Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Principles of the Chicano Movement


My papi, Rene Nuñez, taught me that Chicanismo arose out the need for Mexican-Americans to carve their own space into the political landscape of the 60s and 70s, with roots reaching back through tens of thousands of years of existence in the Americas, with the survival of European conquest and colonization sparking the mestizaje that defines so much our identity today, through the Mexican-American war, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, up to the Lemon Grove Incident, through to the Zoot Suit Riots, and blowouts in East LA, right up to el Plan Espiritual de Aztlán y el Plan de Santa Bárbara - And he taught me that ultimately Chicanismo was not an ethnicity, or even an ethnic identity, but instead a state of mind,a perspective, a world view, and that this state of mind could be adopted by any human being.

The three main principles my papi taught me about the Chicano Movement are: 1) Self-Determination; 2) Higher Education; 3) Community Empowerment and Involvement.

Self-Determination: Every person has a right to define themselves, to define their identity, find their history and their roots.  From my experience with self-determination, I believe that every person knows who they are and what their purpose is.  Sometimes it takes some deep work, to look inside and connect with roots and community in order for people to figure this out for themselves.  No one has the right to tell me, or anyone else, who they are, how to identify themselves, or to limit their potential or purpose in our world.  We have a right to determine this for ourselves.

Higher Education: Critical thinking, reading the world as Paulo Freire would put it, is another human right, and a skill that every person deserves the opportunity to develop.  It is critical that we gain access to the intellectual, political, and social resources provided to us through higher education. High education is another right of every human being in my interpretation of Chicanismo.  It is important that through our involvement in higher education we are able to take part in the creation of our story, of the history of our people, and of the world.

Community Empowerment and Involvement: The most critical element of Chicanismo, according to my father, is giving back to our community - taking on the role of an organic intellectual, who harnesses the resources gained through higher education and brings access to these resources back to his or her community in order to empower our communities to determine their own identities and have the opportunity to gain even increasing access to educational and political resources.

René defined them in more depth, and in slightly different terms, as you can see in this excerpt from his (and his co-author's Rauol Contreras') article, “Principles and Foundation of Chicano Studies: Chicano Organization on University Campuses in California.”

...principles of the Chicano Movement: 1) The need for Chicanos to recover their history distorted by biased observations of the Chicano reality - that portrayed Mexicans as apolitical, apathetic and amoral; 2) The need for Chicanos to become trained to challenge the negative views that are that are part of that biased history. To provide them with the tools to become critical thinkers who can deconstruct the negative portrayals of the Chicano reality and in the process produce their own history; 3) To train Chicanos to give back to their communities.  To help them understand that as university students they are the leading intellectuals of their communities - the writers, the artists, the doctors, the engineers, the teachers, the politicians, the community activists, and so forth; and 4) To help the students see that they have a choice of two roads to travel as intellectuals. The first is an intellectual in the service of the political/cultural system that produces the biased views of people of color and gender... the second is an 'Organic Intellectual' in the service of his or her community - an intellectual that dedicates him or herself to work with and through their communities to help those communities resolve their problems.