Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement

Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement

Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement

Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement


"Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement designates four major episodes of the Mexican civil rights struggle in the United States. Chapter One features efforts of the "lost-land" generation (southwest Mexican natives) to stem property losses, maintain their culture and assert civil rights given them by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the US takeover of the Southwest in the mid-nineteenth century. The second portion, Chapters Two to Five, views immigrant attempts in the early part of this century to protect themselves from a hostile American public. In the effort to safeguard their civil rights, an elaborate Mexico Lindo (Pretty Mexico) nationalism emerged that immigrants used to rally around issues of repression. Chapters Six and Seven look at the optimistic Mexican American generation made up primarily of children of immigrants who did not have ties to Mexico. Not only did this generation demand the civil rights to which they were entitled, but they also strove to acculturate to Anglo American culture without turning their backs on their Mexican heritage. In addition, Mexican Americans in this era made the greatest attempts to empower themselves as workers. The final and most lengthy section of the book traces the evolution of the Chicano Movement and assesses its legacy. It takes the reader through the most turbulent days of civil unrest and grass-roots organizing in Mexican American history." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Today many of my students, Mexican Americans included, know little about or have never heard of the Chicano Movement (el movimiento, as it became known to its thousands of participants). The passing of time has much to do with this—because the height of this political movement occurred at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. For an even greater number of young students, the names of movement stalwarts such as Reies López Tijerina, Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales and José Angel Gutiérrez meant nothing before they enrolled in my history class. More of them recognize farm-worker union leader César Chávez because the United Farm Workers continues to organize workers into the present day and because his untimely death raised the farm-worker leader's stature. In addition, the message and goals of the farm-worker movement transcended those of the other Chicano leaders, whose appeal was widespread mainly within the historical context of that period.

But the Chicano Movement indeed ushered in a new era. It was a time when young people from ethnic and mainstream groups in various parts of the country sought to express their hopes for the country. In the history of the U.S., no other era embodies the rise of youthful self-conscious idealism. The period produced a generation that questioned the premises and values sacred to their parents. In fact, a guiding axiom, whose etymology is unclear, was "don't trust anyone over thirty."

Young white Americans, usually middle-class and living in large urban concentrations, participated in a counterculture which they expressed in art and in politics. The most visible representatives of the counterculture were known as "hippies." But the counterculture contained more than love‐ peace proclaiming "flower children" whose mecca was the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco. For the first time, young Americans felt confident in themselves and liberated from the ideological constraints which had hamstrung free discourse since the end of World War II, a period dominated by the Cold War. In their liberation, many turned to a unique brand of American radical politics.

The seeds of this phenomenon were partially sown by the "beatniks" of the 1950s, such as Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy and Allen Ginsberg. These intellectual rebels defined a uniquely American anti-establishment critique. They had indicted a "silent generation" of Americans whose race for the "good life" resulted in banality and unquestioning conformity. They believed that Cold War politics silenced free expression and stifled lifestyles which did not conform to all-American models.

This 1950s phenomenon mushroomed into a huge movement in the subsequent decade. One of the first indications of this movement emerged at the University of California-Berkeley in a tempest called the "Free Speech Movement." Led by Mario Savio, an undergraduate student at the time, this activity questioned the premises of the conventional curriculum in mainstream institutions of higher education. Savio and his associates attracted hundreds of Berkeley students to teachins designed to raise consciousness and stimulate . . .

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