EL PASO, Texas — El Movimiento, also known as the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, was the empowerment of Mexican Americans in the 60s and 70s.
Almost a half century later, Chicanos, Latinos and Hispanics continue to fight a struggle, but at times it does not have the same clout as it once did.
“There were several arenas that took on a voice back in the late 60’s and early 70’s,” said Benjamín Sáenz, department chair for Creative Writing. “There was a literary movement that involved many writers, mostly poets…and then there was a purely political movement.”
Sáenz, a writer and professor at UTEP, said he was very much involved in the fight and highly political during those times.
“We move forward all these years—after the civil rights movement and we talk about the Chicano Movement, but there is no movement per se. That doesn’t mean that there is nothing happening,” said Sáenz. “We want to ask ourselves, ‘Where do we stand now?’ It continues in a radically new way.”
Sáenz said the movement did not die but it evolved, as many things tend to do. He said many of the young leaders of yesterday went to school and are now our doctors, lawyers, educators and writers.
The movement continues to grow in new ways and forms, but the attention it receives has not changed. As of late resentment grows due to influx of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., especially those from Mexico.
“Look where we are with Arizona SB 1070 and the anti-Mexican backlash that treats every Mexican American as a recent arrival. That’s ludicrous,” Sáenz said. “We’ve been here for generations in the South West. But we are sometimes backed by the idea we’re newly arrived interlopers, that we don’t have a right to be here because we’re all illegal’s—even that term is repulsive.”
Many of today’s generation believe the movement is still very much alive, and agree with Sáenz, that the message has stayed the same but the delivery has progressed with technology.
“There are many organizations that have come from the civil rights movement that many did not have 40 years ago, we just fight in new ways” said Beatriz Castaneda, junior multimedia journalism major at UTEP. “[Latinos] are still the minorities in this country, it is more subtle now, but racism and segregation continues to exist. Look at the makeup of the senate and congress, and see how many minorities are represented.”
Castaneda said there are many channels of communication. “We fight for the cause, not just by marching on the streets, but virally. Now, you can be part of an organization through the Internet,” she said.
Civil rights group all over the country have committed to the online community by setting up websites where people can reach them for support and information at the click of a button. Many groups such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) even have Facebook pages as well as YouTube channels that are updated constantly with information.
“I don’t know things are that different from the 60’s. But I know it is sad that we have to continually fight this fight,” said Sáenz. “It is very much alive and every generation has to pick it up. We fought so that [today’s generation] wouldn’t have to, yet it continues, but that is a function of society.”