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Chicano Movement

Contents, Cultural Context, Ideology, Gender, Universalism, Problems And Achievements, Conclusion, Bibliography

Between 1966 and 1977, members of the Mexican-American community engaged in a period of widespread political activism akin to other civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. The resulting challenges and concurrent mentalities became the Chicano movement, or as it is now known in recognition of the equally important participation of Chicanas, the Chicana/o movement. During this period large-scale political organizing occurred among the Mexican-American community with a hitherto unprecedented urban energy. For those involved in the Chicana/o movement, the experience was characterized by a remarkable intensity at the personal and local collective levels. This rise in political engagement was the consequence of an interaction between a specific cultural context and contending, contentious social efforts, civic events, and ideological beliefs. It challenged the ineffectiveness of liberalism and the increasing economic and human cost of an armed interventionist foreign policy in the third world and this, combined with urban youth dissidence and ethnic protests, encouraged growing social and political militancy among Mexican-Americans.

A series of changes and continuities took place across Mexamerica in regard to the position and status of Mexican-Americans. Even though Mexicans slowly entered the skilled labor market, larger numbers remained poor due to discrimination and exploitation, and their social and educational possibilities were inhibited by social controls and economic immobility. At the same time, a very modest, educated, and political middle class burgeoned. During the 1950s and 1960s, the number of Mexican-Americans elected to office slowly increased, but electoral underrepresentation remained the rule. In comparison with the preceding periods, the number of Mexican-American union participants slightly increased in industries accessible to unions. However, far more people were barred from, rather than included in, these unions. Basic workers and farm laborers remained the most visibly excluded.

While explicit anti-Mexican discrimination receded in some areas of employment and housing, overall discrimination continued. Mexicans held the least desirable and worst-paying jobs in the economy and lagged behind the income and schooling levels of both Anglos and blacks. Despite this, the Mexican community grew numerically, including both citizens and immigrants, and this was reflected in the increase of Mexican high school and college graduates. Growth continued into the following decades. Women's participative access to heretofore enclosed social and economic sectors was particularly noticeable, yet some exclusion persisted. The number of Mexican female college graduates increased relative to years past, as did female business ownership. Still, most Mexican women did not attend college and continued to figure prominently in the minimum-wage labor sectors. They were variously oppressed by diverse institutions including the state, their neighborhoods, and their family circles. Immigrant single mothers were most vulnerable to forms of brutality and violence, which included forced sterilizations. These multiple oppressions continued to limit the opportunities for Mexican women, as well as Mexican men and children, over generations.

Selecting chronological dates is always an arguable procedure, but there are two events that, because of their public resonance, could be used to chart the rise and decline of the national Chicana/o movement. The 1966 farmworkers' march to Sacramento, California, is often acknowledged as a visible sign of rising, proactive Mexican-American public sentiment. This could be considered the beginning of notable political ferment. Ten years or so later, the 1977 San Antonio, Texas, Immigrant Rights Conference, which was prefaced by growing anti-Mexican outlooks, signaled an acknowledged decline of Chicano militant effectiveness since the attempt at coordinated pro-immigrant rights failed on this occasion. This was soon followed by the anti–affirmative action backlash stimulated by the Supreme Court's "reverse discrimination" decision in Bakke v. Regents of the University of California (1978).

The view of some Chicana/o activists from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s was that civic matters compelled a reevaluation of earlier ideological tenets (a trend emphasizing gradualism known as Mexican-Americanism), and required the development of a new "in your face" style of politics. There was much insistence upon democratic rights, and high-volume addresses were full of heightened cultural and ethnic references. These trends were effectively legitimated by relatively wide mobilizations. Advocacy reform practices previously local became increasingly regional and tentatively national. In short, the Chicana/o movement flourished as an ethnic revivalist movement of the 1960s and 1970s and was anchored in new, specifically charged politics. It involved thousands and spread from Galveston to Chicago, from Seattle to Brownsville.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Categorical judgement to Chimaera