In the Spirit of a New People: The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Movement

In the Spirit of a New People: The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Movement

In the Spirit of a New People: The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Movement

In the Spirit of a New People: The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Movement

Synopsis

Reexamining the Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, In the Spirit of a New People brings to light new insights about social activism in the twentieth-century and new lessons for progressive politics in the twenty-first. Randy J. Ontiveros explores the ways in which Chicano/a artists and activists used fiction, poetry, visual arts, theater, and other expressive forms to forge a common purpose and to challenge inequality in America. Focusing on cultural politics, Ontiveros reveals neglected stories about the Chicano movement and its impact: how writers used the street press to push back against the network news; how visual artists such as Santa Barraza used painting, installations, and mixed media to challenge racism in mainstream environmentalism; how El Teatro Campesino's innovative "actos," or short skits,sought to embody new, more inclusive forms of citizenship; and how Sandra Cisneros and other Chicana novelists broadened the narrative of the Chicano movement. In the Spirit of a New People articulates a fresh understanding of how the Chicano movement contributed to the social and political currents of postwar America, and how the movement remains meaningful today. Randy J. Ontiveros is Associate Professor of English and an affiliate in U.S. Latina/o Studies and Women's Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Excerpt

What significance does the Chicano movement have today? This question is at the heart of the book you hold in your hands, but it is not an easy one to ask, let alone to answer. Many people have never heard of the Chicano movement, a nationwide campaign during the 1960s and after for the civil rights of Mexican Americans. Some individuals faintly recall the movement from brief mention of it in the pages of their high school or college textbooks, while others know of the movement, but don’t believe it holds any relevance in their lives. Progressives often celebrate the Chicano movement as an important part of the American Left, though they are sometimes critical of the direction it took. Conservatives, on the other hand, are generally ignorant of this history. Those few who do know a little about the movement are scornful. When Jorge Bustamante ran for governor in California’s 1999 recall election, right-wing activists accused the one-time movement leader of being party to an elaborate Reconquista (Reconquest) plot to take over the American Southwest and return it to Mexico. Theirs was a fringe view, but its coverage in the press prompted one of the more sustained public discussions of the Chicano movement in recent years.

Like other movements and memorabilia associated with the 1960s, the Chicano movement is often presented as a morning’s half-remembered dream that fades as the day goes on. This book offers the reader a different picture. It shows the image of a social movement that transformed American society and culture. the process was imperfect and . . .

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