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Chicano studies is an area studies unit housing multi-disciplines that teach and research the corpus of knowledge dealing with Mexicanmarker origin people in the United Statesmarker. It is not a branch of Ethnic studies; the later houses disparate ethnic groups and concentrates on the study of race. The only similarity is that it incorporates aspects of various other disciplines, including history, sociology, psychology, and literary and textual analysis from the academic studies and documents. Chicano Studies further focuses on the teaching of Mexican origin and Latino studies, hence it is a teaching as well as a research field.

Initially most Chicano studies departments developed at public universities in the Southwestern United States, particularly in Californiamarker. Courses of study in Chicano studies were initiated at private and non-Southwestern colleges and universities. However, from the beginning there was a growing movement toward Chicana/o Studies in the Northwest and Midwest which by 1980 had sizable Mexican colonias—many of the migrant families were from Texasmarker. There has been a growing trend to offer similar courses of study under the titles of Latino studies or Latin American Studies. For the most part, this is a trend promoted by administrators to save costs and limit the voices of Mexican Americans and other minorities on campus. The dramatic population surge of Mexican origin and Latino peoples in the United States—numbers 45 million—has spurred a renewed demand of Chicana/o Studies.

Some emphases in Chicano studies are social change, identity, and borders. The Plan de Santa Bárbara the document that became the manifesto, the educational aims of the Chicano Movement and a charter of the student activist group MEChA, emphasizes the need for Chicanos and Chicanas to use their educations to improve their communities when it proclaims that "man is never closer to his true self as when he is closer to his community". Some Chicano studies departments maintain a strong commitment to campus and community activism. However, the growing professionalization of the faculty has led to the strengthening of the disciplines and a leveling off of the studies and community involvement approach.


It is simplistic to say that Mexican Americans and other Latinos have always studied themselves. Fray Angélico Chávez took a Hispano view of the history of New Mexico, George I. Sánchez analyzed sociological statistics pertaining to Mexican Americans, Américo Paredes compiled and rendered Mexican American folklore, Carey McWilliams documented the lives and struggles of Mexican Americans, Ernesto Galarza organized agricultural workers and migration; they were all pioneers in the field. But the study and teaching was not institutionalized until the late 1960s, although Julián Samora established the Mexican-American Studies Center at Notre Dame in the early 1960s.

The major thrust for Chicano Studies came within the context of the African-American civil rights struggle. During this period, Mexican American educators demanded that colleges and universities address the pedagogical needs of Mexican American students who the schools were failing. Major themes were bilingual education and the building of positive self-images. In 1967, a student collective at the University of California, Berkeleymarker (Cal) began publishing El Grito: A Journal of Contemporary Mexican American Thought. About three years later, students and faculty at University of California, Los Angelesmarker (UCLA) began publishing Aztlán: A Chicano Journal of the Social Sciences and the Arts. These publications define the interdisciplinary nature of Chicano Studies.

Chicano studies programs and departments were born out of the struggle. The formation of the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) in California and the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) were major catalysts. Exploratory programs were developed at California State College, Los Angeles (CSCLA) now California State University, Los Angelesmarker (CSULA) in 1968 and at California State University, Fresnomarker (Fresno State). At the height of the Chicano student movement that spawned the Chicano Blowouts, (a massive student boycott to protest unfair conditions in Los Angeles Unified School District schools). CSULA established the nation’s first Chicano Studies department in 1968. These formations were in response to the social circumstances of Mexican Americans throughout the country. Other programs followed, usually after intense battles between students and administration, at San Fernando Valley State College in 1969, today known as California State University, Northridgemarker (CSUN), the University of California, Santa Barbaramarker (UCSB) in 1971, and the University of Texas, El Pasomarker (UTEP) in 1970 with Felipe de Ortego y Gasca as Founding Director.

By the mid-1970s, Chicana feminists challenged the masculine domination of the field, making gender issues central to the concerns of the academic community. After intense struggle at the National Association for Chicano Studies the name of the association was changed to Chicana/o studies, underscoring that Chicanas were equal partners in the area of Chicana/o Studies. Through the persistence of scholars such as Dr. Yolanda Broyles González, Chicana Studies is not a variable or a discipline within Chicana/Chicano Studies but it claims ownership of the area of study. California State University, Northridge had 28 tenure track professors, two-thirds are Chicanas; the department offers 166 sections a semester. Dr. Mary Pardo has played a major role in this development. Chicanas have a controlling interest in the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS).

The need for Chicana/o Studies has increased since 1969. In 1970 there were about 9 million Latinos of which 5.5 million were of Mexican extraction. Today that number has zoomed to 45 million about 32 million of who are of Mexican origin. Most babies born in Texas are Latino. The resurgence of Chicana/o student activism in the early 1990s begot a major Chicana/o Studies Department. UCLA's MEChA Chapter took a leadership role and protested an attempt by the UCLA Administration to eliminate the Chicano Studies Program. After a three year struggle, which involved the support of the The United Community and Labor Alliance (also U.C.L.A.-a take on the campus name and consisting of Mexican American activists and community leaders) and a student hunger strike, led by Marcos Aguilar and Minnie Fergusson, in 1993 resulted in UCLA establishing a Center for Interdisciplinary Instruction in Chicana/o Studies. The César Chávez Center was later changed to a full fledged campus department in 2004.

Michigan State Universitymarker and the University of California, Santa Barbara have doctoral programs in Chicana/o Studies. The University of California, Riversidemarker has a doctorate program in Ethnic Studies. There are also centers and institutes of Mexican American Studies. These units are distinguished for promoting research on Mexican origin peoples. The Mexican American Studies Center at the University of Houstonmarker distinguishes itself by heavy involvement with students and the community. One last point. There are more individual courses with the disparate disciplines labeled Chicano history, Chicano literature etc. These are not Chicana/o Studies but areas within a discipline. They do not give Chicanas/os a voice within the academy.

Programs and departments

Some universities have departments of Chicano studies, which is also referred to as "Mexican American studies", "Chicano and Chicana studies", "Chicano/a studies", and "Chican@ studies", while others offer programs and courses in Chicano studies as parts of other departments.

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