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Chicanas of 18th Street

Chicanas of 18th Street: Narratives of a Movement from Latino Chicago

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Chicanas of 18th Street
    Book Description:

    Overflowing with powerful testimonies of six female community activists who have lived and worked in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, Chicanas of 18th Street reveals the convictions and approaches of those organizing for social reform. In chronicling a pivotal moment in the history of community activism in Chicago, the women discuss how education, immigration, religion, identity, and acculturation affected the Chicano movement. Chicanas of 18th Street underscores the hierarchies of race, gender, and class while stressing the interplay of individual and collective values in the development of community reform._x000B__x000B_Highlighting the women's motivations, initiatives, and experiences in politics during the 1960s and 1970s, these rich personal accounts reveal the complexity of the Chicano movement, conflicts within the movement, and the importance of teatro and cultural expressions to the movement. Also detailed are vital interactions between members of the Chicano movement with leftist and nationalist community members and the influence of other activist groups such as African Americans and Marxists.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09302-9
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Leonard G. Ramírez
  5. List of Abbreviations, organizations, and Programs
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Chicago Movement Time Line
    (pp. xxi-xxx)
  7. INTRODUCTION Second City Mexicans
    (pp. 1-16)

    At the 1969 National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver, Chicano poet Alurista was surprised to learn that Mexicans had arrived from such exotic places as Kansas City and Chicago (Alurista, conversation, April 29, 2009).¹ From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, this narrowly focused vision on the Southwest may be difficult to comprehend when the Mexican population in the Chicago metropolitan region in 2006 was second in the United States only to Los Angeles.² In 1970, however, only eighty-two thousand to perhaps one hundred thousand Mexicans resided in Chicago (Alejo, 2008; Kerr, 1975/2000, 1976).³ The largest concentration of...

  8. Homecoming, 1997
    (pp. 17-28)

    I look down from my window hoping to see Isaura’s blue two-door sedan pull in front of the arched doorway of my six-flat. Only a faint seam of daylight remains at the edge of the clouds. The vehicles pass quickly through the glow of the streetlights. The car that had momentarily caught my attention moves down the avenue without pause. The one at the corner continues north past my street.

    Chicago is in the midst of a transformation. Miniature white cyclones swirl outside my living room windows. Naked tree branches reach in all directions up to the sky. Swaying limbs...

  9. A Legacy of Struggle
    (pp. 29-53)

    Just north of Chicago’s downtown shopping area, elaborate floats, decorated automobiles, and dancers in ornate costumes attempt to form some semblance of order.¹ Organizers scramble to take care of last-minute details. High school youths dressed in red uniforms with brass instruments at their sides search for fellow band members. Groups prepare to move in unison at the first sign of the parade marshal’s signal. A float is out of order, causing a great deal of confusion. An official shouts directions to a frustrated driver. The flatbed truck is trying to pull out of formation but must wait for further directions...

  10. Living the Life I Was Meant to Lead
    (pp. 54-75)

    Saturday is a busy day in Chicago’s downtown shopping district.¹ Suburbanites come into the city in crowded buses and on trains. The more daring suffer through traffic jams in search of reasonably priced parking. On the streets, mothers push baby carriages and firmly grasp small, gloved hands that occasionally try to break free and run toward glittering holiday window displays. Mechanical toy figurines, gilded Ferris wheels, stuffed animals, and slender mannequins in evening apparel attract an endless queue of shoppers into the row of State Street stores. With every revolving-door rotation, small gusts of invisible perfume clouds escape from the...

  11. Una Chicana en la lucha
    (pp. 76-100)

    Warmer weather brings everyone in Pilsen out of their homes. College students join other young people who congregate in community centers, church basements, and parks.¹ For some time, there has been talk of a new high school. However, the Chicago Board of Education and Pilsen Neighbors seem to be embroiled in a frustrating cycle of fruitless meetings. Many suspect that the board is using bureaucratic tactics to delay, discourage, and derail the creation of a new community school.²

    In a small room at Casa Aztlán, two veteran leaders sit around a table talking with young activists. The two older organizers...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. A Woman of My time
    (pp. 101-117)

    It is almost eight A.M. on a Friday morning, and the meeting space at the back of the bookstore is a mess.¹ The blackboard, metal folding chairs, and tables from the night before are scattered in an inexplicably, haphazard way as if children had upended things in the course of their play. The vestiges of last night’s class, a language workbook, candy wrappers, scraps of paper, and other debris, remain on tables and littered across the floor. As usual, the twenty or so men and women who had arrived last night tired and droopy-eyed strained to remain focused on English...

  14. Defending My People and My Culture
    (pp. 118-136)

    I learned about Magdalena’s case on an ice-cold Saturday afternoon.¹ Forty people were walking a picket line in front of the Daley Center. One sign read, “Magdalena, fired after seventeen years of service.” I had heard something about this in the community. However, meeting Magdalena face-to-face that day was how I really learned about her story. Magdalena and I walked the line together while she told me about how she had been helping Latinos at Rush Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Hospital, talking to them about medical issues, giving them information. I knew what kinds of things went on at the hospital...

  15. A Proud Daughter of a Mexican Worker
    (pp. 137-165)

    Around 1969, Father Colleran invited me to a small gathering of workers, mostly parishioners from Saint Vitus in the Pilsen community.¹ The pastor helped get the group together. Pablo Torres was the main organizer. He later became president. His wife attended, but most of the people in the circle were men.

    Father Colleran was always promoting me. He arranged for me to be the speaker at several Catholic high-school-commencement ceremonies because he thought I was a good role model for young Mexican women. He believed I could inspire more of them to get involved. Father Colleran thought it made sense...

  16. Social Action
    (pp. 166-200)

    Why do people become involved in social movements? There are many dimensions to this question that do not lead to simple generalizations. The vast majority of Mexicans in the 1960s and 1970s did not join the Movimiento. They did not realign priorities, uproot their families, or change the balance of their personal, social, and professional existence to make change the driving force in their lives. While there are no formulaic equations that can predict political involvement, the biographical fragments of these women help us to understand some of the elements and processes that allowed them to challenge generally accepted “truths”...

  17. Women of 18th Street: Our Preliminary Assessment
    (pp. 201-204)

    The Movimiento took steps to overcome some of the barriers that have traditionally divided Mexicans and deterred their formation into a strong political entity. Nationally, the Movement’s response to racism and political and economic disenfranchisement was community empowerment. In Chicago, the Comité used popular education and direct action to fight for reforms and recruit others to the process of social change. The long-term goal was the creation of a unified and mobilized community that could join with broader forces to offer an alternative to the economic and political system.

    While activists of that period did not transform society or resolve...

  18. References
    (pp. 205-212)
  19. Contributors
    (pp. 213-218)
  20. Index
    (pp. 219-224)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-226)