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"¡Mi Raza Primero!" (My People First!)

"¡Mi Raza Primero!" (My People First!): Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978

Ernesto Chávez
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 183
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  • Book Info
    "¡Mi Raza Primero!" (My People First!)
    Book Description:

    ¡Mi Raza Primero!is the first book to examine the Chicano movement's development in one locale-in this case Los Angeles, home of the largest population of people of Mexican descent outside of Mexico City. Ernesto Chávez focuses on four organizations that constituted the heart of the movement: The Brown Berets, the Chicano Moratorium Committee, La Raza Unida Party, and the Centro de Acción Social Autónomo, commonly known as CASA. Chávez examines and chronicles the ideas and tactics of the insurgency's leaders and their followers who, while differing in their goals and tactics, nonetheless came together as Chicanos and reformers. Deftly combining personal recollection and interviews of movement participants with an array of archival, newspaper, and secondary sources, Chávez provides an absorbing account of the events that constituted the Los Angeles-based Chicano movement. At the same time he offers insights into the emergence and the fate of the movement elsewhere. He presents a critical analysis of the concept of Chicano nationalism, an idea shared by all leaders of the insurgency, and places it within a larger global and comparative framework. Examining such variables as gender, class, age, and power relationships, this book offers a sophisticated consideration of how ethnic nationalism and identity functioned in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93596-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: “Those Times of Revolution”
    (pp. 1-8)

    More than thirty years after it began, the phenomenon known as the Chicano Movement remains an enigma in U.S. history. Was it a “revolution,” as Los Lobos tell us, or was it more in line with the reformist activism pursued by the so-called Mexican-American generation? When compared to the Cuban Revolution, the African liberation struggles, student uprisings in France, Mexico and Czechoslovakia, and the Black Power movement, the Chicano insurgency pales. Rather than simply probing its revolutionary or reformist attributes, this study is guided by Frederick Jameson’s suggestion to “situate the emergence of . . . new ‘collective identities’ or...

  6. 1 “A Movable Object Meeting an Irresistible Force”: Los Angeles’s Ethnic Mexican Community in the 1950s and Early 1960s
    (pp. 9-41)

    The roots of Chicano insurgency are found in the post–World War II era. The children of the 1950s and early 1960s—the so-called baby boomers—became the rebels of the later 1960s and 1970s. This generation reaped the benefits of prosperity but also faced discrimination. It was indoctrinated with a Cold War culture that stressed peacetime consensus yet ignored the racial strife that existed at the core of American society. Thus, the Chicano youths of the 1960s reached maturity with rising expectations of abundance, only to be confronted with the realization that they were not part of the tapestry...

  7. 2 “Birth of a New Symbol”: The Brown Berets
    (pp. 42-60)

    In January 1967Timemagazine declared: “The Man of the Year 1966 is a generation: the man—and woman—of 25 and under.”¹ The youth of the sixties, observedTime,are “well-educated, affluent, rebellious, responsible, pragmatic, idealistic, brave, ‘alienated,’ and hopeful.”² People of color were not well educated and affluent, but their desire to be so and also to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination in American society caused them to strike out at that society in ways that were both similar to and strikingly different from the efforts of earlier generations. For Mexican Americans, no group better illustrated the rebellious...

  8. 3 “Chale No, We Won’t Go!”: The Chicano Moratorium Committee
    (pp. 61-79)

    The Vietnam War had a profound effect on Chicano youth of the 1960s and ’70s. The high proportion of Mexican Americans fighting and dying in Southeast Asia, coupled with these young people’s heightened awareness of social issues, led to a vigorous protest against the war. In this maelstrom of discontent, Rosalio Muñoz, a former UCLA student-body president and in 1968 a minority recruiter for the Claremont Colleges, received his induction orders in December of that year for the following September. “I was concerned and wanted to do something,” he later recalled, “but when I was drafted, and it happened to...

  9. 4 “The Voice of the Chicano People”: La Raza Unida Party
    (pp. 80-97)

    Alarmed by the violence of the Chicano Moratorium and other demonstrations, many local activists returned to the formula pioneered by the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA): to work for reform peacefully and within the political system. They chose, however, a party of their own, since neither the Republicans nor the Democrats had effectively responded to their needs. The vehicle they found most attractive was La Raza Unida Party (LRUP), created in Texas in the early 1960s. “I . . . began to look at La Raza Unida Party,” recalled Richard Martínez, a former member of the Congress of Mexican American...

  10. 5 “Un Pueblo Sin Fronteras”: The Centro de Acción Social Autónomo (CASA)
    (pp. 98-116)

    La Raza Unida Party’s failure saw the mantle of Chicano champion in Los Angeles fall upon a workers’ group, the Centro de Acción Social Autónomo–Hermandad General de Trabajadores (Center for Autonomous Social Action–General Brotherhood of Workers), commonly known as CASA. Originally founded in 1969 as a mutual-aid group, CASA soon broadened its mandate to include supporting workers’ efforts to improve their wages and working conditions, as well as defending those whom it believed had been unjustly accused of crimes and imprisoned.¹ The latter efforts led to CASA’s involvement with the Committee to Free Los Tres (CTFLT), a defense...

  11. AFTERWORD: “Why Are We Not Marching Like in the ’70s?”
    (pp. 117-120)

    Performance artist Luis Alfaro’s video “Chicanismo” portrays a Chicano Studies professor, Salvador Rodríguez, as his people’s self-professed savior. “If we’re so retro,” laments Rodríguez, “why are we not marching like in the ’70s?”¹ This is a question that has been on the minds of many Mexican Americans since the demise of the Chicano movement in Los Angeles. The end of that dramatic era did not mean the death of ethnic Mexican reform efforts. Rather, the emphasis shifted, as it had on earlier occasions, to electoral politics. The present, in other words, is in harmony with the past’s preeminent goal—Mexican-American...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 121-148)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 149-158)
  14. Index
    (pp. 159-166)