The Lost Land: The Chicano Image of the Southwest

The Lost Land: The Chicano Image of the Southwest

The Lost Land: The Chicano Image of the Southwest

The Lost Land: The Chicano Image of the Southwest

Synopsis

"Seeks to demonstrate that Chicanos, precisely because of their long-standing presence in the region, have developed their own images of the Southwest, many of which conflict sharply with Anglo-American views."--Raymund A. Paredes, University of California, Los Angeles


"A boldly conceived, wide-ranging essay that grapples thoughtfully with complex and subtle issues."--David J. Weber

Excerpt

To the Anglo-American majority of the United States, the Southwest is vaguely identified as that group of states located at the corner of the country toward Mexico. Whether laymen or scholars, few Anglo-Americans agree on exactly which states the region comprises or what its characteristics are. Chicanos, however, the region's Spanish-surnamed population, have a clearer image of the Southwest: to them, the Southwest is home, a land including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado, the states where 85 percent of U.S. citizens of Mexican descent reside. But to Chicanos the Southwest is more than just their place of residence; it is their homeland, their lost homeland to be more precise, the conquered northern half of the Mexican nation.

Before the war between the United States and Mexico, which ended in 1848, present-day California, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, more than half of Colorado (the southern and western portions of the state), the Oklahoma Panhandle, and the southwestern corners of Wyoming and Kansas were all parts of Mexico's national territory. In the mind of the Chicanos, this immense territory remains their patrimony although they inhabit in significant numbers only five of the states mentioned. Because of Mexico's prior possession of the Southwest, Chicanos consider themselves indigenous to the region. Their claims are supported by the fact that their ancestors not only explored and settled parts of the Southwest as early as the sixteenth century, but thousands of years earlier permanently occupied the region or migrated through it on their way south. The belief that the Southwest (especially the areas long settled by Mexicans) is the Chicano homeland and the belief that Mexicans are indigenous to and dispossessed of the region are beliefs that have had a formative and continuing influence on the collective Chicano mind.

Within the individual Chicano mind the image of the Southwest is in the most literal sense a picture of a particular barrio street, of a specific rural adobe, of a particular brown child, or any number of other sensory percep-

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