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intended to provide an overview of the individuals and movements who played important part in Chicano movement
Chicano movement is one of the most eminent chapters in the history of Mexican-Americans. The Chicano movement reflects a decade's long pursuit of Mexican-Americans for their rights. Although it has its roots in 1800s, the movement grew stronger in 1940s. In order to understand what Chicano movement really is, one needs to understand the past events leading to it. It is a common saying in Mexican-Americans that we did not crossed the borders, the border crossed us. There have been several treaties signed between Mexicans and Americans which provided a lot of benefits to Mexicans along with citizenship, however when the senate revised these treaties, all these leverages were removed depriving Mexicans of their lands and other properties. Then started the journey of Chicano Movement. There are various individuals and several movements who have played an important role in helping Chicano movement achieve some of its objectives.
The Chicano movement has its roots in the long forgotten Mexican-American history. Mexicans who were the owners of the land in Southeast. Most of them, were mainly uneducated. In some cases, they had a mixed race of Mexican Europeans and were often labeled as low-class white people. They were further named as Cholos which was a further insulting term. After their arrival in California in the mid 1900s, Anglos were able to identify these differences in social classes and made alliances with the influential people which made them gain strength (Chavez, 2002).
Before gold was found Mexicans living in California were considered the same, as equals with same privileges as whites. It was all taken away and Anglos distanced themselves from Mexicans; their social status and political power stripped away. Their dark skin was considered as poverty. The elite Europeans considered Dark skin as a symbol of low-class scumbags. As Ian Haney mentioned in his book, "Money Whitens" was a common remark which was rather famous in American from Latin origins.
There was a treaty signed in 1848 by Guadlupe Hidalgo who ended the U.S.-Mexican war and gave the Southwest part of Mexico to U.S. For 15 million dollars. The treaty involved clauses which guaranteed that various rights for the residents of that area. These included recognition of their rights as a citizen and Alps acceptance of them as citizens after one year of treaty. However, after ratification of this treaty by Senate, these clauses were removed which earlier benefited the Mexican-Americans. Hence, the Mexicans were evicted out of their own properties, disenfranchised from the political process and were subjected to an institutionalized discrimination.
Further, during 1930 and 1950s, various organizations were actively involved in restoring the rights of Mexican-Americans at local, national and regional levels. Some of these key organizations are the Community Service Organizations (CSO), the G.I. Forum, and the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Some of the community services organizations were exceptionally successful in helping Mexican-American candidates applying for local and state offices. Out of these, the G.I. Forum was more active in dealing Mexican-American veterans and was actively involved in political promotion and promulgation of segregation class action suits. In addition to it, LULAC was formed in 1929. It specialized in struggle against discriminating behavior that Mexicans were subjected to in the field of law, education and employment. It has fought various civil rights cases having a standard of a landmark. Some of these cases are Mendez v. Westminster of 1947, which legally ended the segregation of Mexican-American children in California schools. LULAC was also involved in Hernandez v. Texas of 1954, which affirmed the 14th Amendment rights of Mexican-Americans to due process and equal protection under the law.
The original 1960s Chicano Movement criticized the organizations involved in discriminating against Mexican-Americans largely. This was because of ignorant attitude towards the lower classes of Mexican-American race which included laborers, students and other migrants. Since the foundation of this struggle was to be accepted as Mexican-American and be given equal rights, the Chicano movement adopted the culture and identity of traditional Mexicans.
Cesar Estrada Chavez was an eminent part of Community Service Organization (CSO). After joining in 1952 as community organizer, he acquired the office of director in 1958. Although CSO was very effective in its pursuit, it decided not to support Agricultural Worker Association formed by Dolores Huerta who was one of the pioneers of CSO. In his support, Chavez resigned from CSO and they both formed National Farm Workers Association. This association held various successful work stoppages, marches, boycotts, and hunger strikes and continued a series of them. These attempts were intended to provide better work conditions and pays to farm workers. Chavez with his association further launched a five years struggle in 1965, against grape growers. The attempt was highly successful as it led to the boycott of non-union California grapes with the strength of 17 million people. In 1980s, the protests against the use of dangerous pesticide brought a lot of fame to Chavez.. He became an icon for Mexican-Americans and was well-supported by the unions, students, reformers and politicians. He passed away in 1993 and since then many streets, schools, community centers etc. have been named after him (Munoz, 1989).
After Pentecostal minister Reies Lopez Tijerina (1926- ) failed in his attempt to create a utopian religious cooperative in Arizona, he moved to New Mexico and established the Alianza Federal de Mercedes (Federal Land Grant Alliance) in 1963, with the goal of regaining legal ownership of land lost since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. When failed in making the courts hear its case, the members of these organizations claimed the land of Carson National which was a forest. It was previously owned by the members. During this attempt, they detained a part of this land and declared this land an independent state. However, after five years, they gave in. The members of these two alliances further attacked the courts throughout the country as an attempt to make their prisoners free. During these disputes, the two officials were shot and two more were made hostages. This lead to the largest manhunt in Mexican history. However, this search ended when Tijerina surrendered. However, since then Tijerina got himself substantial attention and gain a lot of public support in land-grant pursuit. After presentation in the court, he won an acquittal however he was sentenced to two years of imprisonment due to minor charges against him. However, when he was sent to the prison, he became the signature icon of the Chicano movement. When released in 1971, he continued his struggle for Mexican-American rights however he has been residing in Mexico since then (Garcia, 1997).
Rodolfo Gonzales was another eminent leader who was the leading figure in urban youth movement. Although he was a boxer in 1940s, he became an active member of Democratic party. There he was made a district captain. By 1966, he left the Democrats and founded La Crusada Para la Justicia (the Crusade for Justice), an organization that supported Chicano civil rights, education, and cultural awareness. He authored Yo Soy Joaquin (I Am Joaquin), one of the most defining writings to come out of the Chicano movement. This poem presented the idea of conflict perceived in terms of Mexican-American identity. This poem further introduced a nationalist culture in the movement. He further organized First National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in 1969 in which El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan (Spiritual Plan of Aztlan) was adopted. The basic motive of this was to promote a true Chicano culture and Chicano nationalization and further lay down the foundation of Chicano political party. In 1970s, Gonzales, his attempts to set up a national party with the name Colorado La Raza Unida Party, and national Raza Unida Party. However, in 1974, he left the party when it split into disputatious factions into two distinct groups; one of them wanted Chicano political candidates and another sect who wanted radical social reform. However, his struggle continued for the rights of Chicanos.
Other major events that shaped Chicano movement were the student walkouts. In 19602, when the Chicano movement was at its peak, students organized various protests . Some of the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles in 1970.and in Denver and East LA of 1968. Similar walkouts took place in Houston as well. The resistance showed by the students in 1960s is quite similar to the students attempt in Illegal Immigration Control bill (Gonzales, 2000).
In the mid 1960s, Chicano students groups also started rigorous effort in developing Chicano community. Some of these major groups are United Mexican-American Students (UMAS), Mexican-American Youth Association (MAYA) in California, and the Mexican-American Youth Organization (MAYO) in Texas. They developed various educational institutions. These youth groups were initially limited to the educational problems only but then they expanded their activities to politics as well. The protests were further expanded against many other areas such brutal treatment of police towards the ethnic groups and further U.S. invasion in…[continue]
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