Who is a Chicano? What does the term Chicano mean? Where does the term originate? Why have Mexican-Americans in the past objected to being known as Chicanos? Why do so many Mexican-Americans today take pride in being Chicanos? There questions are frequently asked when the subject of the Chicano Movement comes up. This essay seeks to clarify the origins and meaning of the term Chicano and attempts to explain some of the implications of being a Chicano. A Chicano is an individual of Mexican parentage or ancestry who lives in the United States. Chicano is often used synonymously with Mexican-American, although many Chicanos presently make an ideological distinction between the two terms. The word Chicano has developed negative connotations in the past, for reasons that will not be discussed as much. Notwithstanding, today the word has, for many persons, very positive connotations. Keyword: Chicano
Defining, Uniting and Empowering the Chicano Community
For many years the Chicano people were considered the silent or forgotten minority, or referred to anonymously as one of the other oppressed nationalities. The plight of Chicanos as an oppressed people was not in the public spotlight. This situation was to change dramatically in the mid- and late-1960s as an independent movement developed in response to the specific oppression of the Chicano people, which had a dynamic and revolutionary logic of its own. The Afro-American and student movements were joined by a movement of those who had called themselves Mexican-Americans, Hispanos, Latin Americans, Spanish-speaking. Part of the nationalist dynamic of this development was a new self-image. Terms of self-description like La Raza and Chicano gained greater acceptance, reflecting a new pride and dignity, a new determination to struggle for equal rights, for a better life, for liberation (Pollack, 1971). However, even with this new found self-image, there is still that misconception and negative connotations on who Chicanos are and what defines them culturally, socially, and politically. One necessary step in the construction of defining the Chicano people is to change the way the mass media portrays Chicanos. For years now, Chicanos have been defined by the negative stereotypes the media portrays of them. This has led to the misinterpretation of Chicanos being a growing, obstinate working class that maintains its own culture and does not assimilate into American life (Cavendish, 2011). Popular culture has often reinforced these stereotypes through films, television, and advertising, adding to them images of Chicana women as seductive temptresses or suffering mothers and Chicano men as gangsters, low-riders, and drug smugglers (Cavendish, 2011). However, these stereotypes are not and should not be used to define the Chicano people. There are many Chicano families that are assimilated into U.S. society and have very few ties to Mexico. Therefore, Chicanos refuse to let the stereotypes of the mass media define who they are and should make a push on the media to change their portrayal of Chicanos. Although the mass media does a pretty good job on giving society a negative view on Chicanos, there is still that misunderstanding on, who Chicanos are. Many have that mindset and idea that all Mexicans are illegal aliens, which some are. They also believe that being Chicano or Mexican is the same difference, which leads to the idea that all Mexicans are immigrants. What many don’t know is that there is a separation when it comes to the Mexican community. That separation in the Mexican community is between the Chicanos and the Mexican immigrants. Amongst this separation, some Chicanos have that feeling of segregation between Mexican immigrants, what they call “border brothers” and some call “wetbacks.” If anything, this feeling of segregation is caused by the clash of identity and misunderstanding on both sides. Even something as far as lethal, as the...
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