The term Chicano has been used by Mexican Americans to describe Mexican natives that have been living in the United States since the 20th century. Initially, the term was used by rich Mexican-Americans to depict Mexican-Americans of lower social class. The Chicano history is characterized by the Chicano movement when half Mexican Americans took pride in their identity, worked to be self-dependent by improving their social, political and financial situation.
Just like other prior movements that promoted civil rights during this era, the Chicano movement created awareness of the discrimination that Mexican Americans residing in the United States underwent. The movement was also referred to as the El Movimiento. It was not only a political oriented but also a cultural movement that familiarized people with the history of Mexicans. The most important developments of the movement are in three parts, namely: appealing for Mexican American farm workers’ rights, the demand for even access to empowerment through politics and education, and restoration of land grants.
Restoration of land grants
In the 1960’s a group of Mexican Americans tried to reclaim federal land within the borders of the United States. The group had based its demands upon the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, an agreement that was signed by Mexico and US to bring the Mexican War to an end. However, controversy arose when the United States failed to honor a part of the accord because it did not know of the Mexicans’ original land grants that were issued under the Mexican and Spanish law. As a result of this, quite a number of Mexicans lost their lands.
To their rescue came the Chicano movement that was of the notion that Mexican natives legally possessed pieces of the land conceded to the United States and that being a Mexican American did not necessarily imply one was an immigrant. Although the movement might not have been able to reclaim all the land Mexican Americans had lost, it was able to avoid such a situation from re-occurring again. Efforts of the movement also brought a sense of belonging in its associates.
Farm workers’ rights
During the Chicano period, there was a protest against the exploitation of Mexican American migrant farm laborers. These employees traveled throughout the country following the crop seasons for wages that sustained their families fairly well below the poverty level. Due to the frequent movement from one place to another these laborers could only manage to have many children and the children they had were limited to a year or three years of education before they began to work. These workers were also subjected to hazardous pesticides considering that they were not provided with protective attires when in plantations.
To bring all these suffering to an end, the Chicano movement founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). This organization used strategies such as calling for strike and boycotting until their farm workers’ rights were listened to. With the movement in action, Mexican Americans were able to voice their desires and stand against the discrimination they were initially put to. Despite the union not being able to achieve its objectives, with the termination of the bracer program by the US government in 1964 their argument was strengthened. The Bracero program allowed the importation of temporary laborers from Mexico therefore when it was terminated there was a reduction of the worker. The Union took advantage of this opportunity to effect changes as the employers were desperate of human labor. The downfall of bracero was among the best things that happened during the 1960’s; it could have been hard for United Farm Workers to bring a change on how workers were being treated considering the vast number of desperate laborers that were in the country.
Empowerment through education
It was during the Chicano period when the Chicanos became conscious of the injustices done to them when it came to the educational system. With the knowledge that approximately only a quarter of Chicanos were able to graduate from high school, students were awakened to the importance of reform within what they alleged to be a discriminatory system. It was as a result of unequal access to learning facilities and the poor quality of education that forced Chicano teenager into cheap blue collar jobs like their parents. Chicano teens were enlisted to fight in the Vietnam War and despite most of them losing their lives their efforts to the nation were not acknowledged.
The Chicano movement created awareness of this oppression making the youths energetic and rich in terms of cultural pride, radicalism, and activism. This led them to walk out of universities and high schools demanding reformation in the educational system. They also proposed Mexican American teachers be hired and the Mexican American history to be integrated into the curriculum.
As a strategy of effecting social change, Chicanos thought it to be wise to venture into politics and stimulate the Mexican American community. As a result of constant conflicting ideas with the Republicans and the Democratic parties they saw the need in having a third political party that would air their views. Although efforts of having a third party failed the Chicanos were able to enter the political arena.
It was due to lack of sufficient knowledge that the Chicanos could not secure descent and well-paying jobs. But this was to be changed by the awareness the movement revealed. Therefore Mexican Americans started being to assimilate education and change their mentality that education was discriminatory. By being educated more doors to join politics also opened up for the Chicanos.