Chicana/o studies

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Chicana/o studies, originating from the Chicano Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, is the study of the Chicana/o and Latina/o experience.[1][2] Chicana/o studies draws upon a variety of fields, including history, sociology, the arts, and Chicana/o literature.

In many universities across the United States, Chicana/o Studies is linked with other ethnic studies, such as Black Studies, Asian American Studies, and Native American Studies. Many students who have studied anthropology have also been involved in varying degrees in Chicana/o studies.[3] Today, most major universities in areas of high Chicana/o concentration have a formal Chicana/o studies department or interdisciplinary program.[2] Providing Chicana/o studies to Chicana/o students has helped these students find a learning environment that eliminates the disadvantages, bias, and bigotry that minority students, such as Chicana/o students, face in standard educational settings.[4]


Many Chicana/o scholars agree that Chicana/o studies came about as a result of the Chicana/o student movements, whether they were in the form of protests, activism or just taking part in el movimiento.[5] Chicana/o studies was seen as a way to advance Mexican American perspectives on culture, history and literature.[4] The major push for universities and colleges to include Chicana/o studies came within the context of the African-American civil rights struggle.[6][7] During this period, Mexican American educators demanded that colleges and universities address the pedagogical needs of Mexican American students.[6] This was especially important because Mexican American student populations grew significantly in the 1960s.[8] In addition, many young people and students were becoming very politically active and began to organize for political causes.[8] A very prominent student organization that grew out of the civil rights movements of the '60s was the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO), which began to work towards educational reform.[9] MAYO was very active in promoting student walkouts in Texas and California to highlight problems that Mexican American students faced.[9] As students became more organized, they began to develop "experimental colleges" where informal classes on topics important to the Chicana/o movement were taught.[9]

Manuel H. Guerra, professor at the University of Southern California and chair of the Mexican American Political Association's (MAPA) Education Committee, reported in 1963 on "serious discriminatory policies and practices" at his university in relation to hiring Mexican Americans, especially considering that there had been an increase in the number of Mexican American students.[8] Serving Mexican American students without providing Mexican American faculty was considered a sort of colonialism and cultural assimilation.[8] In addition, many Mexican American students were put at a disadvantage because speaking Spanish (even outside of class) was considered "degrading" or "un-American."[9] Opportunities such as the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) helped increase the number of minorities entering colleges and universities.[9] Educators and students alike began to visualize "an academic program that could serve and transform the Mexican American community," a program that would become Chicana/o studies and which was built by and for Chicanas/os.[10]

In 1967, anthropologist Octavio Romano along with graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley began to publish a Chicana/o studies journal called El Grito: A Journal of Contemporary Mexican-American Thought.[11] His co-founder was Nick. C. Vaca.[9] Many of the ideas surrounding the formation of later Chicana/o studies programs stemmed from this publication.[11] One major idea that was put forth in El Grito by its editors was that Mexican Americans, in contrast to other ethnic groups, "have retained their distinct identity and refused to disappear into The Great American Melting Pot."[9] The consequence of this, said the editors, was that Mexican Americans were kept in an economically and politically impoverished state.[9] Also in 1967, Ralph Guzmán, a political scientist was hired by Los Angeles State College to conduct a study which would lay the foundation for the creation of a national center for Mexican American studies at California State College, Los Angeles (CSCLA).[9] Both Mexican American and Black Student Unions pressed CSCLA to have ethnic studies classes at this time.[9]

The Plan de Santa Barbara is generally considered to be the manifesto of Chicana/o studies.[10] Drafted in 1969 at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the plan emphasizes the need for education, and especially higher education to enact Chicana/o community empowerment.[12] The Plan helped to "establish Chicana/o studies as an entity incorporated into the structures of academia."[12] However, while the Plan articulated a need for education, it did not specify how to create a program of study.[10] The Plan did, however, lead to the creation of the Chicana/o Studies Institute in 1969.[13] Another important document in Chicana/o studies was also produced in 1969. In March of that year, the Chicana/o Youth Conference held in Denver produced a plan written by Chicana/o poet, Alurista.[9] It was called El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán (The Spiritual Plan of Aztlán) and it contains a concept of "ethnic nationalism and self-determination."[9] The idea of the mythic homeland of the Aztec people, Aztlán, is one that unifies the United States and Mexico and correspondingly, united Mexican Americans with a sense of nationalism.[14]

In 1970, a major Chicana/o journal began to be published at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).[15] The journal was called Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies and it was created at first by the students.[15] The journal, Aztlán, had a big influence on the discourse surrounding Chicana/o studies and helped "establish and legitimize" the subject in colleges and universities.[15] The name of the journal came directly from El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán and under the direction of the historian Juan Gomez-Quiñones, the journal supported and sustained a culture of activism.[14] Chicana/o scholars in 1970 also wrote papers for the Chicano Studies Institute which were later published in the journal, Epoca.[10] These papers addressed topics such as Chicana/o curriculum, goals of the educational program and how to achieve academic recognition.[10]

As Chicana/o studies programs began to be implemented at universities, it was necessary to provide infrastructure and support. In 1973, the University of California, Berkeley recognized the need to provide quality library materials to support the Chicana/o studies programs.[16] Chicana/o scholars also recognized the need to have a "Chicano-controlled academic" space.[17] Researchers began to study the impact that these new programs had on students, finding that Mexican-American students responded positively to Chicana/o studies and also to bilingual classes.[7][18] Many scholars felt that the philosophy of education in the United States at the time was "inconsistent with the values of the Chicano movement" and that Chicana/o studies needed to create tools for students to use in the real world and also a new type of research to solve problems.[10] It was also important to find ways to recruit Chicana/o teachers and administration within the schools to support students and research.[10] Further support for Chicana/o studies came in the form of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) which was created in 1972 in San Antonio, Texas.[19] The NACCS allows scholars in Chicana/o studies to exchange ideas, share research, communicate and it also has an annual conference.[19] The conferences were important to help bring together scholars and legitimize Chicana/o studies, since other disciplines have similar annual conferences.[10]

By 1975, many Chicana/o studies programs were in place at major universities.[10]

The ten years between 1977 and 1987 saw "tremendous changes in the foundations of Chicana/o studies."[14] During this period, Chicana/o studies began to include more diverse voices that better represented women, homosexuality and other under-represented groups under the umbrella of "Chicano" while also acknowledging the many differences within the group.[14] In 1981, the Mexican American Studies and Research Center (MASRC) at the University of Arizona was established. MASRC focused on contemporary applied public policy research on Mexican Americans. MASRC became a department in 2009. As the Mexican American Studies Department, it continued public policy research and teaching to addressing issues of concern to Mexican American communities. It currently offers bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and in 2011, began offering a Ph.D. degree in Mexican American Studies. The idea of the "borderland" or nepantla grew stronger than the idea of Aztlán by the 1980s and Chicanaos celebrated the many different (often conflicting) aspects of themselves.[14] Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) by Gloria Anzaldúa both grew out of and signifies this change.[14] Chicana/o studies became less about nationalism, and more about belonging to a group and contributing to "something greater."[14] This shift helped reshape the mission of Chicana/o studies and gave it "new life" and "new authority."[14]

The 1980s saw more Chicana/o Studies programs integrated into institutions of higher learning while it also created a "canonical approach" to its studies and "gatekeeping procedures" to evaluate promotions and tenure.[12] In addition, Chicana/o studies programs helped universities and colleges fulfill Affirmative Action requirements.[6] During the mid 1990s, however, a study found that most Chicana/o studies programs were still very non-uniform.[20] Part of the reason that many Chicana/o studies programs were not consistent in what was studied is that a core curriculum had not yet been formally published.[3] The first primer of Chicana/o studies was published in 1980 by Diego Vigil, called From Indians to Chicanos: A Sociocultural History.[3] In addition, there was a lack of Chicana/o faculty with only 1.2% of faculty at U.S. colleges and universities having any "Hispanic" ethnicity at all in 1985.[6] Many of the faculty teaching Chicana/o studies didn't feel that their own programs were "qualitatively sound."[6]

Recently, scholar S.M. Contreras has noted a change in the language surrounding Chicana/o people, as they have begun to add an "X" or an "@" in place of the "a/o." This new language is a result of the movement towards gender inclusivity and as a way to recognize Chican@ people whose gender identity does not coincide with the gender binary.[21]

Schools of thought[edit]

Chicana/o studies has two major threads, one is considered pragmatic and the other transformational.[12] The pragmatic method involves a more activist and "politicized" approach while the transformational method is more in line with working within the traditions of academia, rather than against it.[12]

Current Events[edit]

Protesters against HB 2281
Protesters are seen in June 2011 in support of the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican-American studies program. A new state law effectively ended the program saying it was divisive.

On May 11, 2010, the Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, signed House Bill 2281 (also known as HB 2281) which prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its curriculum courses that

  1. Promote the overthrow of the United States Government
  2. Promote resentment toward any race or class
  3. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of being individuals
  4. Are designed for a certain ethnicity

while still allowing:

  1. Native American classes to comply with federal law
  2. Grouping of classes based on academic performance
  3. Classes about the history of an ethnic group open to all students
  4. Classes discussing controversial history

Another provision of the law stated that any school district or charter school breaching its stated provisions would be liable to lose state funding as a public institution.[22]

As a result, the Mexican-American studies program as taught by Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) came under scrutiny and was found to be in violation of the law by Tom Horne. However, an independent audit (paid for by the state of Arizona) was conducted, and found the program was not in breach of HB 2281.[23] With pressure from former Arizona Superintendent Tom Horne, who felt the courses were breaching HB 2281, and after TUSD issued an appeal stating otherwise, Superintendent John Huppenthal deemed that the course must be disbanded or TUSD would lose funding.[24] Thus, in January 2012, the TUSD school board came to a 4-1 decision that the program was to be disbanded in lieu of the district losing state funding.[25]

A further consequence of HB 2281 was opening the door to challenges and limiting classes teaching Chicana/o studies not just in Arizona, but across the United States.[4]

Scholars whose work is associated with Chicana/o studies[edit]

Programs and departments[edit]

This is an abbreviated list of programs throughout the United States which can be associated with Chicana/o Studies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies,[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b Foster, David William (2005). "Recent Chicana/O Cultural Criticism". Latin American Research Review. 40 (2): 166–177. doi:10.1353/lar.2005.0021.
  3. ^ a b c Velez-Ibanez, Carlos G. (1998). "Chicano Drivers of Ideas in Anthropology across Space and Place: Pre-Postmodern Debts to Chicano Studies and Others". JSRI Occasional Paper No. 53 Latino Studies Series. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Nuñez, Anne-Marie (2011). "Counterspaces and Connections in College Transitions: First-Generation Latino Students' Perspectives on Chicano Studies". Journal of College Student Development. 52 (6): 639–655. doi:10.1353/csd.2011.0077.
  5. ^ Soldatenko, Michael (2012). "The Genesis of Academic Chicano Studies, 1967-1970" (PDF). Chicano Studies: The Genesis of a Discipline. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press. pp. 12–37. ISBN 9780816599530. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e Rochin, Refugio I.; de la Torre, Adela (April 1986). "The Current Status and Future of Chicano Studies Programs: Are They Academically Sound?". ERIC. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  7. ^ a b Hinrichsen, Keith A. (25 April 1975). Administrative Reorganizational Needs in Chicano Studies at Cerritos College. ERIC. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d Acuna, Rodolfo (2011). "The Sixties and the Bean Count" (PDF). The Making of Chicano Studies: In the Trenches of Academe. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. pp. 14–35. ISBN 9780813550015.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Acuna, Rodolfo (2011). "From Student Power to Chicano Studies" (PDF). The Making of Chicano Studies: In the Trenches of Academe. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. pp. 36–58. ISBN 9780813550701. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Soldatenko, Michael (2012). "Empirics and Chicano Studies: The Formation of Empirical Chicano Studies, 1970-1975" (PDF). Chicano Studies: The Genesis of a Discipline. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press. pp. 38–66. ISBN 9780816599530. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  11. ^ a b Gonzalez, Phillip B. (2012). "Chicano Studies Examined". Journal of American Ethnic History. 31 (4): 69–74. doi:10.5406/jamerethnhist.31.4.0069. ISSN 0278-5927. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d e Pérez-Torres, Rafael (2013). "Chicano Studies's Two Paths". American Literary History. 25 (3): 683–692. doi:10.1093/alh/ajt029. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  13. ^ "About the Institute". Chicano Studies Institute. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Aranda Jr., Jose F. (2002). "Making the Case for New Chicano/a Studies: Recovering Our Alienated Selves". Arizona Quarterly. 58 (1): 127–158. doi:10.1353/arq.2002.0011.
  15. ^ a b c Pulido, Alberto Lopez (2002). "In the Spirit of Ernesto Galarza: Recent Publications in Chicano Studies". American Quarterly. 54 (4): 719–729. doi:10.1353/aq.2002.0041.
  16. ^ Padilla, Raymond V. (1973). Providing Library Services for the Chicano Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley. ERIC. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  17. ^ Soldatenko, Michael (2012). "Chicano Studies as an Academic Discipline, 1975-1982" (PDF). Chicano Studies: The Genesis of a Discipline. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press. pp. 94–129. ISBN 9780816599530. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  18. ^ Gonzalez, Jess (1975). Chicano Studies and Self-Concept: Implications for the Community Colleges. ERIC. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  19. ^ a b "History of NACCS". National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies. Retrieved 14 May 2015.
  20. ^ Jaramillo, James A. (1995). Current Mexican-American and Chicano Studies Undergraduate College Programs in the United States. ERIC. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  21. ^ Contreras, S.M. (2017). Keywords for Latina/o studies. New York, New York: New York University Press. ISBN 9781479883301.
  22. ^ "Arizona House Bill 2281 (2010)" (PDF). Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  23. ^ Winerip, Michael (2012-03-19). "Racial Lens Used to Cull Curriculum in Arizona" (article). Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  24. ^ Rodriguez, Tito (May 13, 2010). "Arizona Bans Chicano Studies in Public Schools". Archived from the original on April 27, 2011.
  25. ^ Castellanos, Dalina (April 4, 2012). "Mexican American studies: 'Daily Show' Segment Strikes a Nerve". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 10, 2012.

Rochin, Refugio I. (1973). "The Short and Turbulent Life of Chicano Studies: A Preliminary Study of Emerging Programs and Problems". Social Science Quarterly. 53 (4): 884–894. JSTOR 42859068.

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