“The end of the cold war—the collapse of the Soviet Union—was a watershed for capitalism. But it was also a turning point for militants, labor unions, liberation movements and social-justice and environmental activists, some of the groups from which the global justice movement has drawn.”
Gloria Anzaldúa’s answer, when asked: What does it mean to you to have Indian ancestry?
To have Indian ancestry means that mi cuerpo, soul, and spirit have raices in this continent. El árbol de mi vida has indigenous roots. I think that about 75% of DNA is an amorphous record of all past lives and past lives of ancestors. If this is true la india in me will never be lost to me.
To have an Indian ancestry means to fear that la india in me that has been killed for centuries continues being killed. It means to suffer psychic fragmentation. It means to mourn the losses—loss of land, loss of language, loss of heritage, loss of trust that all indigenous people in this country, in Mexico, in the entire planet suffer on a daily basis. La gente indigena suffer a loss that’s cumulative and unrecognized by the masses in this country, a loss generations old, centuries old. To have Indian ancestry means to bear a relentless grief. To have indigenous ancestry also means to bear the promise of psychic integration. As broken and shattered people we are driven to re-gather our spirits and energies, to reorganize ourselves. To have Indian ancestry is to envision a moon that is always rising, to see the sky rear up, to have entry into new imaginings.
—excerpt from Speaking Across the Divide: Indigenous Intersections (2003)
“As a Latino I’ve often been offended by things in the mainstream media. I suppose the thing I’m most offended by is that the mainstream media sees Latinos as one kind of people. You see people saying ‘the Latino vote.’ The Latino vote is all over the place!”—Jesse chavarria (founder of Latino today newspaper)
“A Chicano Poem by Lorna Dee Cervantes They tried to take our words, Steal away our hearts under Their imaginary shawls, their laws, Their libros, their “Libranos señor”s. No more. They tried to take Away our Spirit in the rock, the Mountain, The Living Waters. They tried to steal Our languages, our grandmothers’ pacts, Our magma cartas for their own serfs. They razed the land and raised a Constitution, Declared others 3/5ths a human being, Snapped shackles, cut off a foot, Raped our grandmothers into near mute Oblivion. They burned the sacred codices And the molten goddesses rose anew In their flames. They tried to silence a Nation, tried to send The People back To the Four Corners of the world. They drew A line in the sand and dared us to cross it, Tried to peel off our skins, Xipe Totec Screaming through our indigenous consciousness. They tried to brand “America” into our unread Flesh, the skull and crossbones flying at Half-mast. They tried to put their eggs in Our baskets, tried to weave the Native Out of us with their drink and drugs, tried to Switch their mammy-raised offspring, beaded and Unshaven, as the colorless pea under our mattresses In a cultural bait and switch, hook and bait. They tried to take our words, Give us the Spanish translation for “Pain,” serve us the host of fallow fields on a China plate, stripped us of the germ and seed, Fed us in a steady diet of disease and famine. Where is the word for tomorrow to the dead? When is our kingdom come? They claim our Reclamations; our reparations, a thing of our Imaginations. I discover this truth To be self-evident: In the beginning We were here. I declare us here today And speaking. Lorna Dee Cervantes (to be read aloud at The Alamo for Librotraficante and against HB 2281, San Antonio, TX)3/12/12”
Please take notice on how I use the I word. I cannot nor will I not speak on behalf of all people from my ethnic group. This is how I feel not everyone.
About a week ago, I had a conversation with someone who asked me what the differences between Mexican, Mexican American, Chican@, Latin@, and Hispanic were. I gave them the answers they wanted. This person gives me the clichéd response of, “Everyone needs to get together and just pick a word so we know what to call you and we don’t offend you.” Needless, to say I was very angry. If you want to check your privilege, this is the best way to handle it-in my opinion. Take people on a case by case basis. If someone doesn’t self-identify with a word, apologize call them what they choose to be called and move on. It’s that simple.
For the most part, I don’t mind explaining the differences between, Mexican, Mexican American, Chican@, Latin@, and Hispanic to people who want to know. Actually, I really don’t mind educating people on Chican@ history or at least the little knowledge about it that I know. I really do love talking about it. I just get irritated when I feel that all I am becoming is that token person of color that people know. When I begin to feel that my sole purpose as a friend is to educate you. I am your own personal walking talking Spanish to English dictionary and Encyclopedia of Chican@ History.
Don’t get me wrong, when I don’t know something about someone else’s culture, I’ll ask them question too. I just do my best not to treat someone like a book or treat them as if they should know everything about their culture. Maybe, it’s because I know how they feel. I try my best to educate myself by reading from creditable online sources or by taking a class if possible. Anyway, I am posting the following because I am constantly asked the differences between these words below.
I feel that I have come to a point in my education that I can confidently say that I truly understand the differences and am educated enough to post this. This is possible due to three great professors. (No, they weren’t all Chicano Studies professors. I would credit them by name. However, I am afraid that my writing won’t do justice to their lectures. Thus, I chose not to.)
Notice how I bolded imposed and self-identified.
Hispanic:This term was imposed by the government on Spanish-Speaking populations to group them into one category for the United State census. This term causes problems because it makes the assumption that everyone who falls under this category can trace their heritage back to Spain.
Latin@: This term’s purpose is to again group the Spanish-speaking populations in the United States. This term was deemed fitting to categorize those who could trace their heritage back to Latin America and the Caribbean. However, the root word Latin brings back the same point of putting the European at the top of the ethnic spectrum and ignoring the other cultural elements (indigenous, African, Asian) that make up the population. Despite that, this word continues to remain the most common self-identified used term.
Mexican: Simply put, a person born in Mexico. A nationality or relating to Mexico. This can also be problematic because some may identify as Mexican yet are born in the United States.
Mexican American- Born in the United States with Mexican decent. Also, it is used to describe someone with parents from Mexico that acknowledges both cultures.
Chican@: This term is a self-identified term that was cultivated during the 1960’s Chican@ Movement. It was meant to be anti-assimilation by taking pride in Mexican culture. People who felt they weren’t “from here or there” and mainly used to take pride in being bi-cultural. Largely, used to describe people born in the United States with Mexican parents or have Mexican ancestry. This term had a negative connotation in the 1930s and 40s because it was used to described “poor, lower class Mexicans.” It was re-appropriated during the Chican@ Movement. Sometimes, it is spelled Xican@ to acknowledge indigenous roots.