The Origins & History of the chicano movement

By: Jesus Ochoa
• Many mark the beginning of the Chicano
movement back to when Columbus set foot on
the Americas. Others mark it in the beginning
at the time of the defense of Tenochtitlan and
others set it at the end of the MexicanAmerican War.
• The modern Chicano political movement,
most people agree, began in the mid 1960’s
when the struggle was both for the
human/civil rights and the movement for
• Some of the main focal points was to raise the
number of people of color to attend the
universities as well as the establishment of
different ethnic studies
• As Roberto Rodriguez explains, the best term to refer to in these situations is movement[s] because the struggles
were all different with many different goals and dreams that many Chicanos envisioned.
• Some of the struggles included; (PG 1)
To improve the lives of farm workers
The effort to end Jim Crow style segregation
The movement to improve the education system
The land grant struggles
• Throughout time, other movements evolved that included gender equality, immigration rights, & even an access
to a higher education
• Most of these movements gave birth to several organizations such as Brown Berets, the Crusade for Justice, the
Mexican American Youth Organization and one of the most well known one around university campuses is the
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) which, according to Ada Sosa-Riddell (director of the
Chicana/Latina Center in UCDavis, ‘represents one of the long lasting legacies of the Chicano movement.’
• Many of the activists from the 60’s and 70’s felt that
they can make a huge difference. Lea Ybarra, a
professor over at CSUFresno states that she feels like
this generation takes so much for granted and “That
majority of professors are more radical than the
students (PG 2).”
• Luis Arroyo, a professor at CSULB states that the
Chicano movement began as a movement for dignity
& self respect. “As time went by, we began to develop
competing definitions as to what the movement was
(PG 2),” he states.
• To this day, those competing definitions continue to
shape how many scholars and activists define what
the movement was or wasn’t, when it started, when &
if it ended & what it should be.
• Many of the activists that participated in such events
(most who were students) work with youth, in health or
legal clinics or teach in schools.
• The main thing that differentiates the Chicano
movement from Mexican civil right struggles that
took place before is the is the strong student base
at college campuses
• The role of students in the 60’s and 70’s was
unique because campuses became a political arena
of war. While there had always been resistance
power since the Mexican American War, it wasn’t
til after WWII that Chicanos started getting
noticed on college campuses.
• Chicanos/Chicanas started appearing on
campuses with high numbers in the 60’s. Prior
absence was because there was so much
segregation & discrimination in the education
• There was no eagerness in teaching the history of
African Americans as well as Chicanos because
after the Mexican American war, whites didn’t
think it was necessary to teach the Mexican
• Arturo Madrid, a professor at Trinity University
states that there are countless untapped
wealth of literature in Mexico about the
Mexican-origin population in the U.S. prior to
the 1960’s
• Felix Gutierrez, director of the Freedom
Forum’s Pacific Media Center says that
“Political Activism has always been a part of
the Mexican American Community. ‘What
people were talking about in the 1960’s, we
were living in the 1950’s,’” he says.
• Gutierrez followed his parents footsteps and
obtained a Master’s degree in journalism at a
time when whites could obtain a job in the
newsroom without degrees but as for
Gutierrez, he couldn’t. He’s considered one
of the nation’s top media experts
• While Gutierrez sees the birth of the Chicano
movement as a resurgence of the earlier
1930’s-50’s movement, he distinguishes the
1960’s as a ”period of turbulence.”
• Elizabeth Martinez, director of the New
York chapter of the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee says that
Chicano movement had not simply
symbolic links with the civil rights
movement but actual ties (PG 3).
• Many other Chicanos were involved
with the Black civil rights movement
• Martinez herself grew up riding in the
back of the bus which is why she has a
strong bond with the civil rights
• In ’63, after 4 little girls were killed,
Martinez was enraged to the point where
she joined the organization as a full-time
• In ‘66, aware of the uneasy race relations,
she wrote an article titled “Neither White
or Black.”. She pointed out an issue that
dates back to many decades prior; when
it comes down to race, Latinos don’t
matter (PG 4)
• In later years, the struggle over access to
a higher education became increasingly
important. High schools, colleges and
universities became the focus point of
• UCLA professor, Juan Gomez Quinonez
states that “While resistance has always
been present in the Chicano community,
‘something different did happen in the
1960’s that wasn’t there before. It was an
attitude.’” (PG 4)
Prior to the Chicano movement, many
people of Mexican-origin privately spoke
of the Southwest as a Mexican land but it
wasn’t until after the civil rights
movement, it was spoken out in public
‘When Chicano studies was created, its
purpose was to give intellectual support
to the movement and to listen to the
voices of both men and women & the
community organizations
• Chicano studies was created, its purpose was to
give intellectual support to the movement & to
listen to the voices of both men and woman &
the community organizations.
• “Prior to the development of Chicano studies as
a discipline, very little knowledge existed about
the Chicano” says Refugio Rochin (PG 4).
Neither was there a Chicano studies curriculum
& very few Chicano professors
• With the rising of ethnic studies, for the very first
time, Chicanos & Chicanas began to gain
knowledge about their community
• “It also connected Chicanos to their indigenous
roots & Native American studies & changed the
way we viewed the land we lived in,” Rochin
adds (PG 5)
• Rochin also states that there were very few
Chicano research centers throughout the
Midwest because most were developed in
California where Chicanos were numerous
• Rochin also states that multiculturalism has
actually “killed interest in Chicano studies”
• Additionally, the notion of grouping all
Latinos under the rubric as ‘Hispanics” has
also weakened & diluted the intent of
Chicano studies (PG 5)
• Professors nowadays with little or no
connection to Chicano studies get hired by
the simple fact that they’re from Spain or
South America.
• “Madrid agrees that after the initial phase
of Chicano studies, Chicano(a) scholarsnot by their choosing- generally confined
their studies to the university (PG 5)” This is
what motivated a # of scholars to create
the Tomas Rivera Center in 1984
• Maria Herrera Sobek, a professor at UCI is a
kind of scholar that was both a product
and a participant of the Chicano
movement. Growing up, picking cotton,
daughter of both farmed workers,
attended segregated schools in Texas.
Today, she is a renowned poet which her
background helped her shape her
academic studies.
• “Chicano studies have been great for the
university an d the community, however, I
agrees that Chicano scholars have not
been successful at presenting their
research to the public. The opposition has
shaped the debate (PG 6)
Antonio Castaneda, a history professor at the
university of Texas says that Chicano Studies has
challenged the structure of the university. But
because it’s relatively a new field, it has
historically been in a struggle for survival
That’s part of the reason why many scholars
didn’t engage in public police debates
“The issue of housing, health, education and
child warfare have not gone away,” Castaneda
states. “Power will always make room for
• Ybarra was present when the NACCS was
formed. “By the time NACCS was created in
1974, women had already taken into
account,” she states (PG 6). Woman had
already engaged in many leadership roles
around that time
• The women of NACCS didn’t allow themselves
to be walked upon. Despite this, NACCS did
not have a conference dedicated to women
until ’83
• Contrary to the belief that Mexican family
promoted Chicano scholars, in which women
stays at home and raise children, Mexican
women have always worked at both wage
and unwaged labor. “For instance, Chicano
scholars have examined police brutality, but
not internal violence directed at women (PG
• Chicana feminists scholars are exploring issues
ignored by Chicanos, such as the role of
women & gender on colonial society & the
early role of women in community, civil &
human rights organizations.
• This emphasis on examining women’s
issues cause a big conflict. The hugest
conflict was internal- among
Chicanas,” states Sosa-Riddell (PG 7)
• Some of the heavy issues were issues
on how to deal with lesbians. Yet, to
this day, many of the same issues
came intense conflict, she adds.
• MALCS has allowed for a full
articulation of feminism, says SosaRidell. For instance, Cynthia Orozco,
visiting scholar, University of New
Mexico has challenged the 1969 ‘El
Plan De Santa Barbara.” the
document which laid the foundation
for Chicano studies as excluding
• “Many scholars maintain that ever since
the death of farm labor leader Cesar
Chavez in ‘93, there has been a
resurgence in the Chicano movement,
particularly at colleges and universities
nationwide (PG 7)”
• This activism peaked when in ‘94, many
high scholars and colleagues walked
out of schools and held marches to the
opposition of California’s antiimmigration proposition 187.
Ybarra states that despite all the attacks that
continue to chase Latinos and many others of
color, we have to stand on our toes and be
proud of who we are. She states that there is so
much more to do in the future but yet again
we accomplished so much within the last
She concludes “There will always be a need for
Chicano studies. It is a discipline, it’s not taught
in high schools and our color’s not going to
change. (PG 7)”
• Genevieve Aguilar, a senior at Hanks High syas that the Chicano
movement is far from dead. “It lives in students like me who fight for
what we still believe in today (PG 7).” She also states that she fights
against those who believe that racism isn’t in the world and that there
is not need for ethnic studies.
• Maria Jimenez, a long-time human rights activist & director of the
immigration & Law Enforcement Monitoring Project says that the
proposed Latino march on Washington may be the culmination of 2530 years. She views the call as ‘A maturation of political forces.’
• From my believe, Latinos & Latinas have always had local marches
because they’ve wanted to respond to the local conditions they live
• She finishes off stating that “WE’RE HERE, WE’E ALWAYS BEEN HERE &
• Rodriguez, Roberto, (Writer) ‘The Origins & History of the Chicano Movement,” JSRI
Occasional Paper #7. The Julian Samora Research Institute, Michigan State University, East
Lansing, Michigan, 1996.

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