The Chicano Movement — alive and evolving


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.”

Benjamín Sáenz at a book presentation in February 2010 (Courtesy of Lourdes Cueva Chacón)

Benjamín Sáenz at a book presentation in February 2010 (Courtesy of Lourdes Cueva Chacón)

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.”

4 thoughts on “The Chicano Movement — alive and evolving

  1. Right-on, Ben! Dolores Huerta got right to the crux. We need to get out the political vote. We need to organize a National Voter Registration Drive in all the Latino communities. State by state, county by county, precinct by precinct along with the infrastructure to get the vote out on every election. Take back our school districts, county, city and state governments. If we let the people who hate us out organize us we will have no future except the crumbs they toss our way.

  2. I am a proud to be Mexican-American, “Chicana” born and raised in Los Angeles,
    you’re right, it is ludricous, that we as Mexican-American’s, are treated as new arrival’s,
    but that goes to show nothing has changed. There is still racism lurking among us.
    It use to be that years ago, and maybe still, everyone that is brown, was labled “that
    Mexican!” which is to say I’m proud, because that is my heritage, thanks to my ancestors, who struggled and worked hard, here in this country. I would like to bring
    back the Chicano movement and bring back our title “Chicano or Chicana” because
    theres to much ignorancy in society, that everyone who is brown, is not all Mexican,
    but from all other latin country’s besides Mexico.

  3. I am a proud to be Mexican/American, woman, 3rd generation, and proud to be labled
    “Chicana” I am so proud to say that we need your political view point Mr.Benjamin
    Saenz, that we as “Chicano and Chicana’s should stand up and bring back the Chicano
    Movement for the sake of our proud Mexican roots, and as proud Mexican American’s
    we should bring back the movement, you’re right, it did not die but evolved. And sad to
    say that racism still exists, and that we as chicano’s and chicana’s, need to educate our
    young Mexican/American children, and all other hispanic/American children, that we
    as Americans need to stand up for ourselves.

  4. What can I do. I am a deported for life Mexican Gangster from San Diego. I now live alone because of all my missdoings, all my family is over there. I feel like a stranger in my own country and came to think of the most hideous things to go out in life. I know that I did wrong and for that I got scorned from the States which I made a pledge of pledge of allegiance and I have cried by my lonesome in Mexican Independence Day remembering this about the 2 nations that made me. I want to do something for the Chicano movement, but what can I do from Mexico City?


Leave a Reply