Chicano

The Chicano power movement of the 1960’s is characterized by Carlos Munoz, jr. as a movement led by the decedents of Mexican Americans who pressed for assimilation. These young people, mostly students, became tired of listening to school rhetoric that stressed patriotism when they were being discriminated against outside the classroom. Unlike their parents, the young people of the Chicano movement did not want to assimilate into mainstream America and lose their identity, they wanted to establish an identity of their own and fight for the civil rights of their people.
The Chicano movement was a drastic change from past generations of Mexican American activists. The new Chicano movement was much more vocal of their discontent and led very public demonstrations. The older generation of activists disliked protests and wanted merely to get along with the mainstream society. The older generation of Mexican American activists wanted to associate themselves with their Anglo background of Spanish decent. The Chicano movement on the other hand, wanted to identify more with their indigenous heritage of Native Americans. This difference divided the older and younger generations of Mexican Americans. The older generation of Mexican Americans saw the U.S., according to Munoz, as democratic, where you need only to work hard and participate in politics to get ahead in society. The younger generation of Chicano Power protesters pointed out that the American Dream that the older generation of activists preached could not be achieved by Mexican Americans no matter how hard they tried, and therefore needed to take more drastic measures to gain equality. Many activists began to shun their alleged white ethnic background and the assimilation’s ideas. A play, written by Ysidro Ramon Macias called The Ultimate Pendejada criticized the assimilation idea and stressed a Chicano identity which focused more on the indigenous and African roots of Mexican heritage.
The Chicano power movement challenged the political and educational institutions of the United States. They gained national spotlight when they created the Viva Kennedy campaign that, according to Munoz, won Kennedy the election. Leaders of prominent Mexican American organizations walked out on a meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico after talks broke down concerning Johnson administration’s dealings with the plight of the Mexican Americans. This was the first of many non-violent protests against the government by Mexican leaders. During this protest period, the identity of Mexican Americans as Chicanos came into realization as Luis Valdez told Mexican Americans that the only true identity of the oppressed Mexican people was the identity of the indigenous people of Mexico, the Native Americans. Blowouts by Mexican American youth in the southwest characterized the Chicano power movement in the 1960’s. These student protests challenged the public schools to give adequate education to the Mexican American youth.
Unfortunately, the Chicano movement of the 1960’s faded in the mid-1970’s and was all but dead in the 1980’s. The aggressiveness of the Chicano power movement lost its steam partially due to lack of interest, but also due to FBI intervention of prominent Chicano power movements. J. Edgar Hoover targeted some groups for suspicion of being led by communists. This interference by the FBI led to dissention in the group’s leadership and exposed the movement’s tactics very much in the same fashion that brought down the Black Panther Party. It did spark an interest in Chicano Studies, which has lasted through the years but with many obstacles to overcome. Many college campuses were reluctant to pick up Chicano studies as a program, and encountered many ideological conflicts within its faculty staff.
The Chicano movement of the 1960’s coincided with the ideas of the Black civil right’s movement led in part by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The two movements were not entirely brought together for various reasons. One reason was because the two sides feared each other because they felt that one movement would overshadow the other’s agenda. When efforts were beginning to surface to bring the two major movements together, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and few Black leaders expressed any interest to merge the two movements after his death. If unification had been done effectively, the political clout of the movement would have had tremendous effects on American society and politics. The voting power and manpower of the two movements would have gained immediate public attention and forced politicians to acknowledge the ideologies of the people. Since it remained separated, it allowed each side to lose political power and eventually drop into obscurity. Only a unified minority political movement has a chance to make any substantial changes in American society, and until then, minorities will always have limited political power.