The exploration of Chicano tradition has been used in an attempt to reconcile structuralism and post-structuralism with ideologies (root ideas) of racial and ethnic identity formation. In fact, it is hard to identify Chicano ethnicity, especially when referring to post-structuralism, which makes Chicano significant and interesting for its further studies.
The ideology of ethnicity and, in particular, the notion of permanent ethnic difference is an important factor in regard to Chicano. However, there are hardly any exact and concise definitions of Chicano ethnicity. The subject of Chicano is depicted as a given. Besides, the community is assumed, and its art and literature are seen as ethnic products (Carlin 184).
Characterization of Chicano Identity
In this paper, the root idea of Chicano identity is presented by its profound ethnicity as the main identity of Chicano. Thus, the paper will focus on how Chicano ethnicity has been defined in literature. The paper will explore how Chicano “root idea” is formed, coded, and integrated in literature. Specifically, the paper will pay attention to the theme of resistance and engagement as it has become one of the significant characteristics of ethnic Chicano criticism.
Race and genetic composition, though certainly significant for the understanding of ethnic subject, may not be considered as the defining criteria for ethnicity. Chicanos, for instance, are racially affiliated to Mexicans living mid-west and south of the border, especially given that their ethnic difference is acclimatized by the map outlined around them.
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Chicana “root idea” is also characterized by feminist criticism. Feminist critics have identified the patriarchal arrangement within much of Chicano criticism. According to Alvina Quintana, Chicana literary writing should engage in negotiating and mediating between cultural systems and developing feminist and cultural identity. However, in doing so, Alvina has continuously deconstructed predominantly male cultural models that have suppressed female outlook within Chicano over time (Carlin 184-186).
The Chicano engagement entailed arguing for such an elementary right as having a representative in the government and receiving fair treatment form state agencies such as the police or the military and from institutions like courts. They also sought the other social rights ranging from decent living standards to bilingual and bicultural education.
The Mexican-Americans and their resistance ideologies emerged as they were found within the nest of the oppressed local community, which operated mostly on the outside of opposition to the dominant society and institutional systems. Regarding political ideologies, the Chicanos’ focus was on inclusivity in the national security and national economy that was urged by international tensions and the insurgence of the Cold War. The Vietnam War, the rise of inflation, and the oil boycott reached their highest level. The larger Civil Rights Movement had been continuing for decades.
More importantly, the struggle movements of farm workers and Cesar Chavez’s non-violent mobilization were significant to the emergence of the Chicanos/as movement. However, it was also a period where political activism, though slow, was as a minimum leaning progressive, which was as a result of pressure from the Civil Rights Movements and protests among the people of Southwest (Galeano 71-72).
The affirmative action and Voting Rights Act were processed and enacted, and judiciary case victories on bilingual education and against discernment in housing were transforming the common racist ideologies of discrimination. There was a proposal made toward equity in order to counteract the ideology of oppression and discrimination. The idea of equity meant recognition of the members of society who needed to be supported. The idea comprised in the affirmative action in education, employment, and the other civil rights movements (Haney-López 92). This has provided a stage both for formation of the Chicano movements and the ways in which these movements were able to influence the society.
The Root Idea and Methods of Engagement
Mexican-Americans experienced profound attention towards the development of manifestly political identity. Their focus, nevertheless, was restricted: the identity was significantly based on ethnicity and race with over emphasis on strong male overtones. Significantly, women were gaining a critical role in the movements though their roles were marginalized (yet their efforts were intended to fight the same marginalization) in the search of more developed Chicano identity (Du Bois 13).
Chicanos/as cultural patriotism was important ideology. There was obvious rhetoric around the longing to recapture the southwestern region of North America leading back to the ancient land mass referred to as Atzlan. The relation with this patriotism was the ideologies that Chicanos/as were neither American nor Mexican but were rather an exceptional socio-cultural citizenry with unique and specific culture, history, and language. Therefore, the Chicano “root idea” was associated with this exceptional social-cultural consortium as well as with the nationalist (political) ideology that was being formed.
The Chicano community had several concerns to face. In education, these concerns included the call for a more linguistically and culturally responsive approach to education systems. Both Chicano bilingual education and Chicano studies were serving key programmatic demands.
The push for political self-determination was mainly manifested through the advancement of the La Raza Unida party. There was active mobilization based around redressing the rights of farm workers and proclaiming historical land rights. This activism was more profound in New Mexico. This activism was happening during the peak of Vietnam Conflict with its significant numbers of Chicano fighters who fought for this land only to go back to their motherland that faced widespread racial discrimination (Motoko).
The politics of those times in Los Angeles were characterized by organizations such as the Chicano Moratorium Committee, the Brown Berets, and the Centro de Accion Social Autonomo (CASA). There were also students’ blowouts and increased mass protests against the Vietnam invasion.
It was during this upsurge that Valdez took a pivotal role in the establishment of Chicano identity politics launching the theatre group that was known as TENAZ. He further contributed to the prolific sardonic output, and Zoot suit became the most successful tool of engagement (Haney-López 19-20, 74).
Sleepy Lagoon Trial
During Sleepy Lagoon trial, which has been recorded as one of the largest mass trials in the history of Los Angeles, twenty-two Chicano youths were charged with sixty-six charges and sentenced for the murder of Jose Diaz. The trial triggered riots that were countered by mass beating and stripping protesters wearing zoot suits by the servicemen radiating patriotic zeal. Conversely, the general outlook regarding what had emerged almost universally blamed the chaos on Chicano youths also referred to as cholos and pachucos. Cholos were characterized by their sense of estrangement from mainstream America and by their use of a hybrid dialect known as calo, distinctive suits, and tattoos (Haney-López 136, 92).
These characteristics articulated the difficulty of Chicano identity at an intermediate historical moment. The continuous migration of Mexicans into the US contributed to the development of a characteristic barrio culture in Los Angeles. In particular, Boyle Heights and Belvedere became significant settings for the description of Chicano identity. Chicanos’ regions faced racial discriminations, class barriers, congested and poor housing, and police repression. Dealing with such racial restrictions only strengthened the search for Chicanos’ sense of identity and provided unique context for the development of pachuco gangs and zoot suits (Haney-López 136-37).
In this course, identity has been described as a process of historical evolution that develops through the ideology of liberation and national building, which highlighted several significant points: identification with the working class, retrieval of ethnic tradition, and struggle against assimilation. However, the results of all these efforts were not sustained as the identity was never to be sought, but to be forged, with careful consideration to ideology and history.
The Chicanos’ ideology of nationalism recommended linguistic and cultural preservation as the decisive discourse of Chicanos cultural identity. Thus, the hybrid group of pachuco was overvalued, the campesino acclaimed, while the monological assimilationist was doomed.
The economic oppression and historic suppression of Mexican-Americans must not be ignored. Several modern issues both in the US and Latin America Chicano communities as well as Hispanic communities in the US originated from the elongated history of prejudicial policies, class divisions, cultural denigration, and systematic injustices.
The understanding of the ideology of resistance resulting from difficult parts of history would help mitigate misunderstanding and conflict between people of different ethnicities in the modern US. In addition, it would generate a more engaged citizenry committed to fighting mistakes of the past.
Literature review helps to amplify simplistic narratives and representations. Though the root idea unified people in a common struggle, it did not support women in their aim to overcome the restrictions of gender roles and patriarchy.
Just like women from Chicano who found courage to challenge institutional repression, modern women have learned how to become their own advocates. The Chicano authors such as Cherrie Moraga and Sandra Cisneros gave women space and voice in which they engaged the dominant and oppressive culture. This remains relevant in the current world, where women have to confront cultural taboo subject, such as sexual orientation and sexuality (Du Bois 107).