Chicana feminism

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Chicana feminism, also called Xicanisma,[1] is a sociopolitical movement in the United States that analyzes the historical, cultural, spiritual, educational, and economic intersections of Mexican-American women that identify as Chicana. Chicana feminism challenges the stereotypes that Chicanas face across lines of gender, ethnicity, race, class, and sexuality. Most importantly, Chicana feminism serves as a movement, theory and praxis that helps women reclaim their existence between and among the Chicano Movement and American feminist movements.[2]


In 1848, with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, Mexico ceded to the US: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and part of Colorado and Wyoming. Former citizens of Mexico living in those territories became US citizens. Therefore, during the twentieth century, Hispanic immigration to the United States began to slowly but steadily change American demographics. In Latin America, women at those times had to act according to social standards.

In many Latin American cities, women were criticized for speaking to men they did not know whereas men were not criticized, but rather praised for doing so; being seen as heroic if they had multiple girlfriends, regardless of marital status. As a result, the women who immigrated hoped to change their social conditions by beginning a women's suffrage movement for Mexican American women. By 1940, Los Angeles was one of the cities with the densest Chicano population in the United States, resulting in even more women joining the movement in solidarity, such as Adelina Otero-Warren and Maria de G.E. Lopez.

In the 1960s and ’70s, more groups began to fight for their rights in the United States, which had been disregarded until their outcry began. Emerging out of the identity movements of the 1960s, Chicana feminists created a distinctive trajectory and mapping of feminist political thought and practice that associated unique experiences with gender, race, class, and sexuality.[3]

Unlike women of minority races, white women rarely had to deal with racism. Euro-American women combated this with the emergence of waves of feminism; the first wave addressed suffrage, while the second wave of feminism discussed issues of sexuality, public vs. private spheres, reproductive rights, and marital rape. Chicana feminists distinguished themselves from other feminist movements by offering critiques and responses to their exclusion from both the mainstream Chicano nationalist movement and the second wave feminist movement. One important way they were able to do this was through the inclusion of different varieties of the Spanish language, a vital component to the preservation of Chicana culture.[4] Chicana feminism emphasizes that throughout history, Latin American women have been oppressed and abused in many different societies.[5] In Latin America, just as in Europe, Asia, and Africa, many women were, for centuries, discriminated against by their fathers, brothers and husbands.


Chicana feminists challenged their prescribed role in la familia, and demanded to have the intersectional experiences that they faced recognized. Chicanas identify as being consciously aware, self-determined, proud of their roots, heritage, and experience while prioritizing La Raza. With the emergence of the Chicano Movement, the structure of Chicano families saw dramatic changes. Specifically, women began to question the role that they were assigned within the family and where their place was within the Chicano national struggle.[6]

In the seminal text “La Chicana”, by Elizabeth Martinez, Martinez writes: "[La Chicana] is oppressed by the forces of racism, imperialism, and sexism. This can be said of all non-white women in the United States. Her oppression by the forces of racism and imperialism is similar to that endured by our men. Oppression by sexism, however, is hers alone."[7]

Women also sought out to battle the internalized struggles of self-hatred rooted in the colonization of their people. This included breaking the mujer buena/mujer mala myth, in which the domestic Spanish Woman is viewed as good and the Indigenous Woman that is a part of the community is viewed as bad. Chicana feminist thought emerged as a response to patriarchy, racism, classism, and colonialism as well as a response to all the ways that these legacies of oppression have become internalized.[8]

According to Garcia (1989) the Chicana feminist movement was created to adhere to the specific issues which have affected Chicana women, and originated in the Chicano movement because women desired to be treated equally and have the acceptance to do what the Chicanos were doing.[6]

The Chicana feminist movement has certainly influenced many Chicana women to be more active and to defend their rights not just as single women but women in solidarity who come together forming a society with equal contribution. Additionally, NietoGomez regards a feminist to be anyone who fights for the end of women's oppression. Furthermore, Chicana feminism to be regarded as supporting the community and not erasing their existence as well as supporting the betterment of Chicanas.[9]

Resilience is a key topic that is necessary to understand when trying to piece the origin of Chicana feminism. Specifically, when it comes to trying to minimalize the strength it takes to not only divide but bring forth a new mindset of equality.[10]

Political organization (1940s–1970s)[edit]

Beginning in the 1940s, Mexican-Americans led a civil rights movement with a goal of achieving Mexican-American empowerment. By the 1960s, the Chicano Movement, also known as El Movimiento, became a prominent campaign in the lives of many Mexican-American workers and youth.[11]

In 1962, The United Farm Workers (UFW) organization was founded by César Chávez,[12] Dolores Huerta, Gilbert Pedilla and Philip Vera Cruz. The UFW worked to secure better working conditions for the Chicanx farmhands in California.[13]

Between the late 1960s through the 1970s, The Chicano Student Movement began in which students fought and organized for better quality education.[14] In 1968, students from five California middle schools, whose student populations were 75% Latinx or more, organized together to walk out of their classrooms, demanding equality of education within their Los Angeles school district.[15]

The first efforts of organizing the Chicana Feminist Movement began in the later part of the 1960s. During the Chicano Movement,[16] Chicana women formed committees within Chicano organizations. Similar to the organization of other groups in the Women's Movement, the Chicana feminists organized consciousness-raising groups and held conferences specific to the issues that Chicana women faced.[17]

The Farah Strike, 1972–1974, labeled the "strike of the century," was organized and led by Mexican American women predominantly in El Paso, Texas.[18] Employees of the Farah Manufacturing Company went on strike to stand for job security and their right to establish and join a union.[19]

Although community organizers were working toward empowering the Mexican-American community, the narrative of the Chicano Movement largely ignored the women that were involved with organizing during this time of civil disobedience.

Chicana feminism serves to highlight a much greater movement than generally perceived; a variety of minority groups are given a platform to confront their oppressors whether that be racism, homophobia, and multiple other forms of social injustice.[20]

Chicana liberation unshackles individuals, as well as the broader group as a whole, allowing them to live lives as they desire – commanding cultural respect and equality.[21]

Chicana feminists collectively realized the importance of connecting the issues of gender with need for improvement with respect to other civil liberties such as socioeconomic background, heritage, and many others.[22]

Chicanas in the Brown Berets[edit]

The Brown Berets were a youth group that took on a more militant approach to organizing for the Mexican-American community formed in California in the late 1960s.[23] They heavily valued strong bonds between women, stating that women Berets must acknowledge other women in the organization as hermanas en la lucha and encouraging them to stand together. Membership in the Brown Berets helped to give Chicanas autonomy, and the ability to express their own political views without fear.[24]

Chicana feminist organization[edit]

The 1969 Chicano Youth Liberation Conference began the Chicano Movement and eventually, MEChA. At the conference women began to get involved in the male-dominated dialogue to address feminist concerns.[25]

At the first National Chicana Conference held in Houston, Texas in May 1971, over 600 women organized to discuss issues regarding equal access to education, reproductive justice, formation of childcare centers, and more (Smith 2002). While the event was the first major gathering of its kind, the conference itself was fraught with discord as Chicanas from geographically and ideologically divergent positions sparred over the role of feminism within the Chicano movement. These conflicts led to a walkout on the final day of the conference.[26]

Revolutionary Chicanas during this time period, while critiquing the inability of the mainstream Chicano nationalist movements to address sexism and misogyny, simultaneously renounced the mainstream Second Wave feminist movement for its inability to include racism and classism in their politics. Chicanas during this time felt excluded from mainstream feminist movements because they had different needs, concerns and demands. Through persistent objections to their exclusions women have gone from being called Chicano women to Chicanas to introducing the adoption of a/o or o/a as a way of acknowledging both genders when discussing the community. Chicanas demanded free day-care centers and a reform of the welfare system, they sought to fight against all three structures of oppression they faced, including sexism, but also prioritizing racism and imperialism.

One of the First Chicana organizations was the Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional (CFMN), founded in 1973.[27] The concept for the CFMN originated during the National Chicano Issues Conference when a group of attending Chicanas noticed that their concerns were not adequately addressed at the Chicano conference. The women met outside of the conference and drafted a framework for the CFMN that established them as active and knowledgeable community leaders of a people's movement.[28]

Female archetypes[edit]

Central to much of Chicana feminism is a reclaiming of the female archetypes La Virgen de Guadalupe, La Llorona, and La Malinche.[29] These archetypes have prevented Chicanas from achieving sexual and bodily agency due to the ways they have been historically constructed as negative categories through the lenses of patriarchy and colonialism.[30] Shifting the discourse from a traditional (patriarchal) representation of these archetypes to a de-colonial feminist understanding of them is a crucial element of contemporary Chicana feminism, and represents the starting point for a reclamation of Chicana female power, sexuality, and spirituality.

La Virgen de Guadalupe and La Malinche have become symbolic means of suppressing Chicana women's sexuality through the patriarchal dichotomy of puta/virgin, the positive role model and the negative one, historically and continuously held up before Mexican women as icons and mirrors in which to examine their own self-image and define their self-esteem.[4] Gloria Anzaldúa's canonical text addresses the subversive power of reclaiming indigenous spirituality to unlearn colonial and patriarchal constructions and restrictions on women, their sexuality, and understandings of motherhood. Anzaldúa writes, "I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white".[31] La Malinche is a victim of centuries of patriarchal myths that permeate the Mexican woman's consciousness, often without her awareness.[4]

Malintzin (also known as Doña Marina by the Spaniards or "La Malinche" post-Mexican independence from Spain) was born around 1505 to noble indigenous parents in rural Mexico. Since indigenous women were often used as pawns for political alliances at this time, she was betrayed by her parents and sold into slavery between the ages of 12–14, traded to Hernan Cortés as a concubine, and because of her intelligence and fluency in multiple languages, was promoted to his "wife" and diplomat. She served as Cortés's translator, playing a key role in the Spaniard's conquest of Tenochtitlan and, by extension, the conquest of Mexico.[32] She bore Cortés a son, Martín, who is considered to be the first mestizo and the beginning of the "Mexican" race.[30]

After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, a scapegoat was needed to justify centuries of colonial rule. Because of Malintzin's relationship with Cortés and her role as translator and informant in Spain's conquest of Mexico, she was seen as a traitor to her race. By contrast, Chicana feminism calls for a different understanding. Since nationalism was a concept unknown to Indigenous people in the 16th century, Malintzin had no sense of herself as "Indian", making it impossible for her to show ethnic loyalty or conscientiously act as a traitor. Malintzin was one of millions of women who were traded and sold in Mexico pre-colonization. With no way to escape a group of men, and inevitably rape, Malintzin showed loyalty to Cortés to ensure her survival.[30]

La Malinche has become the representative of a female sexuality that is passive, "rape-able", and always guilty of betrayal.[4] Rather than a traitor or a "whore", Chicana feminism calls for an understanding of her as an agent within her limited means, resisting rape and torture (as was common among her peers) by becoming a partner and translator to Cortés. Placing the blame for Mexico's conquest on Malintzin creates a foundation for placing upon women the responsibility to be the moral compasses of society and blames them for their sexuality, which is counterintuitive. It is important to understand Malintzin as a victim not of Cortés, but of myth. Chicana feminism calls for an understanding in which she should be praised for the adaptive resistance she exhibited that ultimately led to her survival.[30]

By challenging patriarchal and colonial representations, Chicana writers re-construct their relationship to the figure of La Malinche and these other powerful archetypes, and reclaim them in order to re-frame a spirituality and identity that is both decolonizing and empowering.[33]

Mental health and PTSD[edit]

Torres (2013) speaks about mental health and the struggle of Mexican settlers being outcast even after trying to assimilate to a new country. Such realities are to be educated on and not overlooked as a simple issue Chicanas must face alone or in silence.[34]

Cultural identities and spirituality[edit]

The term "Chicano" originates from Aztec indigenous peoples who pronounced it "meshicano" in the native Nahuatl language. However, historically the Spaniards had no "sh" in their vocabulary and pronounced it "mexicano" (spelled mexicano), a pronunciation that has been carried into the present. Historically, the term Chicano has not always been positive and empowering. The term Chicano was for a long time used in a demeaning manner, and was associated with newly arrived Mexican immigrants in the early twentieth century until it was later reclaimed by Chicana feminists with the emergence of the Chicano Nationalist Movement.[16]

The term was used to distinguish first-generation, American-born Mexican-Americans from the older generations of Mexican immigrants; two groups that were often separated by a language barrier. Most first-generation American Chicanos adopted English as their first language, with some Chicanos blending both English and Spanish to create a hybrid dialect or slang argot called caló (also called pachuco). The U.S. media, not being able to fully understand these emerging American identities, stigmatized Chicanos and Mexican in propagating the notion that came from a country of corruption, and that they were criminals, thieves, and immoral people.

The definitions of Chicana/o in the United States are contested. Because many Chicana/os are born to parents who are immigrants from Mexico, one definition of Chicana/o is rooted in the idea that this identity straddles two different worlds. The first world is that of the country of origin from which their families descended from, such as Mexico, Guatemala, or El Salvador. Many Chicanos today, for example, continue to practice the religion, language, and culture of their respective family's countries of origin.

Another definition of Chicano is rooted in the identity being completely embedded within the "American" culture. Many Chicana/os have assimilated into "American" culture and use English as their primary language. Despite these two distinctions in definition, some might argue that Chicanos are stigmatized by both cultures because they don't fit into either one completely. For this reason, one view of Chicano identity is that a new culture is created in order to resist oppression and navigate both worlds.

Contemporary renditions of the word Chicano have been to replace the “Ch” beginning with the letter X, making the word Xicano. This is significant because it recenters the Nahua language and pronunciation of the sound “ch”, tying the Xicana/o to indigenous roots and decentering Eurocentric ties to identity. The Ch is the fourth letter of the Spanish alphabet.

Chicana feminism has also created another linguistic change, there is another “x” at the end of Xicanx, and it is being used to be inclusive of others gender identities and move away from a colonial imposed binary and gendered language.[35] The usage of Xicanx is due to the feminists trying to move back to indigenous roots as well as trying to create more space for Queer folk who have felt marginalized by previous Chicano/a movements.

Duality and "The New Mestiza"[edit]

The concept of "The New Mestiza" comes from feminist author Gloria Anzaldúa. In her book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, she writes: "In a constant state of mental nepantilism, an Aztec word meaning torn between ways, la mestiza is a product of the transfer of the cultural and spiritual values of one group to another. Being tricultural, monolingual, bilingual or multilingual, speaking a patois, and in a state of perpetual transition, the mestiza faces the dilemma of the mixed breed: which collectivity does the daughter of a dark-skinned mother listen to? [...] Within us and within la Cultura Chicana, commonly held beliefs of the white culture attack commonly held beliefs of the Mexican culture, and both attack commonly held beliefs of the indigenous culture. Subconsciously, we see an attack on ourselves and our beliefs as a treat and we attempt to block with a counterstance."[31]

Anzaldua presents a mode of being for Chicanas, that honors their unique standpoint and lived experience. This theory of embodiment offers a mode of being for Chicanas who are constantly negotiating hybridity and cultural collision, and the ways that inform the way they are continuously making new knowledge and understandings of self, often time in relation to intersecting and various forms of oppression. This theory discloses how a counter-stance cannot be a way of life because it depends on hegemonic constructions of domination, in terms of race, nationality, and culture. A counter-stance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence.[36]

Being solely reactionary means nothing is being created, revived or renewed in place of the dominant culture and that the dominant culture must remain dominant for counterstance to exist. For Anzaldua and this theory of embodiment, there must be space to create something new. The “new mestiza” was a canonical text that redefined what it meant to be Chicana. In this theory, being Chicana entails hybridity, contradictions, tolerance for ambiguity and plurality, nothing is rejected or excluded from histories and legacies of oppression. Further, this theory of embodiment calls for synthesizing all aspects of identity and creating new meanings, not simply balancing or coming together of different aspects of identity.


Mujerista was largely influenced by the African American women's "Womanist" approach proposed by Alice Walker. Mujerista was defined by Ada María Isasi-Díaz in 1996. This Latina feminist identity draws from the main ideas of womanism by combating inequality and oppression through participation in social justice movements within the Latina/o community.[37] Mujerismo is rooted in the relationships built with the community and emphasizes individual experiences in relation to "communal struggles"[38] to redefine the Latina/o identity.

Mujerismo represents the body of knowledge while Mujerista refers to the individual who identifies with these beliefs. The origins of these terms began with Gloria Anzaldúa's This Bridge We Call Home (1987), Ana Castillo's Massacre of the Dreamer: Essays in Xicanisma (1994), and Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Moraga's This Bridge Called My Back (1984). Mujerista is a Latina-oriented "womanist" approach to everyday life and relationships. It emphasizes the need to connect the formal, public life of work and education with the private life of culture and the home by privileging cultural experiences.[37] As such, it differs from Feminista which focuses on the historic context of the feminist movement. To be Mujerista is to integrate body, emotion, spirit and community into a single identity.[39] Mujerismo recognizes how personal experiences are valuable sources of knowledge. The development of all these components form a foundation for collective action in the form of activism.

Nepantla spirituality[edit]

Nepantla is a Nahua word which translates to "in the middle of it" or "middle". Nepantla can be described as a concept or spirituality in which multiple realities are experienced at the same time (Duality). As a Chicana, understanding and having indigenous ancestral knowledge of spirituality plays an instrumental role in the path to healing, decolonization, cultural appreciation, self-understanding, and self-love.[40] Nepantla is often associated with author Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldúa, who coined the term, "Nepantlera". "Nepantleras are threshold people; they move within and among multiple, often conflicting, worlds and refuse to align themselves exclusively with any single individual, group, or belief system."[41] Nepantla is a mode of being for the Chicana and informs the way she experiences the world and various systems of oppression.

Body politics[edit]

Encarnación: Illness and Body Politics in Chicana Feminist Literature by Suzanne Bost discusses how Chicana feminism has changed the way Chicana women look at body politics. Feminism has moved beyond just looking at identity politics, it now looks at how “[...]the intersections between particular bodies, cultural contexts, and political needs”.[42] It now looks beyond just race, and incorporates intersectionality, and how mobility, accessibility, ability, caregivers and their roles in lives, work with the body of Chicanas. Examples of Frida Kahlo and her abilities are discussed, as well as Gloria Anzaldua's diabetes, to illustrated how ability must be discussed when talking about identity. Bost writes that “Since there is no single or constant locus of identification, our analyses must adapt to different cultural frameworks, shifting feelings, and matter that is fluid.[...] our thinking about bodies, identities, and politics must keep moving.”[42] Bost uses examples of contemporary Chicana artists and literature to illustrate this: Chicana feminism has not ended; it is just manifesting in different ways now.

LGBT interventions[edit]

Chicana feminist theory evolved as a theory of embodiment and a theory of flesh due to the canonical works of Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Moraga, both of whom identify as queer. Queer interventions in Chicana feminist thought called for the inclusion and the honoring of the cultures’ joteria. In La Conciencia de la Mestiza, Anzaldúa writes that "the mestizo and the queer exist at this time and point on the evolutionary continuum for a purpose. We are blending that proves that all blood is intricately woven together and that we are spawned out of similar souls."[43] This intervention centers queerness as a focal part of liberation, a lived experience that cannot be ignored or excluded.

In Queer Aztlán: the Reformation of Chicano Tribe,[44] Cherrie Moraga questions the construction of Chicano identity in relation with queerness. Offering a critique of the exclusion of people of color from mainstream gay movements as well as the homophobia rampant in Chicano nationalist movements, Moraga also discusses Aztlán, the metaphysical land and nation that belongs to Chicano ideologies, as well as how the ideas within the communidad need to move forward into making new forms of culture and community in order to survive. "Feminist critics are committed to the preservation of Chicano culture, but we know that our culture will not survive marital rape, battering, incest, drug and alcohol abuse, AIDS, and the marginalization of lesbian daughters and gay sons".[44] Moraga brings up criticisms of the Chicano movement and how it has been ignoring the issues within the movement itself, and that need to be addressed in order for the culture to be preserved.

In Chicana Lesbians: Fear and Loathing in the Chicano Community [45] Carla Trujillo discusses how being a Chicana lesbian is incredibly difficult due to their culture's expectations on family and heterosexuality. Chicana lesbians who become mothers break this expectation and become liberated from the social norms of their culture.[46] Trujillo argues that the lesbian existence itself disrupts an established norm of patriarchal oppression. She argues that Chicana lesbians are perceived as a threat because they challenge a male dominated Chicano movement; they raise the consciousness of many Chicana women regarding independence. She goes on to say that Chicanas, whether they are lesbian or not, are taught to conform to certain modes of behavior regarding their sexuality: women are "taught to suppress our sexual desires and needs by conceding all pleasures to the male."[47]

In 1991, Carla Trujillo edited and compiled, the anthology Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About[45] (1991) was published by Third Woman Press. This anthology was controversial and banned because of its cover art,[vague] which was a piece by Ester Hernandez titled "La Ofrenda". Since its original publication, the book has been re-published and the cover art has been changed. This anthology includes poetry and essays by Chicana women creating new understandings of self through their sexuality and race. The pages listing external contributions give information about the writers and their histories, and make the book transparent about who is writing, and bringing visibility to various different names.[45]

Chicana art[edit]

Art gives Chicana women a platform to voice their unique challenges and experiences,[48] such as artists Ester Hernandez and Judite Hernandez. During the Chicano Movement, Chicanas used art to express their political and social resistance. Through different art mediums both past and contemporary, Chicana artists have continued to push the boundaries of traditional Mexican-American values. Chicana art utilizes many different mediums to express their views including murals, painting, photography, etc. to embody feminist themes. Chicana artists worked collaboratively often with not only other women but men as well.

The momentum created from the Chicano Movement spurred a Chicano Renaissance among Chicanas and Chicanos. Political art was created by poets, writers, playwrights, and artists and used to defend against their oppression as second-class citizens.[49] During the 1970s, Chicana feminist artists differed from their Anglo-feminist counterparts in the way they collaborated. Chicana feminist artists often utilized artistic collaborations and collectives that included men, while Anglo-feminist artists generally utilized women-only participants.[50]

Through different art mediums both past and contemporary, Chicana artists have continued to push the boundaries of traditional Mexican-American values.[51]

Art centers/collectives[edit]

The Woman's Building (1973-1991)

The Woman's Building opened in Los Angeles, CA in 1973. In addition to housing women-owned businesses, the center held multiple art galleries and studio spaces. Women of color, including Chicanas, historically experienced racism and discrimination within the building from white feminists. Not many Chicana artists were allowed to participate in the Woman's Building's exhibitions or shows. Chicana artists Olivia Sanchez and Rosalyn Mesquite were among the few included. Additionally, the group Las Chicanas exhibited Venas de la Mujer in 1976. [50]

Social Public Art Resource Center (SPARC)

In 1976, co-founders Judy Baca (the only Chicana), Christina Schlesinger, and Donna Deitch established SPARC. SPARC consisted of studio and workshop spaces for artists. SPARC functioned as an art gallery and also kept records of murals. Today, SPARC is still active and similar to the past, encourages a space for Chicana/o community collaboration in cultural and artistic campaigns.[50]

Las Chicanas

Las Chicanas' members were women only and included artists Judy Baca, Judithe Hernández, Olga Muñiz, and Josefina Quesada. In 1976, the group exhibited Venas de la Mujer in the Woman's Building.[50]

Los Four

Muralist Judithe Hernández joined the all-male art collective in 1974 as its fifth member.[50] The group already included Frank Romero, Beto de la Rocha, Gilbert Luján, and Carlos Almaráz.[52] The collective was active in the 1970s through early 1980s.[50]

Street art[edit]


Murals were the preferred medium of street art used by Chicana artists during the Chicano Movement. Judy Baca led the first large scale project for SPARC, The Great Wall of Los Angeles. It took five summers to complete the 700 meter long mural. The mural was completed by Baca, Judithe Hernández, Olga Muñiz, Isabel Castro, Yreina Cervántez, and Patssi Valdez in addition to over 400 more artists and community youth. Located in Tujunga Flood Control Channel in the Valley Glen area of the San Fernando Valley, the mural depicts California's erased history of marginalized people of color and minorities.[50]

The Great Wall of Los Angeles, Judy Baca, Los Angeles, 1978

In 1989, Yreina Cervántez along with assistants Claudia Escobedes, Erick Montenegro, Vladimir Morales, and Sonia Ramos began the mural, La Ofrenda, located in downtown Los Angeles. The mural, a tribute to Latina/o farm workers, features Dolores Huerta at the center with two women on either side to represent women's contributions to the United Farmer Workers Movement. In addition to eight other murals, La Ofrenda was deemed historically significant by the Department of Cultural Affairs. In 2016, restoration on La Ofrenda began after graffiti and another mural were painted over it.[53]

La Ofrenda, Yreina Cervántez, Los Angeles, 1989

An exhibition curated by LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and the California Historical Society featuring previously mistreated or censored murals chose Barbara Carrasco's L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective in addition to others. Beginning in 1981 and taking about eight months to finish, the mural consisted of 43 eight-foot panels which tell the history of Los Angeles up to 1981. Carrasco researched the history of Los Angeles and met with historians as she originally planned out the mural. The mural was halted after Carrasco refused alterations demanded from City Hall due to her depictions of formerly enslaved entrepreneur and philanthropist Biddy Mason, the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II, and the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots.[54]

Performance art

Performance art was not as popularly utilized among Chicana artists but it still had its supporters. Patssi Valdez was a member of the performance group Asco from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s. Asco's art spoke about the problems that arise from Chicanas/os unique experience residing at the intersection of racial, gender, and sexual oppression.[50]


Laura Aguilar, known for her "compassionate photography," which often involved using herself as the subject of her work but also individuals who lacked representation in the mainstream: Chicanas, the LBGTQ community, and women of different body types. During the 1990s, Aguilar photographed the patrons of an Eastside Los Angeles lesbian bar. Aguilar utilized her body in the desert as the subject of her photographs wherein she manipulated it to look sculpted from the landscape. In 1990, Aguilar created Three Eagles Flying, a three-panel photograph featuring herself half nude in the center panel with the flag of Mexico and the United States of opposite sides as her body is tied up by the rope and her face covered. The triptych represents the imprisonment she feels by the two cultures she belongs to.[55]

Other mediums

In 2015, Guadalupe Rosales began the Instagram account which would become Veterans and Rucas (@veterans_and_rucas). What started as a way for Rosales family to connect over their shared culture through posting images of Chicana/o history and nostalgia soon grew to an archive dedicated to not only ’90 Chicana/o youth culture but also as far back as the 1940s. Additionally, Rosales has created art installations to display the archive away from its original digital format and exhibited solo shows Echoes of a Collective Memory and Legends Never Die, A Collective Memory.[56]


La Virgen

Yolanda López and Ester Hernandez are two Chicana feminist artists who used reinterpretations of La Virgen de Guadalupe to empower Chicanas. La Virgen as a symbol of the challenges Chicanas face as a result of the unique oppression they experience religiously, culturally, and through their gender.[57]

Collective memory/correcting history

The idea of sharing the erased history of Chicanas/os has been popular among Chicana artists beginning in the 1970s until present day. Judy Baca and Judithe Hernández have both utilized the theme or correcting history in reference to their mural works. In contemporary art, Guadalupe Rosales uses the theme of collective memory to share Chicana/o history and nostalgia.

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (September 26, 1942 – May 15, 2004)

Chicana literature[edit]

Since the 1970s, many Chicana writers (such as Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa and Ana Castillo) have expressed their own definitions of Chicana feminism through their books. Moraga and Anzaldúa edited an anthology of writing by women of color titled This Bridge Called My Back[58](published by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press) in the early 1980s. Cherríe Moraga, along with Ana Castillo and Norma Alarcón, adapted this anthology into a Spanish-language text titled Esta Puente, Mi Espalda: Voces de Mujeres Tercermundistas en los Estados Unidos. Anzaldúa also published the bilingual (Spanish/English) anthology, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Mariana Roma-Carmona, Alma Gómez, and Cherríe Moraga published a collection of stories titled Cuentos: Stories by Latinas, also published by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.

The first Chicana Feminist Journal was published in 1973, called the Encuentro Feminil: The First Chicana Feminist Journal, which was published by Anna Nieto Gomez.[59]

Juanita Ramos and the Latina Lesbian History Project compiled an anthology including tatiana de la tierra's first published poem, "De ambiente",[60] and many oral histories of Latina lesbians called Compañeras: Latina Lesbians (1987).

Chicana lesbian-feminist poet Gloria Anzaldua points out that labeling a writer based on their social position allows for readers to understand the writers' location in society. However, while it is important to recognize that identity characteristics situate the writer, they do not necessarily reflect their writing. Anzaldua notes that this type of labeling has the potential to marginalize those writers who do not conform to the dominant culture.[61]

Chicana music[edit]

Continually left absent from Chicano music history, many Chicana musical artists, such as Rita Vidaurri and María de Luz Flores Aceves, more commonly known as Lucha Reyes, from the 1940s and 50s, can be credited with many of strides that Chicana Feminist movements have made in the past century. For example, Vidaurri and Aceves were among the first mexicana women to wear charro pants while performing rancheras.[62]

By challenging their own conflicting backgrounds and ideologies, Chicana musicians have continually broken the gender norms of their culture, and therefore created a space for conversation and change in the Latino communities.

There are many important figures in Chicana music history, each one giving a new social identity to Chicanas through their music. An important example of a Chicana musician is Rosita Fernández, an artist from San Antonio, Texas. Popular in the mid 20th century, she was called "San Antonio's First Lady of Song" by Lady Bird Johnson, the Tejano singer is a symbol of Chicana feminism for many Mexican Americans still today. She was described as "larger than life", repeatedly performing in china poblana dresses, throughout her career, which last more than 60 years. However, she never received a great deal of fame outside of the San Antonio, despite her long reign as one of the most active Mexican American woman public performers of the 20th century.[63]

Other Chicana musicians and musical groups:

Notable people[edit]

  • Alma M. Garcia - Professor of Sociology at Santa Clara University.
  • Ana Castillo - Writer, Novelist, Poet, Editor, Essayist and Playwright who is recognized for depicting the true realities of the Chicana feminist experience.
  • Anna Nieto-Gómez – Key organizer of the Chicana Movement and founder of Hijas de Cuauhtémoc.
  • Carla Trujillo - Writer, editor, and lecturer.
  • Chela Sandoval – Associate Professor in the Chicano and Chicana Studies Department at University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • Cherríe Moraga – Essayist, poet, activist educator, and artist in residence at Stanford University.
  • Dolores Huerta - Launched the National Farm Worker's Association with César Chavez in 1962 [70]
  • Ester Hernandez - Through the use of art, using different mediums such as pastels, prints, and illustrations, she is able to depict the Latina/ Native women experience.
  • Gloria Anzaldúa – Scholar of Chicana cultural theory and author of Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, among other influential Chicana literature.
  • Judithe Hernandez - Los Angeles based muralist who worked alongside Cesar Chavez to paint murals that broke the mainstream barrier in order to promote the Chicana movement.
  • Martha Gonzalez (musician) - Chicana artivist and co-leader of Grammy-award-winning Quetzal (band).
  • Martha P. Cotera – Activist and writer during the Chicana Feminist Movement and the Chicano Civil Rights Movement.
  • Norma Alarcón – Influential Chicana feminist author.
  • Sandra Cisneros – Key contributor to Chicana literature.
  • Vicki L. Ruiz - American historian with a focus on Mexican-American women in the twentieth century.

Notable organizations[edit]

  • Alianza Hispano-Americana - Founded in 1894, the Alianza members promoted civic virtues and acculturation, provided social activities and various health benefits and insurance for its members.[71]
  • Chicas Rockeras South East Los Angeles – Promotes healing, growth, and confidence for girls through music education
  • California Latinas for Reproductive Justice – Promotes social justice and human rights of Latina women and girls through a reproductive justice framework
  • Las Fotos Project – Empowers Latina youth, helping young girls to build self-esteem and confidence through photography and self-expression
  • Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) – Located in Long Beach, CA this museum expands knowledge and appreciation of modern and contemporary Latin American art.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) - Civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 by W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington, and Moorfield Storey and Ida B. Wells in order to advance justice for African Americans.
  • National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference - Organized by the Crusade for Justice, the event came from El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan, which sought to organize the Chicano people around a nationalist program.[71]
  • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) - A federal agency founded by Congress in 1935 to administer the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which protects employees' rights to organize and or serve in unions as bargaining representatives with their employers.[71]
  • Ovarian Psycos - Young feminists of color in East Los Angeles who empower women through their bicycle brigades and rides.
  • Radical Monarchs - a radical social justice group located in California, for young girls of color to earn social justice badges. Influenced by Brown Berets and Black Panthers, these young girls want to create change in their communities.[72]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Anzaldúa, Gloria, and Cherríe Moraga, editors. This bridge called my back: writings by radical women of color. Watertown, Massachusetts: Persephone Press, c1981., Kitchen Table Press, 1983 ISBN 0-930436-10-5.
  • Alarcón, Norma; Castillo, Ana; Moraga, Cherríe, eds. (1989). The Sexuality of Latinas. Third Woman. OCLC 555824915.
  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Aunt Lute Books, ISBN 1-879960-56-7
  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Making Face. Making Soul: Haciendo Caras: Creative & Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color, Aunt Lute Books, 1990, ISBN 1-879960-10-9
  • Arredondo, Gabriela, et al., editors. Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8223-3105-5.
  • Balderrama, Francisco. In Defense of La Raza: The Los Angeles Mexican Consulate and the Mexican Community, 1929–1936. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1982.
  • Castillo, Adelaida R. Del (2005). Between Borders: Essays on Mexicana/Chicana History. Floricanto Press. ISBN 978-0-915745-70-8.
  • Castillo, Ana. Massacre of the dreamers : essays on Xicanisma. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8263-1554-2.
  • Cotera, Martha. The Chicana feminist. Austin, Texas: Information Systems Development, 1977.
  • Córdova, Teresa (December 1998). "Anti‐colonial Chicana feminism". New Political Science. 20 (4): 379–397. doi:10.1080/07393149808429837.
  • Davalos, Karen Mary (2008). "Sin Vergüenza: Chicana Feminist Theorizing". Feminist Studies. 34 (1/2): 151–171. JSTOR 20459186.
  • Dicochea, Perlita R. (2004). "Chicana Critical Rhetoric: Recrafting La Causa in Chicana Movement Discourse, 1970-1979". Frontiers. 25 (1): 77–92. doi:10.1353/fro.2004.0032. JSTOR 3347255. S2CID 143518721.
  • DuBois, Ellen Carol, and Vicki L. Ruiz, eds. Unequal Sisters: A multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History. New York: Routledge, 1990.
  • García, Alma M., and Mario T. Garcia, editors. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings. New York: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 0-415-91800-6.
  • Garcia, Alma M. (1989). "The Development of Chicana Feminist Discourse, 1970-1980". Gender and Society. 3 (2): 217–238. doi:10.1177/089124389003002004. JSTOR 189983. S2CID 144240422.
  • Havlin, Natalie (2015). "'To Live a Humanity under the Skin': Revolutionary Love and Third World Praxis in 1970s Chicana Feminism". Women's Studies Quarterly. 43 (3/4): 78–97. doi:10.1353/wsq.2015.0047. JSTOR 43958552. S2CID 86294180.
  • Hurtado, Aida. The Color of Privilege: Three Blasphemies on Race and Feminism. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0-472-06531-8.
  • Moya, Paula M. L. (2001). "Chicana Feminism and Postmodernist Theory". Signs. 26 (2): 441–483. doi:10.1086/495600. JSTOR 3175449. S2CID 145250119.
  • Ramos, Juanita. Companeras: Latina Lesbians, Latina Lesbian History Project, 1987, ISBN 978-0-415-90926-6
  • Rodriguez, Samantha M. (2014). "Carving Spaces for Feminism and Nationalism: Texas Chicana Activism during the Chicana/O Movement". Journal of South Texas. 27 (2): 38–52. EBSCOhost 109928863.
  • Roots of Chicano Politics, 1600–1940. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994.
  • Roma-Carmona, Mariana, Alma Gomez and Cherríe Moraga. Cuentos: Stories by Latinas, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.
  • Roth, Benita. Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America's Second Wave, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-521-52972-7
  • Ruiz, Vicki L. From out of the Shadows. Oxford University Publishing Inc., 1998.
  • Saldivar-Hull, Sonia (April 1999). "Women hollering transfronteriza feminisms". Cultural Studies. 13 (2): 251–262. doi:10.1080/095023899335275.
  • Trujillo, Carla, ed. Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About. Berkeley, Calif.: Third Woman Press, 1991.
  • Pérez, Ricardo F. Vivancos (2013). Radical Chicana Poetics. Springer. ISBN 978-1-137-34358-1.
  • Whaley, Charlotte. Nina Otero-Warren of Santa Fe. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994.

External links[edit]