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WHAT IS CHICANO/CHICANA?
Chicano is an identity that comes out of our people's political and militant actions that were born in the 1960's. We referred to ourselves as Chicano as a form of defiance, as a way of rejecting Mexican-American, as a way of embracing our core Nican Tlaca (Indigenous) identity.
Chicano came from the phrase "La Mechicanada". Originally "La Mechicanada" was a racist way of labeling some of our people as inferior, because they were Full-blood and because they spoke the Nahuatl language (Mechicano).
"La Mechicanada" referred to our people who had come into California and "the Southwest" in the early 20th century before, during, and after the Mexican revolution as refugees. They came here speaking the Nahuatl language.
When our people were caught speaking Nahuatl they were asked what language they were speaking. Our people responded that they were speaking in "Mechicano". From Mechicano you get "La Mechicanada" as an insult.
Some of our people, who thought of themselves as "Spanish", used "Mechicano" as a way of saying "La Indiada" (the damned "Indians"). It was originally meant as an insult.
When we rejected Mexican-American we began embracing being part of "La Mechicanada", our Nican Tlaca identity. We began to call ourselves Chicano.
In the 60's and 70's we were totally ignorant of our history. What little we knew of our history we grabbed onto it as if our lives depended on it.
Sadly what we knew back then was very limited. If we had taken Mechicano a step further we would have discovered that the origin of Chicano and Mexican are both rooted in the word Mexica (Meh-shee-kah). But sadly our knowledge was very limited in those days and we had no way of accessing the whole truth.
In the 60's and 70's we had the Vietnam war to motivate us to assert our identity as a way to reject going to Vietnam and as a way to confront the racism and discrimination that we blatantly faced in those days.
We meant well with Chicano as an identity. It was the only thing we could take as an identity that seemed truly ours. But Chicano was incomplete, it wasn't at the complete or authentic root of the truth of our identity.
The way we understood the word back then was that Chicano referred to those of us born in the "U.S. Southwest". The truth is that we were talking about the colonial concept of our continent, and our occupied Anahuac nation, that is called "the United States of America". We were not conscious of the full extent of our ownership of the whole continent, only of the part claimed by the Spaniard Europeans, and so we claimed Aztlan, the so-called Southwest, as an additional part of our lands in addition to Mexico.
Sadly this too was incomplete, only partly true. The whole truth is that this whole continent is ours. Not one part belongs to Americans or any other European people.
We were ignorantly attached to the colonial lines of the Spaniards. We were still somewhat claiming Spanish heritage. Corky Gonzalez's "Yo Soy Joaquin" was a celebration of the "mix" not of the condemnation of the rape or the Genocide of our people or a celebration of our civilizations and their accomplishments. That Chicano poem proudly said, "Yo soy Chicano, Hispano, Latino, Mestizo, español....". We were still confused about our identity. The racist "Raza Cosmica" didn't help matters any better because "Raza" was also a celebration of the "Spanish Conquest" and Spanish culture. Coming out of ignorance, Chicano was the best that we could do, but we also attached "Raza" to Chicano.
Most of us who were proud of being part of the "Aztecs" (really the Mexica) embraced the part of Chicano that allowed us to celebrate that Nican Tlaca part of us.
The Chicano movement was an uprising that was political, aggressive, and proud of its Nican Tlaca heritage. The Chicano term was used by those of us of Mexican descent to separate us from those of our people who had sold out and or who were calling themselves "American" or "Mexican American".
The "Central American" descent component was not here in significant numbers in the 1960's to have been part of the Chicano movement, but we acknowledge that had they been here at that time they would have been accepted as part of our people.
Again, sadly, there is still ignorance about our Mexican and "Central American" united heritage.
To get a little more of an idea of the details of what made up the period of what is called Chicano history
we recommend that you go to the CHICANO HISTORY website click here