A Clash! (or If You Think You’re A Chicano You Are One)


The arbitrary guidelines be damned! If you think you’re a chican@ then you are one! Since not everyone these days wants to be one then can we say that Chicanismo (for lack of a better term) is a choice! Not a death sentence! At one point it was a choice, a banner to waved (or now a T-Shirt to wear). But now if you fall somewhere on the dead Left, then the assumption is that you are a Chicano through-and-through. One must wade through many proto-typical Chican@s to find someone that is playful with the term.
[Oh to be playful again! To understand that all is play, and that the work part is something that happens in your mind not reality.]

On the poverty of the Chican@ these days I have much to say! Chican@-esque gatherings not amounting to much more than a hodgepodge amalgamation of Mexican indigenous cultures and the vending of clothes that speak your mind(?) These gatherings/shows/events used to dwell on the Mexica (read: Aztec) but now it seems that the emphasis is on the Maya. But my family has lineages of indigenous cultures that were oppressed by both those two groups! What’s a Chicano to do?!?
Those who say they are Chican@s must fess up to being a clash and that’s it posturing more than anything! And La Raza Cósmica is as bunk an idea as the notion of Race itself! Give up the ghost and let José Vasconcelos’ idea die! I know, I know…you really like saying “raza” and it does not mean the same thing as the English word “race” but it still stinks of wanting to create pride! Pride is for those with weak-feelings, weak-self-esteem and weaker-hearts: this is why it’s not possible to reconcile the use of “Brown Pride” while we so reproach the use of “White Pride.” Pride in who you are (which you had NOTHING do with) is ridiculous! Do not hate who you are but PRIDE is a term replete with the same feelings some have when they see the Stars & Stripes wave, or when someone says “America: Love it or Leave it!” Must we fight stubbornness with stubbornness?
I too love what some self-professed Chican@s have done through the years: whether in music, art, or literature. But that what I have loved most from these creative wanderers is that they not only delve into the phantasmagoric land of Chicanismo but they transcend it and fly into the ether.
So what does it mean to be a Chican@ today? I don’t know. It meant a specific thing 30+ years ago, but now I don’t know. Are we all really post-Chicanos? Does that even mean anything substantive? What say YOU?!
NOTE: All these pendejadas are the sole thoughts of the writer and probably do not reflect what anyone else thinks on LAEastside, so send the hatemail to me!

29 thoughts on “A Clash! (or If You Think You’re A Chicano You Are One)

  1. It only takes a few people to:
    1. misrepresent a movement
    2. misinterpret a movement
    And as a result the connotations of words change and require either a reinterpretion of the movement or regulating those misrepresentating.
    Not all is “playful”. People have died because they embraced the word Chicano.
    If you want to meet chicanos… well, you have to be a chicano to find one.
    Things have changed. Remember, the last ten years have not been kind to community activists that demanded accountability from its government.
    I am having di

  2. @Caxcan
    Thank you for providing me with what to you is a Chicano. That it is tied to “the movement” and that it is NOT playful, and that people have died due to their embrace of the word.
    And on my ideas of play: I take playfulness seriously because it is how I engage the world. Does the Grizzly Bear know when work & play begins? No, all he does is play but a very SERIOUS play that enables his survival. I strive to do the same because my life depends on it!
    My use of the photo was to spur and challenge that which a Chicano is or is not. Are they Chicanos? Are they not because they are gender-fucking and being playfully serious? Does Chicanismo include MACHISMO? Does it not? That’s why I used the photo. Must they ride lowriders and have moustaches?
    The irony of words/ideas is that people die for them. People should not die for ideas or words but for the sake of each other. Does being a Chicano necessitate martyrdom too?
    And the government in power is not yours or mine, but those with the most ZEROS in their bank account. To assume they would be nice to “us” is to miss the point of why rebellion is even necessary to begin with.
    I appreciate your comments and talking points! I am interested in dialogue not SINGLE-SIDED polemics. I don’t have all the answers, and never will.

  3. Dear Julio,
    Wow! …
    You began great. There is dialogue in your first and second paragraph. One question to this part; You strive to be like a bear?
    Then,… it all changed.
    Your rethorical rambling does not interest me.
    Dying for the sake of each other is dumb. What do you gain? (a pon for a pon)
    Money does buy votes.
    “Polemics,” thanks. I have not come accross this one. Deffinately will use it again.
    Let me point out a contradiction in your part.
    The following interpretation comes from, freedictionary.com
    po·lem·ics (p-lmks)
    n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
    1. The art or practice of argumentation or controversy.
    Speaking with out arguements or controversy?
    Maybe your piece should have gone on your facebook? This is a blog, not a chattroom.
    I love dialogue. I appreciate that you took time to right your piece. That is why I read it.
    But, “talking points?”

  4. Chicanos exist they are anti capitalist n capitalist; anarchists; socialist; post race n not; contradictory; ephemeral; temporal; chic n out of fashion pretty much everyhthibg under the sun. It’s a choice n not if ur parents brought u up saying it or something else.
    Like just cuz someone wears tight pants, rides a bike, has thick black horn rimmed glasses, vegan or vegetarian, subscribing to alt politics, does that make them a hipster? No. But some would say so. It’s ALL PLAY
    some die playing n some don’t.
    Remember everything u say a thing is, it is. And whatever u say a thing is, it isn’t. Like this post.
    Viva La Raza!!!!

  5. ¡Qué viva!
    And hey, my pants aren’t _that_ tight.
    I’m not sure what this post really is. And maybe Caxcan is right: it’s place is as a status-update and not a blog post

  6. “My use of the photo was to spur and challenge that which a Chicano is or is not. Are they Chicanos? Are they not because they are gender-fucking and being playfully serious? Does Chicanismo include MACHISMO? Does it not? That’s why I used the photo. Must they ride lowriders and have moustaches”
    There are gay chicanos everywhere. let’s hope the repeal of proposition 8 let’s gay chicanos enjoy their lives together.

  7. I say the topic and conversation is totally worthy of a blog post. Pfft, Facebook is to share videos not to have conversations and dialogue. 😉
    I love the photo, reminds me of Romani women.
    My parents were part of the Chicano movement of the 60s and 70s and so I was raised to embrace a Chican@ identity but as that was kinda of a rare thing in the mostly Mexican immigrant neighborhoods I lived in, I often felt like an outsider for not being ‘real’ Mexican. Eventually, I learned there is a kinda a liberatory aspect to being Chicana, I can pick and choose elements of the different cultures I grew up around and incorporate them into my identity.
    Chicano culture is something that is growing, evolving and changing and we have the power to be part of the creation. That’s why when people (mostly a very small section of Chicanos in LA) start to define it in these very narrow terms or apply very specific cultural signifiers, I reject them. Or actually they have rejected me for not following them! Haha, but I haven’t cared much what they think or say, though. I was born this way. 😉
    There is also the issue of some academics who want to analyze and dissect everything to death. I guess that is their job but sometimes it is to the detriment of the living breathing thing that exists in front of them. Ay, but that’s just me. I have a prejudice against university induced politicization.
    By the way, I love the concept of La Raza Cosmica as I understand it. Imagine, “racially” we are everything and yet we are nothing. We are everywhere and nowhere. It’s crazy!
    Hehe, like the use of exclamation points!!!

  8. Unapologetic Troll
    January 15th, 2010 | 12:12 am

    “My use of the photo was to spur and challenge that which a Chicano is or is not. Are they Chicanos? Are they not because they are gender-fucking and being playfully serious? Does Chicanismo include MACHISMO? Does it not? That’s why I used the photo. Must they ride lowriders and have moustaches”
    There are gay chicanos everywhere. let’s hope the repeal of proposition 8 let’s gay chicanos enjoy their lives together.


    Dude, what is your thing with prop 8, both here and at Celeste’s “Witness LA” blog, where you post under the equally imaginative “WTF” moniker? Are you afraid of prop 8 being repealed because it will give you an excuse to come out? You like prop 8 because it gives you plausibility to harness your own homosexual feelings, don’t you? Of course you do. Why else would you be so worried about it being repealed?

  9. I am a third generation Chicano from East Los. Both my parents are from East Los. My grandparents are from Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, respectively.


    My family has always used this term to identify ourselves. In Boyle Heights, where I grew up, we spoke English to one another as the default language. WE DID NOT HAVE THE IDENTITY ISSUES THAT SOME PEOPLE HAVE HERE.

    When my mother, one day, asked my uncle about his new girlfriend, she asked about her identity first and in this way: Is she Chicana? If she was born in Mexico, he would have said: No, she’s Mexican. It doesn’t matter if she was raised in Los Angeles all her life; if she was born in Mexico and moved here while she was two years old, she’s still a Mexicana. Period.

    When I moved to the San Gabriel Valley, the Chicanos and Mexicanos were more confused with one another. In the SGV, I found it was common for Mexicans to approach me and speak Spanish. I would tell them that I don’t speak Spanish as politely as possible. The response from those who were confused about identities was always the same: What kind of Mexican are you? –I never had this happen to me growing up in East Los.

    I think people who are first generation usually have to ask the question: Am I Chicano? I answer it this way: If I go to Mexico, do I tell the Mexicanos that I’m a Mexican? –No. I wouldn’t. I AM A CHICANO. PERIOD.

    Red Side

  10. Sadly, for much of Los Angeles, we are all still just Mexicans. But that’s ok, we find ways to figure out the nuances in the way we are, I’ll get to that some other time.
    But what I’m mostly concerned about is the pressing issue of what to do with those fools you see on the freeway with a license plate frame that reads “Caution: Educated Latino”. Are we allowed to crash into them? They’re too far to punch but damn do they deserve it. Please inform.

  11. The term Chicano, when I was growing up on the LA Eastside, was a descriptive term for not only an LA Mexican American, but also a precise self-explication by Chicano’s about not only their ethnicity but also more especially about attitude and self awareness.
    Chicano was not a term easily used and or accepted by most Mexican Americans at that time (40’s 50’s and 60’s), to those who were looking to be more mainstream American, those attempting to eventually fit into the larger society of the USA.
    The Chicano was typically younger, angrier, had a different perspective and philosophy about who he or she was, as opposed to the views of the more narrow moral and judgmental mores of the time.
    I remember clearly the tsk, tsking, and looks of disapproval on the faces of my grandparents and parents of friends of mine, at our attitudes, language, dress, and music. Many of that generation were from Mexico or parts of the USA that were very similar to Mexico due to isolation and segregation. Those older jente had a different way of thinking about how to get along, about how to survive, and succeed as members of a minority group in the larger society of the time, a US culture that was more rigid and codified culturally than today, a society that even enjoyed and approved of a legalized system of discrimination and segregation.
    Those parents and grandparents of ours had, by and large, accepted their status and felt that the only way to succeed and survive was to practically kowtow to the system and the dominate “white” society.
    I don’t put them down totally because those were the times then, they had to figure out a way to fly under the radar and support their families without getting stomped on.
    Our ancestors hope was that their offspring would somehow integrate into the larger society somehow, maybe join the military, get a good job, get married, move into a tract home in Montebello or Whittier or La Puente.
    The dream come true for many of those old school Mexican’s was for their offspring to marry an American girl or guy, that’s right, they even used to refer to Anglo’s or Caucasians, or whatever you want to call white people, as “Americans”, like for example “The new coach down at the Downey Playground is an “American Guy”.
    Funny to think of now but there were “Mexicans” (even though they may have been in the USA for generations), and there were “Americans” or white people, that was how schizophrenic it used to be (and maybe still is in many cases),

    I will never forget one typical conversation I had with one of my best friends Father, who was a Mexican American originally from Texas, (and why was it that Mexican Americans from Texas used to seem more uptight with more self loathing than other Mexican Americans? Maybe they suffered more there?), “Joe”, was discussing his son’s marriage, a happy marriage to a dark skinned Mexican American woman, a woman who was educated and held a high position in her corporate job. With a straight face, Joe tells me “I tried to tell all my son’s to marry Gavacha’s or at least light skinned Mexicana’s, so in that way they could improve themselves! Yea! I know this may sound incredible to some, but that was the mindset of many of those old Mexicans.

    We “Chicano’s” of my generation believed in a completely different syllogism, our attitudes were about pride, rebelliousness, and a rejection of that old humble Mexicano school of thought. We rejected the mores of the larger society, we rejected the fucked up education we were served, we rejected the models of “white society” we were exposed to as paradigms, their music, their styles of clothing, we developed our own styles of dancing, cars, culture, language.
    This was before the “Chicano Movement” came into existence in the seventies, before the term Chicano became accepted by the college educated Chicano’s as a self-descriptive term.
    Shit I recall laughing to myself once while viewing on TV, a spokesman for a UCLA Chicano Movement group, who was at the podium speaking and introduced himself as “Rosario”.
    I went to school with that same guy who used to call himself “Ross”, and who was the epitome of what we Chicano’s used to refer to as a Chicano Falso. But more power to him, he came around and stepped up for the Raza.
    The description of a person as a “Chicano”, in my day, helped cut through the bullshit of who one really was, it encompassed not only the Mexican born kid who was raised here with us LA born Chicano’s, or a youngster who might be from a so called
    Spanish family from New Mexico or Colorado (The Great New Mexico Lie), or even an Okie or Irish kid who grew up in the varrio with the rest of us Chicano’s and adopted the same culture and attitudes as the rest of us, we were all Chicano’s.

    According to Webster’s Dictionary a “Chicano is a U.S. citizen or inhabitant of Mexican descent”.

    In reality it’s much more than that.

  12. Red Side
    January 15th, 2010 | 3:18 am



    Nobody here has an identity issue. And, your little story about Mexicans annoying you with their Espanol has “I’m a minuteman asshole” written all over it. You’re the only one with the identity issue.

  13. Ah, look who crawls out of the outhouse, if it’s not Mr.
    WTF who first stinks up Celeste’s blogs then makes his way over here. Still worried about that prop 8 thing? You like prop 8 because it legislates you from acting out on your gay instincts, doesn’t it? It’s going to be repealed. And then you’ll have no excuse. You know you’re right on the verge of coming out. Already rehearsing how you’re going to tell your dad, who probably is a drunk Chicano who’ll disown you when he finds out. But as much as you pretend to be like him in here, we all know your deal. I’ll bet you don’t even know how you gave yourself up, do you?

  14. You making me flashback too mush. These memories can easily be repeated today.

    I had a friend in Santa Cruz who was broke like me but he was from Carmel. It pained him when everyone assumed he had mad money. We took a class together and were assigned some interesting novels. The MEChA folks noticed his insecurity and zeroed in on him as a new possible member. They left me alone. So one day, super Xicano recruiter sees my friend in my room on the floor reading, but doesn’t see me. “You still reading that European shit? Come on, man. Know your history, blah blah…” I step out from behind the door and that gestapo tone soon turned conciliatory. I say nothing but my friend says, “This Dostoevsky dude is cool, you ever read ‘The Grand Inquisitor’? It’s awesome. Now I wanna go to Eastern Europe…” Aztec Warrior Recruiter looks down at us and said something to the effect: “…We got to know our own first, man. Eastern Europe is not a country high on my list.” Our unstoppable laughter finally chased him away. Chicano Power, yeah.

    I was on KPFK a few years back and the unprepared host gets personal first. “Would you define yourself as…”
    “I don’t.” His question faded into nothingness.
    “Is your zine a Chicano mag, an art rag, a cholo mag, a photo zine…?
    I said, “yes.”
    It wasn’t a very good interview. Labels bore the fuck out of me.
    “As a black woman…” “As a Chicana…” “As a Southwestern Icelandian…” Honestly, sometimes it makes me cringe and giggle. (What happened to I?) Kinda like when someone says, “Personally, for me…” or “Personally, speaking for myself.” Funny, everytime.

    Lastly, Rage Against The Machine was lame. There, I said it. Am I out of the Chicano scene, now? Good.

  15. Thanks too all (or at least most!) of the commentators in bringing in their view of all of this. It’s been a while ride!
    @City Terrace: I too, over time, have lost my taste for Rage Against The Machine. The nail of the coffin was when they played outside the DNC in 2000. People are trying to actively engage the STATE and they play music. Great, the 60s all over again (but without the bricks flying!).
    @Don Quixote: As always eloquent and to the point in really poetic way. I realize that the use of the term, and not just its meaning has shifted.

    @off the street: I’m no Brown Beret. I’m probably the opposite of a Brown Beret.

  16. Gustavo
    January 15th, 2010 | 7:51 pm

    What the hell is a “BITH Crusher”? Just curious, but you seem really hostile man.


    I’m hostile to those who are hostile to others.

  17. “your little story about Mexicans annoying you with their Espanol has ‘I’m a minuteman asshole’ written all over it. You’re the only one with the identity issue.” -Bith Crusher

    This is the kind of ignorance that I’m talking about. If I don’t speak Spanish, don’t question my identity or politics. I don’t judge people for speaking Spanish to me–as I said, I politely let them know that I don’t. But because I can’t speak Spanish, don’t question my identity or politics.

    As it happens, I actively organize around pro-immigrant issues around my community where I can. I was one of the few who held the lead banner alongside of Latino-USA at the last march in Downtown L.A. for immigrant rights for example.

    “Crusher” and his lack or respect shows he didn’t grow up in a real barrio. We always know how to conduct ourselves, even over the Internet. If you want respect, you have to give respect.

    By the way, Rage Against the Machine is awesome. I was at the DNC protest and am very proud to have been a part of it. But this is another post.

    Red Side

  18. I say im Latino….Chicano to me personally is way before my time.
    Hispanic if im correct is a term coined by Nixon? And since i dont hiss or panic lol

    Over at the last Guadalajara International Book Fair- the spotlight city was Los Angeles.
    Among the several discussions- there was a panel about this same topic- Chicano, Latino,Hispanic,etc

    As a light skinned Latino who works in th arts- its very interesting how people treat me sometimes- they assume sometimes im white- italian or jewish, but i always correct them.
    I also speak Spanish- better than I write it.

    We got to remember that Hispanic/Latino people come from 20 Spanish speaking countries- from Argentina to Venezuela.
    Chicano of course is exclusively meant to identify one of Mexican descent.
    Perception is not always reality 🙂

  19. Off The Street — they showed up and they asked if i was talking shit on MEChA. i said, claro que simon! they congratulated me and we sat around drinking horchata and listening to tower of power records til the wee hours. those old-timers can put it down. one of the brownest berets turned before leaving and said it’s “so very hard to go.”

    Julio — it wasn’t over time that i lost my taste for RATM. think it was the 900 times they repeated that boring riff in “killing in the name of…” that song is 5 mins long, but it feels like 500. also, screaming “fuck you. i won’t do what you tell me” backed by a riff david letterman’s band could out muscle doesn’t work for me. but their political shenanigans with michael moore at the new york stock exchange and all those fundraisers gets me to smile. hey, i liked lock up and inside out.

    Pachuco — what if i move to agoura hills? am i automatically disqualified? i know, i’ll marry the lightest woman from boise. that should do it.

  20. All I gotta say it thanks J-lo. You succinctly said what is in my head, even though I can’t express myself in the right way. There is nothing wrong with being a Chicano/a. In legal forms, I fill in the box that says Mexican because that’s where I was born. If you ask me how I identify myself, I’m just me, El Random Hero. Plain and simple. Labels can empower and limit at the same time and like you I too look beyond the limits set by words, society and labels. Hell, at one point in my life I identified myself as being black. Things change as people grow and thankfully I stopped saying ’cause’ after every sentence. Again, thanks for putting what I think into fancy words 😉

  21. I think that it is through identifying as a Chican@, we are able to create a space where we can address the inconsistencies which we feel but aren’t fully able to address in the dominant culture that has been created by the dominant system. Being Chican@ is about creating a different culture, whatever that culture is, that creates a different space to discuss ideas, profess love, etc. Culture is not for the weak, since it takes a step forward into the unknown from the culture that we are told is right.
    Sure, there are some Chican@s that say it has to be this way or that way, but seriously, if you talk to those of us who are new to this, us new Chican@s who come after the movement, you see we are looking for a space. A critical space, that maybe feminism or Chicanismo…

    Honestly, I think you are Chicano because you are creating a space for you and others to think about ideas (even stereotypical Chican@ ideas) differently.

  22. Oh and by the way, I can study the European men… Herbert Marcuse, Zizek, Lenin… and combine them with Chicanos, feminist Chicanas, Chicano-haters in this space.

    That’s why, this Mexi-Guatemalan, Purepecha descended woman likes to call herself Chicana.

  23. This space where we can and do “address the inconsistencies which we feel but aren’t fully able to address in the dominant culture that has been created by the dominant system.” was known as Aztlan.

  24. 1)Being Chicano cannot be simply defined by a set of stringent requirements or reduced to a simple stereotype. Each person adds their own unique individual experiences to the definition. Being Chicano should allow for variety and contradiction. 2) Rage against the Machine kicks ass in my book(you seem to be judging them on only one song,pretty narrow minded!) and being in the mosh pit in front of the DNC was a personal highlight during the year 2000. 3)Why are some people proud that they only know one language? 4)City Terrace, even people in MeCha criticize MeCha, so you have not achieved some kind of unique,courageous act. 5)Great thinkers come in all stripes, so one must not limit who they learn from.

  25. @Xicano Serg: About your #3, I have no idea. I’m not sure where the idea of being monolingual was this great thing. I’m trilingual and am only wanting to learn even more languages. And I agree with your point #1 that being Chicano cannot just be a set of requirements and that is what I was trying to rile up in people instead of just telling them.

    On #5: I couldn’t agree more. I take what I can get from anywhere I can.

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