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Chicano Movement


Although Chicanismo often seemed a loosely expressed concept, in specific situations it could translate as a radical political and affirmative ethnic populism. The issue of identity linked to political demands jumped to the forefront. The term Chicano itself, used among the youth in particular regions, denoted the person and the group. Chicanismo referred to a set of beliefs and, more importantly, to a political practice. Its emphasis on dignity, self-worth, pride, uniqueness, and a feeling of cultural rebirth made the term attractive to many people of Mexican origin, as well as some of Latin American descent, in a way that cut across class, gender, regional, and generational lines. Negative past experiences regarding the denial of cultural heritage increased the appeal of Chicanismo, which emphasized Mexican cultural consciousness and social and linguistic tradition as well as economic and occupational opportunities. The Chicana/o movement became a challenge to the assumptions, politics, and principles of the established systems within and outside the community. However, even though it marked a progressive step in the struggle for identity by denying the grosser aspects of deculturalization, the designation also became a subterfuge for avoiding a critique of identity and Mexican "singularity." The widespread appeal of Chicanismo without explicit ideological class content shows, in large part, how often heterogeneous political elements could identify with the "Chicano movement." In practice, people expressed Chicanismo in a variety of ways.

In hindsight, one can ask whether Chicanismo, if seen through a militant conceptualization and in the context of its identity and ideological notions, was not simply one more effort to subsume Mexican identity and all of its implications in a dominant social context of covert anti-Mexicanism. Indeed, the term was a necessary referent for a distinct social group that could be differentiated from others in the United States by virtue of its ethnic and national roots. Other designations continued to be used, and the tension between Chicano and Mexican evolved rather than disappeared. In the initial cultural and political discourse, Chicano was clearly an abbreviated form for Mexicans north of the Rio Bravo, and Chicanismo meant a politically asserted Mexicanidad. Curiously, many middle-class people rejected the term as pejorative, while the lower classes preferred the appellation of Mexicano. Yet, to many of the young, Chicano was the term; for activists it was the litmus test for a political frame of mind. Furthermore, the Chicano denotation not only emphasized an unconventional "lifestyle" stressing Chicanismo but also stressed the more widely noted features of emphatic public cultural practices and radical personal values of the late 1960s embodied in the attitude, "Soy Chicano y qué!" ("I am Chicano and what of it!").

Additional topics

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