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The Chicano Movement of the 1960s, also called the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, also known as El Movimiento, is an extension of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement which began in the 1940s with the stated goal of achieving "social liberation" and Mexican American empowerment.


The Chicano Movement encompassed a broad cross section of issues—from restoration of land grants, to farm workers' rights, to enhanced education, to voting and political rights, as well as emerging awareness of collective history. Socially, the Chicano Movement addressed what it perceived to be negative ethnic stereotypes of Mexicans in mass media and the American consciousness. Edward J. Escobar[217428] from The Journal of American History describes some of the negativity of the time in stating, "The conflict between Chicanos and the LAPD thus helped Mexican Americans develop a new political consciousness-a consciousness that included a greater sense of ethnic solidarity, an acknowledgment of their subordinated status in American society, and a greater determination to act politically, and perhaps even violently, to end that subordination. While most people of Mexican descent still refused to call themselves Chicanos, many had come to adopt many of the principles intrinsic in the concept of chicanismo." Chicanos did this through the creation of works of literary and visual art that validated the Mexican American ethnicity and culture.

The term Chicano was originally used as a derogatory label for the sons and daughters of Mexican migrants. This new generation of Mexican Americans were singled out by people on both sides of the border in whose view these Mexican Americans were not "American", yet they were not "Mexican", either. In the 1960s "Chicano" was accepted as a symbol of self-determination and ethnic pride.

The Chicano Movement also addressed discrimination in public and private institutions. Early in the twentieth century, Mexican Americans formed organizations to protect themselves from discrimination. One of those organizations, the League of United Latin American Citizens, was formed in 1929 and remains active today.

The Chicano Movement had 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.

The movement gained momentum after World War II when groups such as the American G.I. Forum (AGIF), which was formed by returning Mexican American veterans, joined in the efforts by other civil rights organizations. The AGIF first received national exposure when it took on the cause of Felix Longoria, a Mexican American serviceman who was denied funeral services in his hometown of Three Rivers, Texasmarker after being killed during WWII.

Mexican American civil rights activists also achieved several major legal victories including the 1947 Mendez v. Westminster Supreme Court ruling which declared that segregating children of "Mexican and Latin descent" was unconstitutional and the 1954 Hernandez v. Texas ruling which declared that Mexican Americans and other racial groups in the United States were entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

There were several leaders throughout the Chicano Movement. In New Mexico there was Reis López Tijerina who worked on the land grant movement. He fought to regain control of ancestral lands. He became involved in civil rights causes within six years and also became a cosponsor of the Poor People's March on Washington in 1967. In Texas, war veteran Dr. Hector P. Garcia founded the American GI Forum and was later appointed to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. In Denver, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez helped define the meaning of being a Chicano through his poem Yo Soy Joaquin (I am Joaquin)[217429]. In California, César Chávez and the farm workers turned to the struggle of urban youth, and created political awareness and participated in La Raza Unida Party.

The most prominent civil rights organization in the Mexican-American community is the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), founded in 1968. Although modeled after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, MALDEF has also taken on many of the functions of other organizations, including political advocacy and training of local leaders.

Some women who worked within the Chicano movement felt that participants were more concerned with other social issues affecting the Chicano community rather than addressing problems that affected Chicana women specifically. This led Chicana women to form the Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional. In 1975, it became involved in the case Madrigal vs. Quilligan, obtaining a moratorium on the compulsory sterilization of women and adoption of bilingual consent forms. These steps were necessary because many Hispanic women who did not understand English well were being sterilized in the United States at the time, without proper consent.

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. The Chicano Art Movement also opened a gate women for Chicanas who felt oppressed by Chicano men, or the Chicano Movement in general.

Political activism

In 1949 and 1950, the American G.I. Forum initiated local “pay your poll tax” drives to register Mexican American voters. Although they were unable to repeal the poll tax, their efforts did bring in new Hispanic voters who would begin to elect Latino representatives to the Texas House of Representatives and to Congress during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

In California, a similar phenomenon took place. When World War II veteran Edward R. Roybal ran for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, community activists established the Community Service Organization (CSO). The CSO was effective in registering 15,000 new voters in Latino neighborhoods. With this newfound support, Roybal was able to win the 1949 election race against the incumbent councilman and become the first Mexican American since 1886 to win a seat on the Los Angeles City Council.

The Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), founded in Fresno, Californiamarker came into being in 1959 and drew up a plan for direct electoral politics. MAPA soon became the primary political voice for the Mexican-American community of California.

Student walkouts

After World War II, Chicanos began to assert their own views of their own history and status as Mexican Americans in the US and they began to critically analyze what they were being taught in public schools.

In the late 1960's, when the student movement was active around the globe, the Chicano Movement inspired its own organized protests like the mass walkouts of high school students and the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angelesmarker in 1970. The student walkouts occurred in Denvermarker and East LA of 1968. There were also many incidents of walkouts outside of the city of Los Angelesmarker. In the LA County high schools of El Montemarker, Alhambramarker, and Covinamarker (particularly Northview) the students marched to fight for their rights. Similar walkouts took place in 1978 of Houstonmarker high schools to protest the discrepant academic quality for latino students. There were also several student sit-ins as objection to the decreasing funding of Chicano courses.

The blowouts of the 1960's can be compared to the 2006 walkouts, which were done as opposition to the Illegal Immigration Control bill.

Student and youth organizations

Chicano student groups such as United Mexican American Students (UMAS), Mexican American Youth Association (MAYA) in California, and the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) in Texas, developed in universities and colleges in the mid 1960’s. At the historic meeting at the University of California, Santa Barbara in April 1969, the diverse student organizations came together under the new name Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA). Student groups such as these were initially concerned with education issues, but their activities evolved to participation in political campaigns and to various forms of protest against broader issues such as police brutality and the U.S. war in Southeast Asia. The Brown Berets, a youth group which began in California, took on a more militant and nationalistic ideology.


(Taken from the Chicano Activism section of the main article Aztlán)

The concept of Aztlán as the place of origin of the pre-Columbian Mexican civilization has become a symbol for various Mexican nationalist and indigenous movements.

The name Aztlán was first taken up by a group of Chicano independence activists led by Oscar Zeta Acosta during the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s. They used the name "Aztlán" to refer to the lands of Northern Mexico that were annexed by the United States as a result of the Mexican-American War. Combined with the claim of some historical linguists and anthropologists that the original homeland of the Aztecan peoples was located in the southwestern United States, Aztlán in this sense became a symbol for mestizo activists who believe they have a legal and primordial right to the land. In order to exercise this right, some members of the Chicano movement propose that a new nation be created, The Republic of Aztlán.

Groups who have used the name "Aztlán" in this manner include Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, "Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán"), and the Nation of Aztlán (NOA).

Many in the Chicano Movement attribute poet Alurista for popularizing the term Aztlán in a poem presented during the Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver, Colorado, March 1969.


  • Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez, El Teatro Campesino: Theater in the Chicano Movement (University of Texas Press, 1994).
  • Edward J. Escobar, "The Dialectics of Repression: The Los Angeles Police Department and the Chicano Movement, 1968-1971" (The Journal of American History, 1993 Vol. 79, No. 4, pp. 1483-1514).
  • Ignacio M. García, Chicanismo: The Forging of a Militant Ethos Among Mexican Americans (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997).
  • Mario T. García, Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, & Identity, 1930-1960 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).
  • George Mariscal, Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005).
  • Carlos Muñoz, Jr., Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement (New York: Verso, 1989). ISBN 0-86091-913-7
  • Juan Gómez Quiñones, Chicano Politics: Reality & Promise, 1940-1990 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990). ISBN 0-8263-1213-6
  • F. Arturo Rosales, Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1996). ISBN 1-55885-201-8
  • F. Arturo Rosales, Testimonio: A Documentary History of the Mexican-American Struggle for Civil Rights (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2000).


  1. History | LULAC-League of United Latin American Citizens
  2. American GI Forum - About Us
  3. DefenseLink News Article: Congress Lauds American G.I. Forum Founder Garcia
  4. LatinoLA - Latino Hollywood - On Screen and Behind the Scenes
  6. MALDEF - About Us
  7. STERILIZED in the Name of Public Health
  8. California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives
  9. "Our First Poll Tax Drive": The American G.I. Forum Fights Disenfranchisement of Mexican Americans in Texas
  10. Election of Roybal, democracy at work : extension of remarks of Hon. Chet Holifield of California in the House of Representatives
  11. California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives
  13. Our PLACE Called Home - The Chicano Student Walkout
  14. Moore, J. W., & Cuéllar, A. B. (1970). Mexican Americans. Ethnic groups in American life series. Englewood, Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. p. 150. ISBN 0135794900
  15. Moore, J. W., & Cuéllar, A. B. (1970). Mexican Americans. Ethnic groups in American life series. Englewood, Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. p. 151. ISBN 0135794900

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