The Struggles Of Being Chicano

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The Struggles of Being Chicano

The Struggles of Being Chicano


In October 1977, more than two thousand individuals representing a spectrum of Mexican-American and other Hispanic interests, ranging from community groups and elected officials to militant ethnic separatist and Marxist organizations, assembled in San Antonio, Texas for the First National Chicano/Latino Conference on Immigration and Public Policy. Called in response to President Jimmy Carter's recently announced immigration reform legislation, the conference provided dramatic evidence of the extent to which the immigration controversy had become a major civil rights issue in the 1970s. In three days of meetings, the conference participants passed a series of unanimous resolutions condemning the "Carter Plan" as discriminatory against both citizens and aliens of Latin descent. With Mexican-American organizations leading the way, the delegates specifically criticized the administration's call for the imposition of legal sanctions against usual employers of illegal aliens(Bixler-Marquez 2007).


The unanimous negative response to the Carter Plan by Mexican-American community groups, elected officials, and virtually every major civil rights and political advocacy organization, represented a dramatic departure from traditional Mexican-American positions on the immigration issue. Indeed, dating from the period of the first mass migrations of Mexicans into the United States after the turn of the century, most Mexican-American political activists and organizations had consistently demanded many of the same reforms that they now rejected. Accepting the premise that immigrants undermined the life chances of American citizens of Mexican descent by competing with them for employment, depressing wages, and retarding their assimilation into the American social and cultural mainstream, most Mexican-American advocates traditionally had demanded that immigration from Mexico be tightly regulated, even though most Mexican Americans were descended from immigrants who had come north from Mexico (Gonzales 2001).

Given this long history of restrictionist sentiment, the overwhelmingly negative Mexican-American response to the Carter Plan in 1977 was truly remarkable. In other ways, however, the united Mexican-American opposition to the government's immigration reform proposals represented a logical outgrowth of the social ferment that had transformed ethnic politics in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Mexican immigration reemerged as a national political issue at the same time politically active Mexican Americans were embroiled in a complex debate over their cultural and ethnic identity. Paralleling developments in the black civil rights and the antiwar movements of the era, Mexican Americans had also intensified their demands for equal rights in a series of disparate social protests that became known collectively as the "Chicano movement." Mexican-American activists-particularly students and youth-built a political campaign characterized by proclamations of cultural pride, ethnic solidarity, and a willingness to employ confrontational political tactics (Mora 2005).

Like their militant black counterparts, this generation of activists rejected much of the politics of integration previously pursued byMexican-American activists and instead called for new "Chicano" politics based on an aggressive assertion of ethnic identity and militant political, tactics. Though many Mexican Americans were alienated by the militants' ideology and rhetoric, the young activists helped change the political landscape by raising ...
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