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Chicano Movement

Cultural Context

At times, Chicana/o political energy flowed from cultural circumstances. On other occasions, political conditions encouraged cultural happenings. Culture, history, and arts resonated in every discourse. Community affairs became increasingly varied and complex, reflecting nearly all hues of the social spectrum from center to left. To oppose the movement, its cultural rhetoric, professed priorities, or stressed styles could be interpreted as a confession of rightist sympathies. To be sure, older organizations and electoral politics continued as the new politics emerged. The origins of this energized cultural ideological activity lie in the demographic and material circumstances of the early 1960s as well as in subjective conditions. Certainly, contrasting opinions on politics and history—of complacency versus insurgency—contributed to ideological growth. Mexicans were increasingly recognized by the media as the nation's second-largest minority, but their protest movement was not defined in the way that those of white and black dissidents were, and the media did not actively shape their leadership and rhetoric. The widespread social and economic conditions of laboring people heightened the political consciousness of Chicana/o activists. The movement drew inspirational and ideological reinforcements from a variety of sources, including those common to other social movements. But it also uniquely derived many of its beliefs from the historical heritage of Mexican-Americans themselves and in particular the ideological legacy of Mexico and Latin America. Significantly, Chicana/o activists also explored and deployed nativist Mesoamerican heritages, and this was particularly evident in the arts. After politicized arts hammered on doors, commercially expressive cultural activities eventually flowed to the public domain.

Sharing the upheaval that grew out of changes in the ideological climate and material conditions of the early 1960s, individuals of Mexican descent engaged in a variegated burst of activity loosely identified as the "Chicano movement." Among the seminal organizing and strategic forces were student organizations, defense groups, and artists' coalitions; the United Farm Workers Union; the Alianza Federal de Mercedes, or land rights movement; the Crusade for Justice, a political rights organization; and eventually, La Raza Unida Party. These were followed by church associations and women's and immigrants' rights organizations. Most of these forces were comprised of working-class people, and women often provided the membership base. The movement had a range of concurrent fronts, which were noticeably secured in local bases where individuals chose priorities and the levels of their participation. Whatever the particular goals and methods of the political activism, the underlying motivation was always a general dissatisfaction over the Mexican's political, economic, and social status in an Anglo-dominated society. Focus was increasingly placed on questions of exploitation, repression, exclusion, alienation, ethnicity, identity, class, gender, and chauvinism. History was privileged, perhaps more than in other social movements. Understanding the dynamics of the Mexican-American experience became a paramount motif, a voiced ideological necessity in the struggle to assess the present and envision a future for Mexican-Americans. These particular issues were sharply expressed in the arts; poets and muralists served as ideologues.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Categorical judgement to ChimaeraChicano Movement - Contents, Cultural Context, Ideology, Gender, Universalism, Problems And Achievements, Conclusion, Bibliography