Harvard Educational Review
  1. Chicano!

    The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement

    By F. Arturo Rosales

    Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1996. 304 pp. $45.00.

    This book is intended as a complementary resource to the four-part television documentary, "Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement," which aired on PBS stations in 1996.

    The author, a former Chicano activist and currently a professor at Arizona State University, has written a meticulously researched and compelling book that at long last addresses and assesses the Chicano Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The term "Chicano" comes from the Aztec Nahuatl word mechicano, which means the "poorest of the poor." Chicano activists canonized the term "Chicano" to designate the people of Mexican ancestry born or raised in the U.S. Southwest, who possessed a positive cultural identity and who struggled for social justice.

    The book provides an overview of Chicano history, beginning with the dismemberment of Mexican Texas in 1836 by a consortium of Euro-American settlers and slave owners (the latter inexplicably omitted by the author). This era culminated in the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) and the annexation of the Southwest by the United States. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war, guaranteed linguistic, political, and land grant rights to Mexican-Americans. Within one generation, however, Mexicans were consigned to a marginalized status: landless, poor, segregated, and invisible. And so it has remained, more or less, for over one hundred years.

    The advent of the Chicano Movement challenged that status quo of marginality and radicalized the aspirations for social change. According to the author:

    The Chicano Movement confronted racism and racial self-hatred head on, using the slogan "brown is beautiful" and promoting an allegiance and affection to the Indian-Mestizo physical features. . . . Spurring the Chicano Movement was a perception that Mexicans living in the United States encountered repressive conditions that needed rectification. (p. xix)

    The Movimiento included the unionization of field workers by the United Farm Workers Union, led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta; the reclamation of land by La Alianza Federal de las Mercedes, led by Reies Lopez Tijerina; the call for political empowerment by the Crusades for Justice and La Raza Unida Party; and the demand for better educational opportunities.

    This book is a timely and valuable resource for educators at all levels. Chicano! is an important contribution to the literature about the Chicano experience that aims at recovering the past and creating the future.

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    Book Notes