My Take on Being a Chicano.
These fiercely proud people have emeged from the shadows.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Chicanos today are a force with which to be reckoned
(Please see note on the word "Chicana" after main story).
I lived for 5 years in California and another 15 in Mexico which may give me enough exposure to comment on the Mexican, or people of Mexican extract, who live mainly in the South-Western States of the USA; the zone of their maximum influence, but with many living all over the United States by 2011.
We must remember that when the United States appropriated Texas; New Mexico, Arizona and California were part of Mexico and had been so for 200 years. There is still a huge cultural resentment on the part of the fiercely nationalistic Mexicans over what many perceive as nothing more than daylight robbery of a huge part of their territory. These feelings are acerbated by efforts by North Americans, (the European Americans) to keep them well and truly south of the border, despite the fact many jobs exist for them in the north and a huge hypocrisy exists between the wealthy farmers and householders needing their labour and the rest of the population tarring them with names like “Greasers,” and “Beaners;” and cheering as the US Border Patrol regularly deports them in droves.
(Curiously, we see many of the US border agents are Chicanos and join the European American diatribe against them, meanwhile treating their brothers in blood with a rough kindness).
The Chicano (the name is derived from “Mexicano”) is often sadly hemmed in between two cultures, both his own, but neither accepting him. He has been rather fatuously described as "The space denoted by the hyphen between Mexican-American." This term itself, although now in common usage, is geopolitically incorrect, because Mexicans themselves are also Americans in that they are born in the North American part of the huge continent stretching from Alaska down to Tierra de Fuego. And Chicanos were never Mexican by birth, although most would probably see themselves as being Mexican in most things that are ascribed to that race, (and certainly not Anglos, although they would say they are Americans). Despite all this, Mexican-Americans, Latinos or Hispanics as they are variously called, are the most rapidly growing ethnic and social group in the United States, giving dignity to the members and adding Spanish to the nation’s college curricula as a second language for many and a desirable tongue in which to be fluent in this Millennium.
Since the first prosecution of an agent killing a Mexican illegal alien in 1977 (in earlier days there was practically open season on these poor camposinos as they fled in terror through the sere border lands) most illegal’s entering have found no easing in border controls - the reverse is true as the steel wall at the border marches inexorably eastward and the justifiable fear of terrorists causes tightening of controls - but have not done so in fear of their lives. Many have joined the thousands of Hispanic illegal’s, quasi-legal’s (with false papers) and legitimate Mexican-Americans (Chicanos) where they are gradually assimilated. The Mexican- born immigrants have added much to the Chicano (and North American) culture and have made Mexican street life with its colour, food and music, easy to find in the major cities, like LA.
Often finding themselves ostracized by the “white” Americans, Mexico born Mexicans and the Mexican-Americans alike, many Chicano youths began calling themselves “La Raza,” or “The Race.” and joining youth gangs, using and dealing drugs as well as being involved in violence, usually against one another. This has ensured Chicanos form a substantial part of prison populations where they remain culturally separated from other prisoners.
One of the ongoing problems of Chicanos has been communication with other Americans and Mexicans alike as their language is neither good Spanish nor fluent English and often a sort of patois, an unfortunate mix of both.
The Chicano culture and social standing often parallels that of the Mestizo, the descendants of Spanish immigrants and indigent Indians in Mexico, for hundreds of years after the Conquest in the 16th. Century.
The Chicanos themselves seem undecided at times if they want to embrace or throw off the cultural shackles of their Mexican heritage. We have Chicano literature (including great poetry), painting (super mural work), music and even food. But it would seem impossible to steer a course exactly down the centre between these two great cultures, that of Mexico and that of modern USA, taking from both, without eventually becoming assimilated.
When I moved to the USA in 1969, Chicanos were in transition to becoming the important segment of American society they are today. Cesar Chavez, who died in 1992 of “unknown causes” (?) was busy organizing strikes for better treatment and fairer wages for the large number of agricultural workers, both Chicano and illegal migrants.
(All sorts of schemes have been put in place, such as the "Bracero Program" to give undocumented workers legitimacy to work during peak harvesting seasons and other work, but none can be said to have been completely successful as Mexican camposinos wanted to enter and leave when they felt like it, and the government schemes were on the whole unpopular with the Mexican naysayer's and only infrequently offered opportunities for permanent residency. They may have been unpopular with the farmers themselves who preferred employing illegal’s at lower wages! I am sure that if all the Mexican maids in Beverly Hills, etc., were granted permanent residency overnight and could sue for the correct wages, there would be many furious tears and gnashing of porcelain crowns among the district’s pampered princesses!).
Chicanos - and second generation Mexican immigrants - are far better placed today to address the social standing of Chicanos and Mexicans as they are represented in local and state administration, as well as the Congress of the United States, which all include Chicanos today.
The term Chicano, with all its pejorative connotations, may die a slow death as the popular Hispanic, or Mexican Americans, is more commonly used. I am not up to speed on this in 2011...I must admit, I rather liked the title “Chicano(a),” which was used with no little pride by many North American born Mexicans. We have had all this confusion with African-Americans suffering the now unmentionable “N----r” and all the rest, to “Black Americans and
“Negroes,” I don’t even know which term finally came home to roost, perhaps someone will politely tell me in comments?
It won’t happen, of course, but why don’t we throw the lot of this infernal labelling overboard and substitute “Brother,” “Sister,” or even “Citizen?” Or find out the person’s name and use that with kindness, compassion and respect. (“Shaddup you g’darned’ Limey,” I heard that!).
Note: Although the feminine "Chicana" is used in the USA for a Chicano women, it must not be confused with the Mexican use of the word within Mexico. The word chicana here has nothing to do with the Chicano (a) nation. It is merely a delaying tactic used by the courts, usually to muddy the waters and flout justice.