OC Supervisor Vicente Sarmiento, 2nd District

First County in the Nation: Supervisor Sarmiento Recognizes Chicano Heritage Month

Orange County Supervisor Sarmiento makes History: Orange to be the First County in the Nation to Recognize August as Chicano Heritage Month

I am honored to put forward a long-overdue, historic recognition of our Chicano community. I am proud that tomorrow, Orange County will be the first County in the nation to recognize August as Chicano Heritage Month to celebrate the significant contributions of our Chicano brothers and Chicana sisters.

Orange County played a historic role in the struggle of the Chicano movement. “Chicano” or “Chicana” is used interchangeably with “Mexican American,” although the term has different meanings for different people. Nonetheless, “Chicano” and “Chicana” was reclaimed by ethnic Mexicans in the 1960s and 1970s to express political empowerment, ethnic solidarity, and pride in being of Indigenous descent. The Chicano Movement, or El Movimiento, was a social and political movement in the United States, inspired by prior acts of resistance among people of Mexican descent that worked to embrace a Chicano/Chicana identity and worldview that combated structural racism, encouraged cultural revitalization, and achieved community empowerment. Examples of this movement are shown through the advocacy work of nationally well-known figures such as Vickie Castro, Ruben Salazar, Corky Gonzales, Sylvia Mendez, and Dolores Huerta.

Orange County connections to the Chicano movement are often overlooked despite a long history of notable Chicano residents, artists, and civil rights pioneers within the county. Santa Ana resident, Ruben Salazar, was the first Mexican American columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the first journalist to shed light on the Chicano community through mainstream media. Local artists such a Sergio O’Cadiz, Manuel Hernandez Trujillo, and Emigdio Vasquez, known as the ‘godfather’ of Chicano art, all contributed to national Chicano Art movement.

Orange County residents worked together in the historic Mendez et al. v. Westminster School District of Orange County et al. (1946) and Doss v. Bernal (1943) court cases which fought against racial segregation in the California public school system. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was unconstitutional and unlawful to forcibly segregate Mexican American students based on Mexican ancestry, skin color, and the Spanish language. Four other Orange County families worked together with the Mendez family in the class action lawsuit to fight against Mexican American school segregation. These include the families of Thomas Estrada and William Guzman of Santa Ana, Frank Palomino of Garden Grove, and Lorenzo Ramirez of Orange.

This was just three years after returning Chicano veteran Alejandro Bernal fought against racially restrictive housing covenants in the landmark Doss et al v. Bernal et al (1943). The OC Superior Court agreed with Bernal and found that racially restrictive housing covenants in Fullerton violated the constitution, thus laying a legal foundation for future rulings that made housing discrimination based on race illegal. 

Please join me in acknowledging and celebrating the contributions of our Chicano & Chicana community.


Vicente Sarmiento
Board of Supervisors, Second District
County of Orange

Emigdio Vasquez – “History of the Chicano Working Class” 422 Cypress Street, Orange, CA – photo by Shifra Goldman 1979 UC Santa Barbara Special Research Collections

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