January 19, 2020
In the forthcoming book, Rewriting the Chicano Movement offers an insightful new history of the Chicano Movement that expands the meaning and understanding of this seminal historical period in Chicano history. The essays introduce new individuals and struggles previously omitted from Chicano Movement history. Today we offer a brief excerpt:
From the Introduction
By Mario T. García
The profound changes directly and indirectly attributable to the Chicano Movement have led to increased interest in the history of the Chicano Movement. It is not that historians neglected the movement in the post-movement period of the 1980s and 1990s. However, with some exceptions, historians focused on earlier periods in order to better understand the roots of the Chicano experience. This was understandable given the dearth of research in Chicano history as a whole. Moreover, the immediacy of the movement meant historical perspective was lacking.
As a result of this research, publications on Chicano history as a whole have exploded over the last fifty years. This research includes studies of the Spanish conquest of areas that became part of the United States, such as from Texas to California. Others have focused on the Mexican experience after Mexican independence in 1821 and up to the time the United States forced a war on Mexico and conquered its northern frontier—El Norte. The period following the American conquest of what became the American Southwest has also received attention. However, historians have tended to study the twentieth century more, including mass Mexican immigration to the United States during the first three decades of the century. The Great Depression years have likewise received attention, as has World War II, when thousands of Mexican Americans went to war in support of the United States. Finally, the post–World War II era, especially the 1950s, is also beginning to receive attention. Some pioneering studies on the Chicano Movement also appeared during the last two decades of the twentieth century. These include works by Juan Gómez-Quiñones, Gerald Rosen, Carlos Muñoz, Richard Santillán, Christine Marín, Ignacio García, Ernesto Chávez, and Marguerite Marín. Gómez-Quiñones wrote on the Chicano student movement, as did Carlos Muñoz with a focus on Los Angeles. Gerald Rosen examined the ideology of the movement. One of the best works in this early literature was Ignacio García’s history of La Raza Unida Party. Richard Santillán also focused on La Raza Unida Party. Ernesto Chávez and Marguerite Marín, like Muñoz, focused on Los Angeles as a key location by examining manifestations other than the student movement. Finally, Christine Marín wrote one of the first biographies of Corky Gonzales, a key movement leader in Denver.
These early studies are being significantly augmented in the new millennium. There has emerged a renaissance of Chicano Movement studies. Historians and other scholars, many of them younger professors or graduate students, are rediscovering the Chicano Movement. This new generation seems even more aware of how the movement impacted the lives of many Chicanos and other Latinos in the country. They recognize the movement as a seminal event in the long history of Mexican Americans. While they note that there were earlier civil rights and labor rights struggles, they recognize that the Chicano Movement was unprecedented in its size and impact. The Chicano Movement created the new Chicano and Chicana, and by extension the new Latino and Latina. Contemporary Latino political power is the direct result of the movement.
What distinguishes this new historiography is its focus on the diversity of the movement. Earlier views seemed to suggest that the movement was more monolithic and that the cultural nationalism of the movement was adhered to by most activists. Contemporary historians and other students of the movement see much more diversity in all movement aspects. For example, the movement is being studied in a variety of locations and spaces, not just the main centers of the movement such as California and Texas. Now movement history is being excavated in the Pacific Northwest, New Mexico, Arizona, and the Midwest.
Also, greater attention is being paid to the role of women in the movement and their key contributions. Studies of new locations and different communities reveal how the movement manifested itself regionally and locally and how it was mobilized around community issues pertinent to that locale. In other words, the Chicano Movement was not only a national movement but a local one. Moreover, beginning with Jorge Mariscal’s groundbreaking 2005 book, Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun, some scholars revealed how the cultural nationalism of the movement, Chicanismo, was not monolithic. Other ideological influences such as Third World consciousness, Marxism, and feminism also affected the mindset of Chicano activists, and we saw how the four could be combined. As a result of looking at the Chicano Movement in such a diverse way, this new literature is revisionist and critical. It is a rewriting of the Chicano Movement. This new Chicano Movement history is also impacting our understanding of American history.
Mario T. García is Distinguished Professor of Chicano Studies and History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, specializing in Chicano history, Chicano/Latino autobiography, and Chicano/Latino religion. He is the author, co-author, and editor of more than twenty books in Chicano history, including Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice, The Making of a Mexican American Mayor, and Literature as History. He has won a number of awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship.