Felícitas Nuñez lives in Bermuda Dunes, California. She and Delia Ravelo are co-founders of Teatro de Las Chicanas. The concept began when women of Movimiento Estudíantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) brought their mothers to a university setting. There they organized a “Seminario de Chicanas” so that the mothers could understand what their daughters were going through. They wrote and performed “Chicana Goes to College.” And as a result of the audience’s positive response, Ms. Nuñez and Ms. Ravelo formed the Teatro de Las Chicanas. In the beginning years the core group consisted of just Ms. Ravelo and Ms. Nuñez, but many young women participated in the Teatro. Though working in San Diego, they were influenced by the leftist political ideals of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. They also united with the objectives of the Chicano Movement which included, among other things, social justice, bilingual education, and unionization. It also went further to address women’s equality. Several of the plays written and performed by the Teatro as well as the memories of their core members have been published in Teatro Chicana: A Collective Memoir and Selected Plays (2008). Most of the women who joined the Teatro came from farming towns throughout California and most of them were the first of their families to attend college. Around the early part of June 1969, Ms. Nuñez traveled to Chicago and met with the Young Lords who were transforming themselves from a local Puerto Rican gang into a human rights movement. One month earlier, the Young Lords had occupied the administration building of McCormick Theological Seminary (today on the campus of DePaul University) with 350 neighborhood residents and held it for an entire week. The Young Lords won all their demands, including $50,000 seed money for two free health clinics, $25,000 to open up the People’s Law Office which still operates today, and $650,000 to be invested by the seminary in low-income housing. One week earlier, the Young Lords had occupied a huge United Methodist Church on Dayton and Armitage, which they were in the process of transforming to become the Young Lords National Headquarters. The church would also house their Free Community Day Care Center, Free Dental and Health Clinic, and Free Breakfast for Children Program. All these programs were modeled after the Black Panther Party programs, of which the Young Lords had recently also connected via Fred Hampton’s Rainbow Coalition that Field Marshall Bobby Lee had also helped to broker. After the take-over of the church, the Young Lords quickly made amends. They did not want to disrupt any church service. When asked by the press if the Young Lords were going to allow the church to hold service, Mr. Jiménez quickly responded, “that it was not really a take over as the doors were now open to everyone, and that he and other Young Lords were planning on attending the services, being led by Rev. Bruce Johnson.” Some members of the congregation left but the Young Lords started meetings with the rest of the congregation, and together they designed the People’s Church symbol and produced a button that showed chains being broken. The Young Lords were cleaning up the church and adding needed paint when Ms. Nuñez arrived and volunteered to organize a group of muralists. Inside the church, Ron Clark and others were painting a mural of Puerto Rican history in the gymnasium. Outside, Ms. Nuñez’s group painted the Young Lords symbol of ”Tengo Puerto Rico En Mi Corazón” or “I have Puerto Rico in my Heart.” This lettering was in purple, with a green map of Puerto Rico, and a brown fist holding a rifle. (It had been designed by Ralph “Spaghetti” Rivera and Mr. Jiménez. The first buttons were printed at the Green Duc Button Company at Lake Street and Halsted). Other murals that Ms. Nuñez and her volunteers painted on the church walls were images of Adelita, Emiliano Zapata, Lolita Lebrón, and Don Pedro Albizu Campos. Someone else, probably Ron Clark, painted Che Guevara by the side entrance to the office, with the lettering “Young Lords National Headquarters.” These wonderful murals could not be overlooked in Lincoln Park. Not only were they featured in the news, but Lincoln Park residents would drive by and stop in to see the various programs and activities, making People’s Church the center of the Lincoln Park neighborhood. By then most Puerto Ricans had been forced out of Lincoln Park and there was also plenty of room for others to join the Young Lords Movement. Hispanos representing all Latino nations joined the Young Lords, including members of other minorities, middle class individuals, workers, the very poor, and students. The Lincoln Park Poor People’s Coalition was formed and Mr. Jiménez was voted president. The Northside Cooperative Ministry, of which Rev. Bruce Johnson was a prominent member, was also established during this period, and it supported the Poor People’s Coalition and the Young Lords. Just sixty days before Mark Clark and Fred Hampton were shot to death, assassinated in a predawn raid led by State’s attorney Edward Hanrahan, Rev. Bruce Johnson and his wife Eugenia were also discovered in their beds stabbed multiple times, in a cold case that remains unsolved. The Eulogy was given at the church with Young Lords fully participating, providing security and traffic control. There was also a spontaneous march through the Lincoln Park Community where Rev. Bruce Johnson worked with the poor. Ms. Nuñez left Chicago unaware of the impact she had made in the Puerto Rican community and in Lincoln Park. The Teatro Chicana did participate in the impromptu Lincoln Park Camp in Michigan in the 2000 and the Young Lords 40th Anniversary celebration in Chicago in 2008.
Jiménez, José, 1948-
Grand Valley State University. University Libraries. Special Collections & University Archives