Chicano (feminine Chicana) is a politically-loaded word for a Mexican American (in the sense of native-born Americans of Mexican ancestry, as opposed to Mexican natives living in the United States). The terms Chicano and Chicana (also spelled xicano) are used specifically by and regarding some US citizens of Mexican descent.
Chicano poet and writer Tino Villanueva traces the first documented use of the term to 1911 as referenced in a then-unpublished essay by University of Texas anthropologist Jose Limón. Linguists Edward R. Simmen and Richard F. Bauerle report the use of the term in an essay by Mexican American writer, Mario Suarez, published in the Arizona Quarterly in 1947. Mexican Americans were not identified as a racial/ethnic category prior to the 1980s US Census when the term Hispanic was first used.
An alternate etymology that predates Raso holds that the conversion of the pronunciation of the "x" in Mexicano was converted to /ʃ/ or /tʃ/ as a term of endearment.
Some believe that the word chicamo somehow became chicano, which, unlike chicamo, reflects the grammatical conventions of Spanish-language ethno- and demonyms, such as americano, castellano, or peruano. However, this is highly unlikely and Chicanos generally do not agree that "chicamo" was ever a word used within the culture as its assertion is thus far entirely unsubstantiated. Therefore, most Chicanos do not agree that Chicano was ever derived from the word "chicamo". In fact, it is common knowledge within most Mexican American communities that the term "Chicano" has been used for centuries as an indigenous self-identifying reference. There is ample literary evidence to further substantiate that Chicano is a self-declaration as a large body of Chicano literature exists with publication dates far predating the 1950s. There is also a substantial body of Chicano literature that predates both Raso and the Federal Census Bureau.
As stated in the Handbook of Texas:
Thus far, the origins of the word remain inconclusive as the term is not widely used outside of Mexican American communities, further indicating that the term in primarily a self-identifying description.
One must note according to some experts that Chicano most likely originated though from Chicago, Illinois or Northwest Indiana by Mexican immigrants arrived in these areas during the early 20th century. The term most likely refers to "Little Man" from both the Spanish words Chico means "boy" and in linguistics of the Spanish language, "-ano" refers to a group of people.
Inspired by the courage of the farmworkers, by the California strikes led by César Chávez, and by the Anglo-American youth revolt of the period, many Mexican-American university students came to participate in a crusade for social betterment that was known as the Chicano movement. They used Chicano to denote their rediscovered heritage, their youthful assertiveness, and their militant agenda. Though these students and their supporters used Chicano to refer to the entire Mexican-American population, they understood it to have a more direct application to the politically active parts of the Tejano community.
At certain points in the 1970s, Chicano was the preferred, politically correct term to use in reference to Mexican-Americans, particularly in the scholarly literature. However, as the term became politicized, its use fell out of favor as a means of referring to the entire population. Since then, Chicano has tended to refer to politicized Mexican-Americans.
Sabine Ulibarri, an author from Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, once attempted to note that Chicano was a politically "loaded" term, although Ulibarri has recanted that assessment. In fact, most agree that Chicano is widely considered to be a positive term of honor by many.
For Chicanos, the term usually implies being "neither from here, nor from there" in reference to the U.S. and Mexico respectively. As a mixture of cultures from both countries, being Chicano represents the struggle of being accepted into the Anglo-dominated society of the United States while maintaining the cultural sense developed as a Latino-cultured U.S. born Mexican child.
Many individuals of Mexican descent view the use of the words Chicano or Chicana as reclamation and regeneration of an indigenous culture destroyed through colonialism.
Another theory is the origin of such terminology is from the Maya temple, Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula, a ruin of an ancient MesoAmerican civlization about 1,500 years ago. Chicano may be a Hispanized word for Chichen or the Mayan descendants, not limited to Aztec descendants or Nahuatl people.
However, it should be noted that Reies Tijerina was a vocal claimant to the rights of Hispanics and Mexican Americans, and he remains a major figure of the early Chicano Movement.
In his essay "Chicanismo" in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures (2002), Jose Cuellar dates the transition from derisive to positive to the late 1950s, with a usage by young Mexican-American high school students.
Outside of Mexican American communities, the term might assume a negative meaning if it is used in a manner that embodies the prejudices and bigotries long directed at Mexican and Mexican-American people in the United States. For example, in one case, a prominent Chicana feminist writer and poet has indicated the following subjective meaning through her creative work.
Ana Castillo has referred to herself as a Chicana, and her literary work reflects that she primarily considers the term to be a positive one of self-determination and political solidarity.
The Mexican archeologist and anthropologist Manuel Gamio reported in 1930 that the term chicamo (with an "m") was used as a derogatory term used by Hispanic Texans for recently arrived Mexican immigrants displaced during the Mexican revolution in the beginning of the early 20th century. At this time, the term Chicano began to reference those who resisted total assimilation, while the term Pochos referred (often pejoratively) to those who strongly advocated assimilation.
In Mexico the term is associated with a Mexican-American person of low importance class and poor morals. The term Chicano is not widely known or used in Mexico since indigenous groups which originated the term are a very small minority of the country's largely mestizo population.
Chicano has criss-crossed to some from other Hispanic/Mexican-American communities: Some who may identify themselves as Californio, Hispano, Isleño, Mexican Texian, New Mexico Spanish, Spanish American and Tejano. The word chico, not "Chicano", as some Anglos commonly confuse the term, is sometimes described for a child of Mexican immigrants, or who resides in urban areas of (esp. Southern) California, Colorado and Arizona, or from a mestizo instead of fully Spanish background.
Norteño as in the Mexicans referred the Southwest U.S. as el Norte as opposed to Surreño, although anyone from the U.S. is NorteAmericano, since Mexico and Latin America (Central and South) long identified themselves as Americanos. Mexican Americans don't actually call themselves Norteños. The only people who identify themselves as Norteños are Chicanos from Northern California, compared to Surreño or Chicanos from Southern California and from areas of Arizona or New Mexico adjacent to the Mexican border (or Mexicans in general). The term can mean a Northern Mexican or "Mexicano del Norte" versus Southern Mexican or "Mexicano del sur". Many people presume they are a gang, when in truth they are a culture of over 100 years of Mexicans, over 300-400 years of Spaniards and over 2,000 years of Native Americans in Northern California wrapped up into one.
Whether this is true is still debated by archaeologists who studied ruins of ancient Amerindian civilizations in Arizona (the Hohokam), California (the Imperial and Palo Verde valleys), Colorado (Mesa Verde national park), Nevada, New Mexico, Texas (the El Paso area) and southern Utah .
Many currents came together to produce the revived Chicano political movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Early struggles were against school segregation, but the Mexican American cause, or La Causa as it was called, soon came under the banner of the United Farm Workers and César Chávez. However,Corky Gonzales and Reies Tijerina stirred up old tensions about New Mexican land claims with roots going back to before the Mexican-American War. Simultaneous movements like the Young Lords, to empower youth, question patriarchy, democratize the Church, end police brutality, and end the Vietnam War all intersected with other ethnic nationalist, peace, countercultural, and feminist movements.
Since Chicanismo covers a wide array of political, religious and ethnic beliefs, and not everybody agrees with what exactly a Chicano is, most new Latino immigrants see it as a lost cause, as a lost culture, because Chicanos don't identify with Mexico or wherever their parents migrated from as new immigrants do. So in essence new immigrants are not Chicanos and their kids will not be Chicanos because Chicanoism is now only being prolonged by academics; it's an appreciation of a historical movement.
For some, Chicano ideals involve a rejection of borders. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo transformed the Rio Grande region from a rich cultural center to a rigid border poorly enforced by the United States government. At the end of the Mexican-American War, 80,000 Spanish-Mexican-Indian people were forced into sudden U.S. habitation. As a result, Chicano identification is aligned with the idea of Aztlán, which extends to the Aztec period of Mexico, celebrating a time preceding land division. Paired with the dissipation of militant political efforts of the Chicano movement in the 1960s was the emergence of the Chicano generation. Like their political predecessors, the Chicano generation rejects the "immigrant/foreigner" categorization status. Chicano identity has expanded from its political origins to incorporate a broader community vision of social integration and nonpartisan political participation.
The shared Spanish language, Catholic faith, close contact with their political homeland (Mexico) to the south, a history of labor segregation, ethnic exclusion and racial discrimination encourage a united Chicano or Mexican folkloric tradition in the United States. Ethnic cohesiveness is a resistance strategy to assimilation and the accompanying cultural dissolution.
In the visual arts, works by Chicanos address similar themes as works in literature. The preferred media for Chicano art are murals and graphic arts. San Diego's Chicano Park, home to the largest collection of murals in the world, was created as an outgrowth of the city's political movement by Chicanos. Rasquache art is a unique style subset of the Chicano Arts movement.
One of the most powerful and far-reaching cultural aspects of Chicano culture is the indigenous current that strongly roots Chicano culture to the American continent. It also unifies Chicanismo within the larger Pan Indian Movement. Since its arrival in 1974, what is known as Danza Azteca in the U.S., (and known by several names in its homeland of the central States of Mexico: danza Conchera, De la Conquista, Chichimeca, etc.) has had a deep impact in Chicano muralism, graphic design, tattoo art (flash), poetry, music, and literature.
In the 1960s and 1970s, a wave of Chicano rock surfaced through innovative musicians Johnny Rodriguez, Ritchie Valens, Carlos Santana, Linda Ronstadt. Joan Baez, who was also of Mexican-American descent, included Hispanic themes in some of her protest folk songs. Chicano rock is rock music performed by Chicano groups or music with themes derived from Chicano culture.
There are two undercurrents in Chicano rock. One is a devotion to the original rhythm and blues roots of Rock and roll including Ritchie Valens, Sunny and the Sunglows, and ? and the Mysterians. Groups inspired by this include Sir Douglas Quintet, Thee Midniters, Los Lobos, War, Tierra, and El Chicano, and, of course, the Chicano Blues Man himself, the late Randy Garribay.
The second theme is the openness to Latin American sounds and influences. Trini Lopez, Santana, Malo, Azteca, Toro, Ozomatli and other Chicano Latin Rock groups follow this approach. Chicano rock crossed paths of other Latin rock genres (Rock en espanol) by Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and South America (La Nueva Cancion). Rock band The Mars Volta combines elements of progressive rock with traditional Mexican folk music and Latin rhythms along with Cedric Bixler-Zavala's Spanglish lyrics.
Chicano punk is a branch of Chicano rock. Examples of the genre include music by the bands Los Illegals, The Brat, The Plugz, Manic Hispanic and the Cruzados; these bands emerged from the Los Angeles punk scene. Some music historians argue that Chicanos of Los Angeles in the late 1970s might have independently co-founded punk rock along with the already-acknowledged founders from British-European sources when introduced to the US in major cities. The rock band ? Mark and the Mysterians, which was comprised primarily of Mexican American musicians, was the first band to be described as punk rock. The term was reportedly coined in 1971 by rock critic Dave Marsh in a review of their show for Creem magazine.
Chicano rap is a unique style of hip hop music which started with Kid Frost, who began using Spanish in the early 1990s. While Mellow Man Ace was the first mainstream rapper to use Spanglish, Frost's song "La Raza" paved the way for its use in American hip hop. Chicano rap tends to discuss themes of importance to young urban Chicanos. Some of today's chicano artists include Lil Rob, Baby Bash, B-Real, Chingo Bling, Taboo (rapper) (from Black Eyed Peas), Stunta, Scweez,kinto Sol, Kemo the Blaxican, Mr. Criminal and Aztlan Underground.
Though debatable, "Chicano" is rooted in the modern tongue, and will probably be around for many more generations. Chicano in New Mexico is not solely an identity of anti-assimilation or radical term of protest, rather it is a culture in itself, with its own set of beliefs, its own ceremonies, and stories. Chicano today is widely used to describe those of Spanish descent living in New Mexico, Arizona and southern Colorado, even in Texas, however NuevoMexicanos make clear the dichotomy from Tejanos. Chicano is a favored self-identifying term over Raza, Hispanic, Mexican, Latino which fall short for the peoples of New Mexico in grasping the complexities and the deep historical rooting in both European and New World ideologies, a unique culture born of the conquests, and has endured in the hearts of modern New Mexicans for 500 years.