The term Chicano became popular among Mexican Americans in the late 1960s as
Mexican American leaders, young activists, and united workers organizers such as Cesar Chavez
and Dolores Huerta fought for civil rights, expansion on wages, housing, and education. The
movement pushed for new identification, social/political empowerment through cultural
nationalism. Different issues such as racism, farmworker issues, education, unfair housing,
unequal civil rights and lack of identification pushed for Chicano identity formation. The essay
will focus on how racism, imperialism and xenophobia contributed to the creation of
The historical snapshots have illuminated the formation of Mexican social identity. The
community migrated in America since 1907. The migration movement toward the west side
coincided with recruitments of farm labourers in American Crystal Sugar Company. Most
immigrants came from Mexico itself, and old parts of Mexico such as southwestern states of
Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Over the years, political instability caused by the Mexican
revolution of 1910 contributed to many Mexicans' immigration to seek labour in America.
Development of the sugar beet industry, free housing and transportation to that sugar industry in
America initiated many Mexicans' migration to America. The Mexicans provided cheap labour
to agricultural industries and other sectors. The agricultural industries started to take advantages
over their cheap labour to maximize their profits. The formation of the Chicano movement was
meant to fight for wage increment and better working conditions. The treaty of Guadalupe
hidalgo helped to end the Mexican- American war. The treaty suggested that Mexican people
were to be maintained, protected, and free enjoyment of liberty of property. Also, the Mexicans
had a right to exercise their religion without restriction. The United States government promised
the Mexican immigrants land grants and citizenship, which was not fulfilled. Failure to fulfil
land grants lead to the formation of Chicano movements.
Discrimination and racism of Mexican-American is described throughout United States
history. The older Mexican- American tried to fit in America to avoid racisms in the early years
of their migration by associating themselves with Anglo background of Spanish descent (Pain
906). Young Mexican-American students pressed for assimilation as they became tired of
listening and schools stressing for patriotism, yet they were discriminated inside and outside the
classroom. The young Mexican-Americans did not want to lose their identity and assimilate as
mainstream Americans. Therefore, they created a Chicano movement to establish their own
identity and fights for equality and civil rights as Mexican Americans.
Mexican Americans have been racialized throughout American history. The educational
disadvantage from generation to generation and discrimination reports supports the racialization
arguments. The group was perceived to be more academically challenged than any other ethnic
group in America. Also, the mixed racial heritage of Mexicans contributed to the racialization of
Mexicans people. During the progressive era, Mexican America faced discrimination in
America. Many states passed the laws outlining criteria for sterilization. Mexican Americans
were disproportionately sterilized, and some were permanently sterilized.
Farmworkers leaders, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, founders of united farm workers
group, which initially was known as farm workers association, fought for improved economic
and social conditions (Rodolfo 221). Chavez had an experience in gruelling conditions of the
farmworkers since he was born in a Mexican- American farmworker family. Huerta and Chavez
lent their voice in grape workers strike, organized by agricultural workers organizing committee.
in the letter from Delano, (700) Chavez wrote, “The colour of our skins, the languages of
our cultural and native origins, the lack of formal education, the exclusion from the
democratic process, the numbers of our slain in recent wars—all these burdens
generation after generation have sought to demoralize us, we are not agricultural
implements or rented slaves, we are men.’
Most African Americans people lost their ancestral land. The Chicano
movement was created to recapture the ancestral land. Many Mexicans Americans
were second-hand citizens and lack land to live. The government, on the other hand,
denied them land grants. Through the movement, many Mexican Americans were able
to get back their land and regain status pride. Therefore, the movements strengthen
and attracted many followers. In his poem, ‘I am Joaquin’ Rodolfo (667) described
what is meant to be Chicano to attract more people to the movement.
Xenophobia contributed greatly to the formation of Chicano movements.
Mexicans immigrants were harshly treated and discriminated in America. Most
American people believed that America should be defined, dominated, and maintained
by white people. Since Mexican American is mixed heritage, they faced hatred, dislike
and mistreatment by the American people. Young Mexican American formed the
movement to condemn the treatment and discrimination.
Acuña, Rudolfo. "Occupied America."a history of Chicanos (2014).
Chavez, Cesar. The Words of César Chávez. Texas A&M University Press, 2002.
Gonzales, Rodolfo Corky. "Dialectical Identity, Nostalgia For The Past, and Oppression. Three
themes of Chicano Literary Renaissance of the 1960’s onward."
Pain, Rachel. "Gender, race, age and fear in the city." Urban studies 38.5-6 (2001): 899-913.