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Brown Berets (Los Boinas Cafés)

Updated: Sep 14, 2023


Overview & Introduction


The Brown Berets are a semi-militant Chicano rights political organization active in California and other parts of the United States. Formed in 1967, the group is primarily composed of Mexican-Americans (referred to as Chicanos) and have historically campaigned against the Vietnam War, police brutality, and for farm worker rights (Estrada, n.d.). They have also supported secession of the Southwestern United States to Mexico.


Ideology & Values


The Brown Berets have referred to themselves as anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-fascist. They were part of the former Third World Liberation Front, a coalition of several minority student unions at San Francisco State University (Navarro et al., 1995). The group has most recently campaigned for the rights of illegal immigrants in California and other Southwestern states through peaceful protests and marches (Holmes et al., 2021).


Approach to Resistance


At their peak, the Brown Berets had chapters in over 12 states (Estrada, n.d.) and often led anti-war marches and pro-education walkouts with thousands of protesters (Mejías-Rentas, 2022). The group became known for its direct action and large protests against incidents of police brutality (Flores, 2020). In 1972, the Brown Berets occupied the California Island of Catalina for 3 weeks, demanding the land be returned to Mexico (Mejia, 2020). Similar to the Black Panthers, they ran social programs such as food distribution and a free clinic (Navarro et al., 1995).


Militant Abilities


It was reported that in 2017 the group offered free firearm and self-defence classes for brown women. According to one of the group's several Instagram accounts,@916nationalbrownberets, they have organized several protests against police killings of Chicano youth in various states and have also campaigned for legislation change to benefit workers rights in states like Milwaukee and California. The group has also been known to unite with the United Farm Workers Union and join them at protests. As of today, the group leads various community food and supply drives as well as other types of charity work.

Works Cited (MLA-style)

Estrada, Josue. “Brown Beret Chapters 1969-1972.” Brown Berets Chapters Map - Mapping American Social Movements, University of Washington , depts.washington.edu/moves/brown_beret_map.shtml. Accessed 14 Sept. 2023.

Flores, Paul. “To Protect and to Serve: Effects of the Relationship between the Brown Berets and Law Enforcement.” CSUSB ScholarWorks, California State University, San Bernardino, 2012, scholarworks.lib.csusb.edu/history-in-the-making/vol5/iss1/6/.


Holmes, Isiah. “Milwaukee Activists Call on Biden to Reverse Trump Immigration Policies.” Wisconsin Examiner, 1 Feb. 2021, wisconsinexaminer.com/2021/01/21/milwaukee-activists-call-on-biden-to-reverse-trump-immigration-policies/.


Mejia, Brittny. “Nearly Half a Century Ago, Chicano Activists Occupied Catalina Island. Locals Feared a Mexican ‘Invasion.’” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 16 Aug. 2020, www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-08-16/chicano-brown-berets-catalina-island-occupation.


Mejías-Rentas, Antonio. “How 1968 East L.A. Student Walkouts Ignited the Chicano Movement.” History.Com, A&E Television Networks, 14 Sept. 2022, www.history.com/news/east-los-angeles-chicano-student-walkouts-1968.


Navarro, Armando. Mexican American Youth Organization: Avant-Garde of the Chicano Movement in Texas. University of Texas Press, 1995.



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