Abandonment by Treaty
In the year 2011, those of us who are Chicano Elders ~viejos de la Movimiento~ and who still consider ourselves Chicanos, need to admit that Chicanos are a tribe in Aztlán. We have never been an independent Chicano nation with statehood. Many of us do not even know we are lost or who we truly are! Where is the Chicano Movement today? How many of our youth consider themselves Chicanos? We must reclaim our identity as Chicanos inside the USA. We were abandoned by Mexico and have been so since the ink dried on the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo between the U.S. and Mexican governments.
“On February 2, 1848 the Treaty was signed in Guadalupe Hidalgo, a city north of the capital where the Mexican government had fled as U.S. troops advanced. Its provisions called for Mexico to cede 55% of its territory (present-day Arizona, California, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado, Nevada and Utah) in exchange for fifteen million dollars in compensation for war-related damage to Mexican property.”
When northern Mexico became U.S. territory with a stroke of the pen we were left to take care of ourselves. At the time we had no real social organization or mutual aid societies. We were not and never have been a true Chicano nation with our own territorial integrity as an independent state ~despite the religious fervor of Chicano cultural nationalists. We were a lost tribe without a name.
The Crazy 60s
The late 60s were beautiful crazy chaotic times that we will not see again. There was widespread social turmoil and civil unrest in the world: the Cold War was going on between the USA and the former Soviet Union; the counter-culture of hippies smoking marijuana; psychedelic drugs came on the scene; the Beatles came to America ~ rock and roll transformed music; a growing Anti-War Movement against the Vietnam War was building up; the early Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr.; in 1965, the United Farm Workers (UFW) led by Cesar Chavez started the Grape Boycott; in October of 1966 the Black Panther Party started up with Huey P. Newton, his shotgun and its 10-Point Survival Platform; by early 1968, the Brown Berets were spreading across Aztlán; in March 1968, there were the Walk-Outs in LA by Chicano students spurred by teacher Sal Castro; the early Woman’s Liberation Movement was transforming sexual relations and so much more was going on. Galaxies were spinning, the whole world was changing, masks were coming off and roles were being reversed. We were sure the revolution was going to jump off this Friday at 5 PM when the Word was given!
I am a survivor who is now 59 Earth years. I was born in Sacramento, California on November 15, 1951. I first got involved with the Chicano Movement in the late 60s and then into the early zany 70s.
I was born into a Mexican-American family. English was the dominant language in the home. I was raised to speak English. Both my parents were bi-lingual, speaking both English and Spanish. Language is the key element in a people’s culture. Now I am not fluent in Spanish. As children we were told that we were Mexicans, though I knew we were not really the same as Mexicans from Mexico. We were raised in a bi-cultural society, but the dominant influence was still White Amerikan culture. We were not Mexicans from Mexico nor were we fully accepted into White racist Amerikan society as U.S. citizens.
In the late 60s, mainly because of the influence of the Civil Rights Movement many African-Americans were calling themselves ‘black’ with pride, not Negros. For us in Sacra, the concept of being a Chicano came north from Mexico down south through the Chicanos of East Los Angeles. It was a new term that gave us a sense of identity as a people that we did not have before. Chicanos were the hyphen in Mexican-American. We were not color blind yet neither were we stuck on color. Having mainly brown skin with a wide variation in skin color we were more aware of and sensitive to basic cultural differences than skin color.
Calling ourselves Chicanos gave us a new sense of identity that belonged to us as unique people of Aztlán. We were proud to be among the first wave of Chicanos with our own Brown pride. We had a name to call ourselves. We had discovered our Chicanismo!
In the late 60s I went to Sacramento Senior High School. I was a member of MAYA (Mexican American Youth Association); helped start the first Ethnic Studies class in the school district; got involved with the Grape Boycott led by Cesar Chavez, what is now called the UFW (United Farmworkers Union); and became Minister of Education for the Sacramento Brown Berets. I graduated high school in 1969, got hired as a Youth Organizer during President Johnson’s War on Poverty, then went to Sacramento State College on the EOP Program. I got involved with a Chicano student organization called MEChA (National Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán), Chicano Studies and other community activities.
In November of 1972, the Brown Berets were disbanded by David Sanchez and in January of 1993 it was re-activated. In June 2008, Comandante Jeronimo Blanco was voted in as the new National Commander of the Brown Berets, officially replacing David Sanchez.
The early Chicano Movimiento became popular in the late 60s, settled down in the early 70s and has almost faded away like an old general today. It was the changing times that changed all of us. We early young Chicanos aged and got involved in other areas of life. Many moved on, went to college, sought occupations, got married and raised families. We lived our life-styles.
Chicanos are a diverse unique people who can go by different names: La Raza Cosmica, Latinos, Indigenous Peoples, Hispanics etc. So many I knew before just got scattered out. Some perished from the wars of life. The Vietnam War, gang wars, drug wars and other down falls. Somehow life goes on within us and without us. Those of us who are still around are truly blessed to be here now.
In general, the failure of the early Chicano Movement was due to a severe lack of vanguard leadership with vision in order to fulfill the duty of every revolutionist: manufacture the revolution!
The Chicano Movement Today
The Chicano Movement needs to be revitalized into a People’s Liberation Movement with a network of committed vanguard elements who are armed with a grand strategy and flexible set of tactics capable of leading the people forward to total liberation!
There will be no one monolithic political party. There will be a collective matrix of movement builders working on different battlefronts.
In unity with all progressive revolutionary movements around the planet we need to build up a strong People’s Liberation Movement based upon humane spiritual principles; a democratic socialist ideology and in harmony with the basic needs of the masses of people. We must embrace each other as one family of humanity. We can be newly inspired by recent revolutionary events in Egypt but we must also be inspired by successful liberation movements in Latin America and the growing Immigrant Rights Movement!
At the same time we must remember our own personal history as a guide to positive action. Let us work on our individual spiritual liberation program on a personal level. We need to look at maintaining healthy life-styles, nurturing healthy relationships and getting rid of our own character defects. In the same process of transforming the world we must also have the courage to transform ourselves. We must reinvent ourselves anew!
Si Se Puede! Venceremos! ~Che Peta @Peta_de_Aztlan
Field Coordinator, Humane Liberation Party