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Interpreting the Evidence

Letter from Congressman Herman Badillo Regarding Harassment of Puerto Rican Soldier, 1971

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Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Letter from Congressman Herman Badillo to Major General William A. Becker regarding the court-martial and alleged harassment of Private Louis A. Lopez, Jr., April 12, 1971.
Historical Context
The Vietnam Conflict occurred from 1959 to 1975, when the communist North Vietnamese government tried to take over the South Vietnamese Republic of Vietnam.  The U.S. sent military advisors to South Vietnam beginning as early as 1950, but large numbers of American combat troops did not begin to arrive until 1965.  

The U.S. military did not classify Hispanic or Latino servicemen as a race until after the Vietnam conflict ended. Previously, Latino or Chicano service personnel were classified as either Caucasian or Black, according to their skin color.  It is therefore difficult to obtain exact statistics of the number of Hispanic soldiers in Vietnam, though some sources estimate that there were approximately 80,000 Hispanics serving in Vietnam.

The Vietnam conflict occurred at a time in history when minorities struggled to overcome discrimination and racism in the United States.  The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s worked toward the end of segregation and the protection of the civil rights of African Americans.  The movement also inspired Hispanics and other minorities to fight for their equal rights.  

The case of Luis Lopez, Jr., illustrates one instance in which discrimination and racist attitudes affected Hispanic military personnel who were serving in Vietnam.
Essential Question
How does war influence the civil rights of citizens?
Check for Understanding
Identify the main idea of this letter and explain why the representative felt it was necessary to write this letter.
Historical Challenges
Learn about the contributions Puerto Ricans have made to our national defense during wartime, both by serving in the military and by providing labor to keep the home front economy going.
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Using this letter as an example of writing to request information, write (and mail) a letter requesting some type of information.