Thursday, March 10, 2011

FYI: The Chicano Movement

The Chicano Movement

The key to understanding the Chicano experience today is to know that the heritage of people of Mexican ancestry in the United States stretches back thousands of years and includes European, Indian and African influences. For many, their ancestral roots on American soil predate the arrival of the Mayflower. The Chicano Civil Rights Movement of the 1970s not only sought social justice and equality for Mexican-Americans, but also sought to reclaim and educate people of their rich heritage. No single story or definition neatly depicts the Chicano experience, just as no one story can capture the heart and soul of any group in the United States. The Chicano experience is diverse, complex and dynamic.

It can be said that the Chicano Movement has been fomenting since the end of the U.S.- Mexican War in 1848, when the current U.S-Mexican border took form and hundreds of thousands of Mexicans became U.S. citizens overnight. Since that time, countless Chicanos and Chicanas have confronted discrimination, racism and exploitation. The Chicano Movement that culminated in the early 1970s took inspiration from heroes and heroines from their indigenous, Mexican and American past. Community leaders, scholars, activists, artists, educators and students ushered in the Movement. Leaders such as Reies López Tijerina, Corky González, César Chávez and Dolores Huerta gave the Movement national leaders and voices and called attention to the issues facing Chicanos.

Part of the Chicano initiative was to establish a variety of educational goals: reduction of school dropout rates; improvement of educational attainment; development of bilingual-bicultural programs; and expansion of higher education fellowships and support services. Still others include the development of Chicano centered curricula, the creation of courses and programs in Chicano studies, and an increase in the number of Chicano teachers and administrators. Thousands of students also mobilized and formed student organizations geared towards education reform, activism, and peer support.

A major element of the Movement was the burgeoning of Chicano art fueled by heightened political activism and energized cultural pride. Chicano visual art, music, literature, dance, theater and other forms of expression have flourished. During the 20th century, an emergence of Chicano expression developed into a full-scale Chicano Art Movement. Chicanos developed a wealth of cultural expression through such media as painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking. Similarly, novels, poetry, short stories, essays and plays have flowed from the pens of contemporary Chicano writers. Chicano, Mexican-American, and Hispanic cultural centers, theaters, film festivals, museums, galleries and numerous other arts and cultural organizations have also grown in number and impact since this time.

Much of Chicano artistic expression, however, has been excluded from mainstream museums and cultural institutions. That is one of the reasons why Chicanos have created so many of their own institutions. There has been continued development of Chicano arts but its validation has not come from mainstream art institutions. Only recently has Chicano and Latino art been exhibited in a small number of mainstream museums.

There is no question that Chicanos have sustained a strong cultural presence in the Southwest, and that this has had a major influence on our nation's music, art, language, food, fashion and life style. One only has to visit Los Angeles, Tucson, Santa Fe, San Antonio or Denver to witness this. Yet broader mainstream American society understands Chicanos the least of the major U.S. ethnic groups.

Venceremos! We Will Win!
Sacramento, California
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F.Kennedy ~ c/s

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