

Justice for Ricardo Chávez-Ortiz poster

I’m Ricardo. Fly Me to Freedom” was a sign seen at a Chicano rally in the 1970s.

When will our next leader emerge to fly us to freedom?


cultural sovereignty

Join the conversation! 14 Comments

  1. My name is Grace Chavez. I am the youngest of eight children of Ricardo Chavez Ortiz. I feel that if people are going to be reading your article, that they should know more of what some people call a hero.

    You see, from my understanding my father did work very hard and worked hard to get people to understand that the Chicanos/ La Raza needed help, for that I am happy to know how much he cared about people. However, a hero usually means to me….. that he or she is ALL AROUND a good person. How can we call him or even consider for a few minutes that he wAs a hero? He knew that his actions on April 13…..which by the way was my Birthday, that his actions to help the ChIcanos was going to take him away from his family. His wife and his eight children.

    My mother,brother ‘s one who by the way became a sheriff and my sister’s who became very successful raised me. My mother worked in a factory for over 20yrs. I to this date, have never seen such hard working men and women…those who to me, are the true heroes. It takes a lot to do the right thing in life. It takes a lot to raise your kids alone.

    It takes a lot of sacrifice and to work two jobs to help your mom raise seven of your brothers and sisters, the way my oldest brother Ricardo Chavez JR. did. All the while, his friends are having fun. by the way, since my father went to jail, I was maybe 2 yrs old. I am now 43 ….still have not heard from the man whom some people call a hero.

    In closing……. I ask you, who is the real hero? I say it’s my mother, brothers and sisters. But, people rarely read about stories about the true heroes, it’s too boring for them. So, it’s sometimes more exciting to read it when a crime has been committed. I believe that thus being the reason, that true research on this man was not done properly before printing, or maybe it was done properly and you feel that people should be reading about a man like…..Ricardo Chavez Ortiz.

    Thank you for your time,
    Grace Chavez

    • Hello Graciela! I just wanted to comment on your story regarding your father. I truly and sincerely sympathize with you and your family. I honestly appreciated reading about your family and the hard work and sacrifice for the survival and unity of your family. I am interested in knowing more about your family. This is on a more personal level. My father was also absent in my life and made very wrong choices that affected my mother and I. I am very familiar with your story! I stumbled on this article and was surprised to read your comments.

    • I approved this comment to further discussion and unless otherwise told I take it at your word that you are the daughter of Ricardo Chavez-Ortiz.

      Grace Chavez,thank you for replying.

      I have accepted through my life that people are not saints. Everyone no matter who they are has had their flaws and defects and has done things that fall short of impeccability. I reposted this article solely to bring about more awareness about this event from the Chicano liberation struggle, and to continue discussion about these issues. The actions that Ricardo did were an inspiration for many people at the time, some would say courageous, even if they were flawed. His dramatic actions were a response to the conditions of the Chicano-Mexicano people at the time, and in one moment made people pay attention to them. I cannot speak on what kind of man he was to his family and others, or what effect he had on his loved ones. But to many this one action many did consider heroic, for at the time people had to do drastic things to make people pay attention. Many considered him a hero then and others still now. This has nothing to do with what kind of person he is, and what you say is true.

      I consider myself a revolutionary nationalist dedicated to the liberation of the Chicano people as well as all peoples fighting for freedom and justice. Many before us laid the ground work for where we are now, and we have an obligation to critically study our history in order to know where we are going. If this post moves people to do that so be it. And please add to this history with your perspective, it should be told. Also in the near future I myself will publish more on the Chicano liberation struggle, including my research on Ricardo. I appreciate your feedback.

      • Hello, My name is Benjamin Ramos, the husband of Grace Chavez, the daughter of Ricardo Chavez-Ortiz. I am a Social Studies teacher and have been for 20 years now. I have to say that I feel that your response to my wife is indicative of a greater problem that exists in disaffected communities in the United States in general. Some, especially in the older generation in Mexican-American communities, seem to continue to revere people for the deeds and words that they engage in but want to ignore the very behavior that continues to contribute to the real problem that exists in many Mexican-American communities. What if Grace’s father continued to stand for what he stood for but was selfless enough not to just “care” about his people but also care about the very people that depended upon him the most, his own family. If he (and other men in his community), would have just worked within a system that has proven to be more pliable than what was once thought, perhaps poverty in these areas would not have been so severe. Wives and children would not have been left to fend for themselves. Your response to my wife was so blithe and insensitive to the fact that her dad, in acting in the manner that he did, almost destroyed a family and made life hell for his wife and children. The fact that he has not communicated with any of them (except the oldest) in 40 years demonstrates his selfishness to an immeasurable degree. Shame is no excuse. Should he be allowed that excuse? If so, the more his selfishness shines through. No political cause should rise above family. His act was short-sighted and should have been viewed that way. Change comes slowly, not in the types of silly, short-sighted, selfish acts that he took. The fact that you lionize him in your piece here really demonstrates a one-sidedness that can only be associated with an agenda unconcerned with the social problems that, in his act, Chavez-Ortiz contributed to. If you had done more research, you could have written a more balanced, more interesting piece. Instead, it sounds like an outdated piece designed for a Chicano-Studies class from the 1970’s. I think my wife, and the community, deserves more than the lionizing of a selfish individual who did not give a care to his family. And if you argue that this action gave impetus to a bravery that his family would carry with it, you are wrong. If anything, they despise and resent this man, and the bravery that they possess comes from seeing a mom almost literally break her back, leaving her kids so that she could go to work out of necessity for some days 12 hours a day to fend for themselves, while Chavez-Ortiz masqueraded as a Chicano activist. Where was the movement for my wife’s family when he was deported? Where was he? No financial help. No presence of any kind. Not a real father. Not a real man. I think my wife deserved more from you, from the movement, and certainly from him.

      • Ok, I’m allowing this comment through for the sake of discussion, but your vitriolic tone is bordering on trolling. So unless you have anything substantial to add your comments will not go through.

        It is clear we have disagreements on not only the legacy of Chavez-Ortiz but of the movement for liberation as a whole. I already gave that he may have fallen short as a person on many things, his family life included. But I am not one to measure someone by their personal life alone. I’m sure W. Bush and Obama are good to their families while they ordered the mass murder of poor people around the world. If you want me and others to reject what Chavez-Ortiz accomplished due to alleged faults in his personal life well you can forget it. You claim I do not do research but the only “research” you present is what your wife and you say with no way to verify it, and Ricardo not able to confirm or deny. I already stated I don’t measure what people have done solely on their personal life alone. You think that’s insensitive so be it.

        It seems your real agenda is to disparage the radical wings of the Chicano liberation struggle in favor of assimilationism. You both refer to his action as a crime. You blame his and others personal actions for the poverty and injustice suffered by our peoples at the time rather than the systemic oppression of capitalism and colonialism. And you both laud a relative who is a cop as a hero, even though in that role he is an agent of that oppressive system. I don’t dismiss the many mistakes those in the movement have done, but to dismiss the movement as a whole in favor of your right-wing blame the victim approach shows what your true colors are. Let’s just say we have different thoughts on all this. My work is for the liberation of all oppressed peoples around the world, and against their enemies. You want to give a different perspective on these issues go ahead and do that by whatever means you wish. But there will be no more trolling on this blog on this or anything else.

  2. This is Benjamin Ramos, again. How are you revolutionary if you are a “.com”? Maybe you can help me understand that one. Capitalism/imperialism. By your own standards, I would think that you would view “.coms” as part of the same imperialist beast. By being a “.com” aren’t you dipping into the capitalist/imperialist well? Unreal.

    • Anyone can purchase any domain names that are available, no matter what is at the end. As a social studies teacher you should know something about that. If this is the type of arguments you project, I feel sorry for the students you teach, they deserve better.

  3. what exactly happened to Ortiz after prison and is he still alive?

    • Hello Mr. Cooper,
      Yes, my father is still alive. Ricardo Chavez Ortiz resides in Mexico. I’m in communications with his sisters, but not my father.

  4. I’m praying that you would forgive your dad for what he thought at that time ,to SACRAFICE who he was for a greater need at that time. Its so unfortunate what you had to go thru as a family and I totally empathize with you, how many people do you know that would go out their way to speak up for people who couldn’t do it for themselves. We can say now thats what we do but back then very few had the courage. It may well be because of his SACRAFICE many benefited.. Many got courage, many began to stand up and speak out.just on the outside looking in.

  5. Heres Another Hero His Name Is Felax Longora

  6. We Should Name A Post Office After The Fallin Soldier


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Mexican National Liberation, National Liberation, Neo-Colonialism, News and Analysis