Discriminatory actions against the Mexican Americans were so evident, and this triggered them to voice their mistreatment and act. The experience of the Mexican Americans fostered the Chicano Movement during World War II. The movement emerged during the civil rights era aiming for the empowerment of Mexican Americans.
During the late 1960s, the Mexican American youths got inspired by the strike of the farmworkers in California, the freedom struggle of the African Americans, and the protests of the child at that time. As a result, they started using the 'Chicano' label to represent their cultural heritage and show their energy. The word ‘Chicano’ previously had a negative but was turned into a term used for identifying oneself by the Mexican American youths. There was a large mass of Mexican American students who joined the university in the fall of 1968. This was after a member of the Black Student Union secured a position in the university office and raised the issue that the university needed to increase its diversity. The Mexican American students adopted the word ‘Chicano/a’ to represent their cultural heritage and youthful oomph. These youths formed Chicana/os, student groups. The Chicana/o youth forcefully fought for change. The students in the Los Angeles high school demonstrated by walking out of class in their quest to demand an equal end to education.
The National Farm Workers Association cofounded by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Gil Padilla had its primary goal to bring Mexican Americans to unity. This would then enable them to fight for the improvement of their wages and better working conditions through striking and boycotting. This movement was also motivated by their need to get land grants. It is indicated that the farmworkers were thought to be lazy, ignorant, foolish, and dirty. They were treated as second class citizens in America. Through this union, there was an association of farmworkers who were able to show a united front as they fought for their rights. The La Raza Unida Party was created as a party whose primary function was to fight for political power and the crucial need for political reasons as they were underrepresented. The majority of the Texas population consisted of Mexican Americans, but none of them had a place in a political office. They had discriminatory voting rights against them.
There was a great need to grow and reshape the United States of America again. There was a significant inequality gap between different social classes. In the case of Hernandez v. Texas, Pete Hernandez, who was a migrant worker, was sentenced to life imprisonment after the jury convicted him guilty. He had been charged with the murder of his American boss and the jury that decided his case only consisted of only white judges. When the pictures of the court got leaked to the media, everyone wondered about the case. The accused had quoted the fourteenth amendment of the U.S Constitution, which provided that all persons were entitled to equal protection.
There was massive participation of Mexican Americans in World War II. Some many Chicano men and women secured jobs in the defense industries, a chance that they were almost denied because of the high prejudice of the anti-Mexican that always existed. The Mexican American women gained important spaces during the time of war as more labor was required in the production of military weapons. Women were able to contribute to the war effort and also fulfill their desires. In addition to that, they got good pay. The Mexican Americans took great pride in their participation in the fight during the Second World War. However, the women were still mistreated in their workplace and received negative press coverage (Escobedo, p. 3).
However, there was continued discrimination against the Mexican Americans after the war. They found it exceedingly ironic, and it continued being more intolerable to them. It resonated with most of them that after they sacrificed their time in the war, it was only reasonable for them a peaceful time after it had ended. Felix Longoria of Three Rivers, Texas, a Mexican American World War II veteran's remains were shipped from the Philippines to his home in the United States. Still, his widow's request to use a local funeral home in his owner was denied. The director of the funeral home explained that they had never made a practice of letting Mexican Americans use the home, and they did not want to start then (2015). In the Southwest, it was common for Mexican Americans to be isolated and treated differently.
Hector P. Garcia received a call from the widow’s sister to help with the dispute with the funeral home. Garcia had served in Europe during World War II as a medic and had returned to the United States of America and had formed the GI Forum whose goal was to ensure there was equal treatment for Mexican American veterans at hospitals, which were for Veteran Administration. Garcia called the funeral home’s director to try convincing him to reconsider but was declined. To him, segregating the dead veteran directly contradicted the principles for which the soldier made that deep sacrifice. He sent protest notes to news outlets, government officials who had high ranks, and the newly elected politicians. Then Texas' junior senator, Lyndon B. Johnson arranged for Longoria’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery. This incident triggered the fight for equality for Mexican Americans.
The Chicano youths rejected being assimilated by the white culture and accepted several resistance symbols. Those who grew up during the pre-Chicano period hoped that if they adopted the American values and believed in their ideals, they would be accepted as they would be more white. Nevertheless, they were still segregated in all aspects of life. The new generation activists stood in solidarity with their ethnicity and were proud of having descended from an indigenous group. The Chicano writers in the university encountered a will to support study and share their work with a lot of people. This ensured that their issues were communicated and their culture preserved. Their work also restructured their future to a time they would be accepted and treated equally in the United States. The rejection of the assimilation strategy enabled the Mexican Americans to fight for each other and demand a change in the social and political systems in the United States of America. This enabled them to embrace their rich culture.
The Chicanas had a revival at the beginning of the 1990s, where they demanded that the Chicana /o study programs be expanded. The Chicana feminists strived to address the injustices such as racism, discrimination in the employment sector, and healthcare policies, among others. They have been crucial in elevating the identity of the Chicanos.
The Chicano artists have developed several visual discourses through which artists present the history of the movement. There was an established Chicano Art Movement by Mexican Americans to ensure their unique artistry was identified in the United States (Mesa-Bains, p. 133). The art movement developed because there was a requirement for something visual that represented the social and political injustice perceived by them that the movement wanted to change. They used symbols like the black eagle and created unique posters. The artists also used this art to represent the core issues that affected their community as their art attracted several people's attention. The art provides information for the Chicano young people of the struggles endured by their people and unifies their past and culture.
They used murals as they were a representation of the main form used in Mexico's activism before the Chicano Movement that was then occurring in the United States of America. In fashion and art, there is the energy around associated with this term. Art being a vehicle used for a revolutionary culture, Chicano art challenged racial discrimination. Chicano art was used to challenge the authority. There are paintings in San Diego’s Chicano park today that are used to communicate their mistreatment as a minority group. Chicano art has proven that it is not art but a public forum that emphasizes its 'invisible' past and its uniqueness in terms of the American art.
In conclusion, the Chicana/o movement was a crucial movement as it fought for the rights of the Mexican Americans and helped them gain reforms in very key sectors like education; it led to the existence of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The movement was evidence of the pride the Chicanos had for their cultures, which indicates it left an excellent effect for the members of this community who come in the future. Mexican American citizens benefitted from it as it also raised awareness on their population and factors that affected them in regards to justice.
Escobedo, E. R. (2013). From coveralls to zoot suits: The lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II home front. UNC Press Books.
Mesa-Bains, Amalia. "El Mundo Femenino: Chicana Artists of the Movement—A Commentary on Development and Production." Chicano art: Resistance and affirmation (1991): 131-140.
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