is a cultural movement begun in the 1930s in the Southwestern United States
by Mexican Americans
to recapture their Mexican
, Native American
The four major themes of Chicanismo are generally considered to be: (1) the power of the creative earth and labor upon it; (2) political transformation through collective efforts; (3) strong familial ties extending back into Mesoamerican
pre-history; and (4) spiritually-influenced creative artistic imagination as reflected in the visual ARTS.
Origins of the phrase
According to San Francisco State University
professor José B. Cuéllar, the first documented use of "chicamo" (not "Chicano") was around 1900, when "American Mexicans" in Texas
used the phrase chicao
as a derogatory term for more recently arrived mexicanos.
The East Palo Alto, California Association states "the most likely source of the word is traced to the 1930 and 1940s period, when poor, rural Mexicans, often native Americans, were imported to the US to provide cheap field labor, under an agreement of the governments of both countries."
Professor Cuellar opines that during the late 1950s the meaning of "Chicano" largely transformed from a negative signifier of "Mexican immigrant" into a positive self-identifier of "U.S. natives of mexicano descent." By 1959, high school students of Mexican descent identified themselves proudly as "Chicano". He notes that in the 1990s, other Latino groups began to use the phrase "Chicano" to describe themselves.
Spiritual artistic themes
- The Legend of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. Iztaccíhuatl's father sent Popocatépetl to war in Oaxaca, promising him his daughter Iztaccíhuatl as his wife if he returned (which Iztaccíhuatl's father presumed he would not). Iztaccíhuatl was told her lover was dead and she died of grief. When he returned, he in turn died of grief over losing her. The gods covered them with snow and changed them into mountains. Iztaccíhuatl's mountain was called "Sleeping Woman" because it bears a resemblance to a woman lying on her back. He became the volcano Popocatépetl, raining fire in blind rage at the loss of his beloved.
- Aztlán, the spiritual utopian home of the Chicano people. Aztlán is believed to mean "Place of Whiteness" or "Place of Herons" (Nahuatl aztatl herons/white-plumed birds + tlan(tli) rooted in (as a tooth)/the place of)). During the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the story of Aztlán gained importance and it was reported by Fray Diego Durán (1581) and others to be a kind of Eden-like paradise, free of disease and death, which existed somewhere in the far north. These stories helped fuel Spanish expeditions to what is now the Southwestern United States.
- Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Roman Catholic icon, is the title given to the Virgin Mary after appearing, according to legend, to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City in 1531. The icon is currently located behind the main altar of the Basilica of Guadalupe. The icon has inspired art and murals in East Los Angeles.
- Huei tlamahuiçoltica (Nahuatl: "The Great happening") is the title of a 36-page tract written in 1649 by Luis Laso de la Vega, the vicar of the chapel at Tepeyac, which includes an account of the 1531 apparition of the Virgin Mary (as Our Lady of Guadalupe) to Juan Diego, a native convert.
- White Buffalo Calf Woman, in Lakota mythology, is a sacred woman of supernatural origin who gave the Lakota their "Seven Sacred Rituals".