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Chicana Feminisms

The Importance Of Culture

Chicana feminist writers agree with other feminists that patriarchy exists in most societies. However, patriarchy is manifested in culturally specific ways, and as such, Chicanas' culture and history are central to their analysis of gender in their communities. Chicana feminists have identified several cultural elements that are central in defining Chicana definitions of proper womanhood. One is the veneration of La Virgen de Guadalupe (the Virgin of Guadalupe, the national saint of Mexico); another is the figure of La Malinche, an indigenous woman who facilitated the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés (1485–1547) by serving as translator and go-between in the negotiations that ultimately defeated the Aztec leader Montezuma in 1519. Both women are iconic figures of what is desirable and undesirable for Mexican women in Mexico as well as Chicanas in the United States.

The desirable aspects of Mexicana/Chicana womanhood based on La Virgen de Guadalupe are piety, dedication, humbleness, selflessness, dedication to family, and virginity. The undesirable traits, as embodied in La Malinche, are treachery, lying, deceitfulness, and sexual promiscuity. Although other cultures usually describe this distinction between women as a "virgin-whore" dichotomy, in Mexican or Chicano culture the dichotomy is tied specifically to these two figures rather than a general distinction with no cultural or historical referent. These culturally appropriate and inappropriate ways of expressing Chicana womanhood do not apply to non-Chicana women and therefore merit a different feminist analysis from those developed by other cultural groups.

DOLORES HUERTA

Dolores C. Huerta, cofounder and first vice-president emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America—AFL-CIO (UFW)—played a major role in the American civil rights movement.

Dolores Huerta was born on April 10, 1930, in a small town in northern New Mexico. Her father, Juan Fernandez, was a miner, fieldworker, union activist, and state assemblyman. Dolores was raised by her mother, Alicia Chávez, after her parents divorced when she was three years old. Dolores along with her two brothers and two sisters grew up in the San Joaquin Valley in the farmworkers community of Stockton, California. Her mother was a businesswoman who owned a restaurant and a seventy-room hotel that often put up farmworkers and their families for free.

Dolores Huerta attributes her accomplishments and lifelong activism to her mother's influence and caring. Dolores was one of the first Chicanas to graduate from her high school and one of the first to receive a teaching degree from the University of the Pacific's Delta Community College. As a teacher, however, she soon realized that she could make more of a difference in her students' lives if she helped improve the lives of farmworkers—so their children did not have to attend school hungry.

Dolores began community organizing in 1955 as a founding member of the Stockton chapter of the Community Service Organization (a grassroots organization fighting social injustice). While working for the CSO, she helped create the Agricultural Workers Association (in 1960), and as a lobbyist in Sacramento in the early 1960s she was instrumental in the passage of legislation allowing voters the right to vote in Spanish and allowing individuals to take the driver's license examination in their native language. She later lobbied in Washington, D.C., for an end to the so-called bracero program that encouraged the use of "captive labor" from Mexico. In 1962 she joined Cesar Chávez in Delano, California, and they created the National Farm Workers Association, precursor to the United Farm Workers union.

In 1966 Huerta negotiated a farmworkers' contract with the Schenley Wine Company, marking the first time in the history of the United States that agricultural workers negotiated a labor contract with a major corporation. Her struggles on behalf of farmworkers continued into the next decades. In her seventies, she was still fighting to preserve and extend the rights of agricultural workers in the United States, working long hours and traveling to cities across North America promoting La Causa—the farmworkers' cause—and women's rights.

Huerta received a number of honorary doctorate degrees, was a board member for the Fund for the Feminist Majority (advocating for the political and equal rights for women), and president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, with the mission of establishing Communities of Conscience focusing on community organizing and leadership training in low-income, underrepresented communities.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Categorical judgement to ChimaeraChicana Feminisms - The Importance Of History, The Importance Of Culture, Dolores Huerta, The Importance Of Intersectionality