2011-02-08 11:12:25

The term Chicano is a politicocultural indicator of one’s identification as a pure-blood or mestizo (mixed race) descendant of the native peoples of the old Aztec homeland of Aztlán. Its origins are unclear, but it was first widely used by young people in the U.S. Southwest during the 1950s. As frustration set in over the lack of economic and social progress during the 1960s, many Mexican-American leaders throughout the southwestern states adopted the term as an affirmation of their Indian past and a rejection of European- American values. Going beyond the traditional political tactics of earlier Mexican-American organizations, Chicano leaders encouraged greater militancy in their activism. JOSE ANGEL GUTIERREZ established the Mexican American Youth Organization in Texas, organizing a series of consciousnessraising high school “walkouts” to protest Anglocentric textbooks and educational discrimination. In Denver, Colorado, (Rodolfo) Corky Gonzales left the Democratic Party in 1965 to form a Chicano-rights organization, the Crusade for Justice. He was also instrumental in defining the Chicano movement by helping draft the manifesto El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán (1969) and writing its most enduring piece of literature, the epic poem I Am Joaquín. Both men were prominent in establishing the national La Raza Unida Party (LRUP), the political arm of the Chicano movement, which was most prominent in the mid-1970s. During the 1970s, the Chicano movement was closely associated with Cesar Chavez’s struggle to improve conditions for migrant farmworkers, the vast majority of whom wereMexicans. By the late 1970s, Chicano activism began to subside and with it, the political prevalence of the term.
See also Mexican immigration; Reies Lopez Tijerina.