what is a chicano ?
Wow…, where to start?
Well the easy answer is, A chicano is an american of mexican descent who embraces their ancesteral roots and uses the classification of chicano for political reasons.
My idea of a chicano is anyone with american continental indigenous roots who lives in the united states and shares ideals with like minded people, who are in pursuit of self determination for their people (race). This does not mean that a chicano is racists or is not tolerant to other cultures. By definition, priority is the self determination of it’s people.
See that’s more or less what I define it as too, but part of the reason I wanted to ask this question was because yesterday I had 3 instances in which the qualifications of being Chicano were being questioned. It mostly had to do with personal identity. There are those who would define Chicano as being dark skinned and down for the raza. Then they take it to another level and start speaking the ancient tongue and it’s like WTF ? Calmate. But I like your definition cause it mirrors my own.
Didn’t you cover this in Chicana/o Studies?
I know folks who do not limit being a Chicana or Chicano to Mexican roots. I know several Salvadoreños and Guatemaltecos who identify as Chicana/o. I would stress that it’s about a connection to your indigenous roots, resistance and a political mindset (go back to Ruben Salazar’s definition “”A Chicano is a Mexican-American with a non-Anglo image of himself”).
It really has nothing to do with skin color. I can see the tie to being able to speak an indigenous language (usually, Nahuatl) as it shows a connection to your indigenous roots and efforts to decolonize yourself. But you don’t need to be able to speak Nahuatl to call yourself a Chicano.
Actually, I have never took a chicano studies class up until last semester heheheh I want to know other people define as being Chicano since there are soo many interpretations of it according to an individuals stances and mind set.
A relatively recent term that has been appropriated by many Mexican descendants as unique and therefore reflective of their unique culture, though its first usage seems to have been discriminatory. The most likely source of the word is traced to the 1930 and 40s period, when poor, rural Mexicans, often native Americans, were imported to the US to provide cheap field labor, under an agreement of the governments of both countries. The term seems to have come into first use in the fields of California in derision of the inability of native Nahuatl speakers from Morelos state to refer to themselves as “Mexicanos,” and instead spoke of themselves as “Mesheecanos,” in accordance with the pronunciation rules of their language (for additional details, refer to the file MEXICO on this same subdirectory). An equivocal factor is that in vulgar Spanish it is common for Mexicans to use the “CH” conjunction in place of certain consonants in order to create a term of endearment. Whatever its origin, it was at first insulting to be identified by this name. The term was appropriated by Mexican-American activists who took part in the Brown Power movement of the 60s and 70s in the US southwest, and has now come into widespread usage. Among more “assimilated” Mexican-Americans, the term still retains an unsavory connotation, particularly because it is preferred by political activists and by those who seek to create a new and fresh identity for their culture rather than to subsume it blandly under the guise of any mainstream culture.
For additional information and resources on Chicano Studies, a good starting point is the Chicano-Latino Network (CLNET) accessible through the University of California – Los Angeles Gopher Server:
A few bullets to add to the truly thorough explanations above.
–can differentiate between Mestizo, Latino, and Mexican-American
–non-confrontationally, yet politically educates people on the aforementioned terms
–has never called himself a Hispanic
“has never called himself a Hispanic”? That dismisses more than 75% (I am for real in this 2/3rds category) of people who identify now as Chicano but growing up for various reasons called themselves Hispanic. For example, many have called themselves Hispanic because it is the category that you had to check when requesting financial assistance, to get those lunch tickets, government forms, those pesky surveys, etc.
Moreover, a large number of folks don’t start questioning identity and labels until being exposed to different ideas outside of k-12 educational institutions.
ooops! “3/4ths category”
I don’t know but one of them almost ran over me with his car the other day and then called me a “fucking white boy”!
I was crossing the street, green light clearly for me, and he was making a left turn. Apparently, he hadn’t seen me or something and I had to quickly step back a few feet as he also hit the brakes suddenly and screeched to a halt. At that point he goes: “Get outta the way, you fucking white boy!” And then drives off.
Speechless, of course, I stand there agape for a second, turning my eyes to follow his car. It was an old white Escort with a bumper sticker in the back that had a raised fist and the words “CHICANO POWER”.
A term which ultimately means nothing but means something to some. But then again I tend to want to break down identity than want to perpetuate identity politics. I use it as a simplifier in expressing my upbringing. In the 60s and 70s it may have been a source of empowerment…but this form of empowerment is ultimately illusory. Empowerment comes through liberation not words. And I feel that creating a non-Anglo image of oneself or a non-European image of oneself, or decolonization is also a meaningless idea. You are in a culture. You cannot escape it. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I probably have more in common with my Chinese-American neighbor that grew up here too than a “Chicano” in Texas or San Francisco.
Using Chicano as a racialized term is a relic from a time where “race” was seen as REAL and not just a social construct. Using “Chicano” as a sort of cultural badge can have some social weight though (if you’re interested in cultural badges).
Connections need to be made to each other through & through and not just through the praxis of socially-constructed identities.
Let the games…begin!!!
[NOTE: Most of my commentary are ideas in flux and I am open to criticisms/suggestions.]
I think the term has an oppositional character to it.
So, what does Chicano mean when – 1, potential members of this group are nearly a majority in an area (or are a majority, or are a super majority, or even 95% of people), 2, the mayor probably called himself a Chicano, 3, the indigenous population of L.A. is increasing?
me!..actually Chicana but close enough.
BTW, I have very few issues with the term. After visiting family in Southwest, I see how I’m culturally connected to them and how I’m not just a LA girl.
Actually, I guess I do have some thoughts on this, which have been just now stoked by Julio’s comments. But likewise, they’re not convictions right now. Just thinking aloud.
I think Hector’s explanation is fascinating and I’m thankful for it, as someone who is always awed by what little knowledge of history comes my way. But, clearly, words’ meanings always change over time, so we can’t rely entirely on etymology to understand a word’s modern meaning.
For one thing, Julio, I appreciate your wish not to perpetuate identity politics. I also think we often get carried away with that, becoming overly concerned with self-categorizing into social groups we’re “proud to belong to” (Chican@, gay, non-hipster native Angeleno, etc.) while leaving by the wayside the task of creating strategic inter-group alliances against those forces that most oppress us (capitalism, for example).
On the other hand, you say that “Chicano” can serve as shorthand to describe your experience growing up. And this is with good reason: Race may be a social construct, but ethnicity is real. Ethnicity, as I understand it, is forged through common historical experiences that people—whether of the same or of various racial backgrounds—live through collectively over generations. (This is why an ethnic group could be multiracial, like Mexican mestiz@s, for example.)
I do find the term Chican@ useful for precisely this reason. Although I will often say that I’m Mexican, I find “Chicano” in some ways a bit more precise in describing my life growing up. As the grown son of immigrants from rural Mexico, my Mexicanness is not exactly like theirs. So “Mexican” is a vague term, it seems to me. “Chicano” is relatively more accurate, as it is used by many of those who, like me, grew up speaking Spanish at home (with unlettered, working-class parents, perhaps) and learned English on the street, on TV and at school. Of course, even this term is vague, as not all Chican@s’ parents are from rural Mexico (maybe not even their grandparents or great-grandparents) and maybe they weren’t working class—I only mentioned this set of characteristics as an example. But there are other common experiences that bind the bulk of Mexican descendants in the U.S. together, allowing for many of us to identify with each other culturally/experientially/historically. In a sense, Chican@s could or already have become a separate ethnic group from Mexicans in Mexico.
Because people I know in LA who are of Salvadoran descent come from extremely similar situations, I tend to identify with them in this manner in exactly the same way. For this reason, I tend to want to call them Chican@s as well. (The challenge here is that “Chican@” is such a Mexico-centric term, that I understand why they may not always appreciate it. For this reason, a new term may develop eventually. “Latin@”, on the other hand, is very inclusive of, like, most people in the western hemisphere, so it would be inadequate as a term that refers specifically to US-born/raised Latin@s. However, I do use this term a lot as well when speaking in more general terms seems appropriate.)
As for identifying more with one’s Chinese American friends… I know that on a personal level this happens all the time—probably less than half of my friends are Chican@s. But my Chinese American friends’ lives growing up were certainly different from my own. There are many parallels, of course, but our experiences were on the whole different (different language, food, rearing practices, sensibilities). Chican@s and Chinese Americans and many other groups, on the other hand, could eventually all meld into a new single ethnic identity if we continue to live for a few more generations side by side experiencing LA together.
That’s a lot of good comments for a 4 word post! I usually tend to think of the term as an attempt to capture something undefinable which is illustrated effectively by the term “ni de aqui, ni de alla.” At work, I’m the Mexican, and there’s some good natured jokes that stem from that. In Spain, I had two random strangers refer to me as a Chicano, very odd (but kinda cool) since that hasn’t happened to me anywhere else. I don’t think I’ve ever thought of myself as an American, but I’m okay with that. In my neighborhood, I just blend in.
Another definition of Chic ano could be a stylish, trendy asshole. And that would also suit me perfectly. 😉
A Chicano is…everything that was said in this thread. It’s a word used for classification.
I along with my Korean, Japanese, Black and Mexican neighbors and friends are classified as a different group. We are Eastsiders.
If we get someone from Silver Lake in the group we could think of another new name. Simply we could be Angelinos. Not so creative, but it works as a classification.
I think it’s an American whose parents descend from Mexico. I would also say it’s just a cool name to label a certain ethnic group in America, anyways we are all Americans.
I like Cindylu’s explanation…. it’s exactly what I wanted to say. I was born in El Salvador, was raised in Cali since I was 3 yrs old, and I consider myself Chicana!
a chicano is a dinosaur…
those terms are tired. to me, its offensive to be called a chicano. or pocho or any of those terms.
for geographical purposes i am a SOUTH SIDER!!!![former east sider]
in terms of identifying, ill just say im a paisa. immigrant family. US born. Mexican. PAISA.
but chicano? thats something college kids like to call themselves to feel “down”.
Did you at one point identify your self as a “chicano?”
Why is it offensive to you?
To me “chicano” is a term of impowerment and self discovery. I do not see how it can be offensive to a chicano. You do have your right to your opinion. I am curious and would like to know if you were ever a chicano?
I wanted to stay out of this discussion because I’m not Mexican or Chicano. But I have to ask “the N”, where do you get the idea that only college kids call themselves Chicanos, and do so to be “down”? Almost every American born person of Mexican descent that I know calls themselves Chicano, and most of them are too old to be college students. Also, when you say they want to be down, what do you mean? Down for what?
Im with caxcan and rob on that one, it seems abit absurd to get offended by a term that generally is associated with empowerment.
My wife’s half asian half white (with a whole lot of comanche in the blood giving her a latino look), but grew up in Pico Union and then El Monte, and her case is one of the makes me enjoy the word. She also walked up the dodger stadium hill while pregnant, if that counts for brownie points.
ah, how funny that you posted this…
no, never considered myself a chicano. altho i did have people try to identify me as one.
that idea of being a “chicano” was never know to me till i met some mecha kids.
up till that point i was just a mexican. and to this day i continue to be just a mexican.
i take offense in someone trying to label me. that was part of it. but i also have a different understaning of the word. it was similar to chicanadas. thats the closest i had come to hearing the word prior to my meeting with these DOWN FOR THE CAUSE types. in spanish it has one meaning. in english another. yall use it in english to “empower” yourself. i wouldnt use it in that sense.
i come from a mostly monolingual spanish home. [ex illegal]immigrant. poor. we werent chicanos. we are mexicans. in the US.
and almost all US born mexicans i know DONT call themselves chicanos. the ones that went to college might.
chicano-ness exists mostly in academia. or is mostly discovered there. thats the only place i have really encountered it. i can go to chato in HP. rodrigo in belveder. chemita in florence. eulalio in watts and ask them: what are you. they will probably say mexican. thats my reality. there is a difference from the lives led in the lecture hall and the ones found in the alley.
besides when was the last time yall been to a chicano restaurant?
ok ok. silly to validate identity based on culinary options. but the larger point is… what is chicano culture?
my culture is a US BORN MEXICAN SPANISH SPEAKING POWDERED MILK DRINKING HOODRAT PLAYBOY experience.
i would nat call that chicano. chicano also seems too simplistic. my life, my identity, is too varied to be summed up in one label/word. chicano would not suffice or be appropriate.
what does it mean after all?
I think everyone has valid points that are based on their personal experiences, there is not a right or a wrong answer.
I encountered the Chicano culture when I went to college, one day I came home with my Proud Chicana t-shirt and my dad had a hissy fit, he said he didn’t like me identifying myself as a Chicana, to him it was a derogatory term that represented “troublemakers with a derisive militant agenda, vagos” not Mexicans. Once again, those were his experiences that formed his way of thinking, not necessarily mine.
I presently do not primarily identify myself as a Chicana, my college friends no longer call themselves Chicanos. It is an empowering term when you learn and take classes on the subject. I will give it props that you can actually major in Chicano Studies, not that I am sure what you can do with a degree in Chicano Studies, but you can learn a lot about our culture in taking those classes.
I worked with Sal Castro, mainly known for his part in leading high school students to walk out in protest of the unequal conditions of our high schools (he is in Wikipedia) he is what some might call a Nationalist, he told me never to call myself a Latina or Hispanic, that those were umbrella terms, he felt we should be proud to identify ourselves as Mexican-Americans, not part of a big group. I listen and take what’s right for me as everyone should have the right to identify as they choose.
There is no right or wrong answer. I joked on another post about being Chicanically correct, it is a culture within itself that could be so many things for so many people. Being Chicano is what you make of it, but if you going to be it, make sure you are Chicanically correct. =)
My Chicanically correct quote for the day:
Es mejor morir de pie que vivir toda una vida de rodillas. Emiliano Zapata
I want to add to what I said earlier on this thread. Most Chicanos I know will actually refer to themselves as Mexican when asked about their ethnicity. That being said, I’ve never heard any Chicanos, or Mexican Americans, or even Mexicans, born or living in America, outright reject being called Chicanos, either. If the topic comes up, it’s almost always, “Hell yeh I’m Chicano!”. So, what I should have said earlier, particularly to “the N”, is that I’ve never seen a Chicano reject the term, as you seem to.
ya, well i also reject pocho, but others embrace it.
everyones got their reasons.
i would correct someone tho. i am not a chicano.
its akin to this whole discussion of east versus west. those yipsters started calling echo and the surrounding area the east side. tom la bonge put them in their place. he, as a a wise individual, knows better and rejects being called something he is not. he is not an eastsider, altho some people put it in their head that the east side lays west of downtown. he know better.
Well, as you can tell, I whole-heartedly embrace the term Chicano but I waste no time whatsoever in condemning those who choose to identify as something else. I lay claim to the term “chicano” based on my family background,my education,my friends and to the place i was born and raised in;Lincoln Heights,Eastside Los Angeles. My father was from Durango,Mexico and my mother hails from Nicaragua. They met while working at Morgan Laundry in Chinatown in the early sixties. I was born in the pivotal year of 1968 and while in my mother’s womb I absorbed the echoes of the shouts of student protest at Lincoln High. My father learned english by reading aloud and recording his accented pronunciations of a flyer announcing the meeting of various organizations to plan the Chicano Moratorium in 1970. I had the opportunity to go to head start which was formed with the help of Raza educators and I was enrolled in one of the first bilingual language programs at Gates Street elementary. The nice anglo librarian at the Lincoln Heights Library directed me to the file boxes holding dozens of copies of underground newspapers reporting the Moviemiento. So, I grew up with an awareness of chicanismo way before College. Meanwhile, I was growing up with my friends whose parents had roots in Jalisco. I survived the whitewashed Reagan eighties and replugged into the espiritu of La Raza at CSUN where I joined MeCha and majored in Chicano Studies. I got to meet a Gallery of Raza greats: Cesar Chavez,Sal Castro,Rudy Acuna,Edward James Olmos,Culture Clash,Ernesto Vigil from the Crusade for Justice,”og” Brown Beret Carlos Montes and I gained alot of wisdom from all the Chicano Studies professors especially Drs.Soto and Pardo. Still, in my life’s journey, I did not let politics affect my friendships: I hung out and partied with the “hispanic conservatives” of SHPE AND LBA and to this day I hang with alot of my buddies who never utter the word chicano. I’ve done things that run counter to the hardcore Chicano philosophy like joining the Army back in 1994 but then again some of the people I just mentioned also did serve:Cesar Chavez,Sal Castro,Rudy Acuna. I’ve also delved into my Nicaraguan roots as well as my ties to Spain;my last name is Vizcarra which is Basque. I missed the opportunity to study Nahuatl but I’m stil working on my spanish everyday. To be chicano is to be aware and respectful of diversity within and outside of our culture. Still, you will face the haters and naysayers. Early on I learned to never identify as Mexican because I’ve had too much Mexicans tell me I’m not. I’ll always remember meeting an ignorant cholo who could not accept me as chicano because I’m light skinned(but not guero gueys) and spoke educated. In MeCha, you will always meet those machistas who are caught up in “out-chicanoing” you and looking for any reason to call you a sell-out but i pay them no mind. Anyways, I want to thank LA EASTSide for providing me with a worthy forum to express my thoughts.
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