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Category: Andres Salazar

History of Chicano Activism in the United States and its Contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and Higher Education






Chicano Moratorium Committee conducts a march and rally commemorating ninth anniversary of Chicano anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in Atlantic Park. Hernando Perez (right foreground) gets inspired as he watches the demonstrators. Photograph dated August 29, 1979






Enshrined in the laws that govern the United States, the right to freedom of expression has permanently solidified a part of the identity of the American people. Listed as the first amendment, the right to express oneself freely is intrinsic and seemingly embedded in the psyche of American people. One of the ways freedom of expression is best exercised is in the manner of protest. The utilization of activism in the United States has played a vital role in the creation of our laws or societal norms; we can see these implications in the amendment process, and even the abolishment of certain laws/ideas about our constitution. The effects of activism can be felt at both the local and federal levels while having a firm presence that can be seen in alteration of the public sphere on certain stigmas and ideologies. Whether it is social, environmental, economic or political activism, activism in the form of mobilization of the people has been a catalyst for change in the country since its inception. Like many other influential and impactful social reform movements during the 20th century such as the Black Panthers, members of the Feminist movement, and the LGBT movement, the Chicano/a movement possessed a vital role in the civil rights movement. All of these reform movements created better improvements within their own respective communities, but regardless of who these civil rights groups identify with, these reform movements have played a part in creating a more inclusive and equal America for everyone. With this in mind, the position of the Chicano/a movement has contributed to the greater civil rights movement in many ways, but two important accomplishments come in the success efforts in education. The precedent under a basis of legality by having success in the dismantlement of students in schools before the landmark case of Brown Vs. Board of Education and the creation and implementation of a curriculum that pertains to Chicano history in the United States and how Chicanos/as have navigated in the U.S.  The bulk of this work will review through a series of primary and secondary sources, the social reform on part of Chicano/a activism. Examining the Chicano/a political and social groups in protest during the civil rights era, the legislative achievements and foundational changes in education, and the lasting effects of the Chicano/a movement and Chicano/a activism in general.

Historically, the origin of the Chicano/a movement and involvement began to see its formations since the end of the U.S.–Mexican War in 1848. A large part of the creation of a Chicano-oriented movement was because the construction of what is now the southern border in the United States. Facing racist and xenophobic sentiment due to the newly created border, many Chicanos and Chicanas as a result came together to advocate against discrimination, racism and exploitation. We have seen this as well in the Zoot Suit riots of the 1940’s, but the Chicano movement as we know it today saw its first enactment in the labor worker struggle of Cesar Chavez. As a result of organizing and fighting for change, a foundation of what later becomes Chicano/a activism began to flourish. The Chicano Movement that culminated in the early 1970s took inspiration from heroes and heroines from their own Mexican and American past, encompassing a unique perspective that is distinct and is neither entirely Mexican or American. The origin of the Chicano/a movement that is associated today began around between 1966 and 1977, members of the Mexican-American community came together and participated in a period of widespread political activism similar to other civil rights movements and antiwar movements of the 1960s. Most of the challenges and ideologies that the civil rights movement faced such as equal rights, simultaneously became the very same fight the Chicano/a movement was fighting, but with an emphasized notion of Mexican-American empowerment. It created a revitalized atmosphere within the Chicano/a community and established a much closer relationship, especially concerning the youth. As one can see more closely, it is not a question of whether or not the Chicano/a matters and is a part of United States history, it is the realization that black and brown folk were conducting and participating in the same mission to establish equality amongst the citizens of the country.

The focus of this work will analyze, evaluate, and recognize the role and lasting effects of Chicano activism in the greater civil rights movement in order to demonstrate the historical, social, and political significance of the Chicano movement in the civil rights movement and in general, social activism. Illuminating the multi-layered approach of Chicano activism highlights the educational struggle and legal impact concerning de-segregation in schools, educational quality, adding inclusive curriculum, utilizing art as a progressive means of activism, social reform both at the local and national level, and overall accessibility to Latinos, but people of color as a whole in higher education. Most importantly, this work will attempt to showcase the role Chicanos and Chicanas contributed to the civil rights era, which is one of the most important social reform eras of our nation. However, we will analyze the impact of Chicano activism through the Civil Rights era and up to modern day to better understand the role the Chicano movement played and still plays. The reason why this is apart and significant to the history of the United State since 1877 is because this covers a similar struggle many other minority groups and civil rights groups endured. It has not received enough national attention and recognition for the efforts the Chicano movement and Chicano activism in total, did to civil rights and education reform.


The State of Education for Mexican-Americans in the United States in the early 20th century

Essentially, this primary source is a bulletin listing that provided an insight into the precarious state of education for Mexican Americans in the United States, but specifically listing the situation in Texas for Mexican Americans. Dated in March of 1934 in San Antonio Texas, published by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)  this bulletin which essentially pleads to the State Educational Committee for the increased funding and availability to education. Subsequently, this led to the support of a widening of the availability of higher education for the sole reason of bettering the social mobility of Mexican Americans. This bulletin stated the desire for education as a birth right. Available for all who wish to continue their education. This bulletin also provided the social repercussions of the inability to provide education for Mexican Americans such as not being able to speak English, which for living in a country where mostly everything is English, is directly hindering the level of success in which Mexican Americans can rise in American Society. Aside from that, basic social skills and critical thinking skills only limit the scope of Mexican Americans to find work and create a stable life for themselves. An interesting note as well, is this bulletin also compared black and brown educational opportunities, which revealed that a large number of blacks were attending education and college in Texas than Mexican Americans. Which only revealed the cognizance and significance of education as a tool to creating and advancing social conditions.



Mendez V. Westminster: The Precursor to Brown V. Board of Education



Five Mexican-American fathers Thomas Estrada, William Guzman, Gonzalo Mendez, Frank Palomino, and Lorenzo Ramirez challenged the practice of Mexican school segregation in the United States District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. The petition record dated March 2, 1945  was the first attempt to address the issue of segregation towards Mexican-American students. This petition initiated the Mendez V Westminster case to be exact. The case stated that four school districts were accused of malpractice concerning the segregation of students based off race and the denial of entrance to the same schools based on race. These school districts were the Westminster School District in Orange County, The Garden Grove School District in Orange County, The Santa Ana City Schools, and the El Modeno School District all were accused of denying the students access to their schools based strictly on their Mexican descent. Being a violation of the 14th amendment, this petition began and initiated the predecessor of the dismantlement of school segregation across the nation in the Brown V. Board of Education case. This connects to the widespread social inhibitors that are seen with people of color and the inherent privilege of white students in educational systems.








The following is an official record of the petitioners opening statements. Dated September 7, 1945, filed on behalf of the students by parents, this brief puts forth arguments that supported the case and addressed issues raised during the trials. This opening mentioned many of the racial prejudices that was incredibly clear and obvious on the students of Mexican descent in these listed schools. According to the opening, many of the parents complained to school officials about the mistreatment of their students, and the parents were met with bigoted responses that detailed their children were not as prepared as the other students of other ethnicities. The schools took the consideration of the general welfare of the privileged white students and refused to hold the Mexican students to the same standard. This policy therefore legitimized the racist ideology and perception of Mexican students as dirty, non-English speaking, and intellectually and mentally inferior to white students. Which revealed the social stigmas and social perspectives regarding Mexican Americans and their children.


In October 1, 1945 a joint filing by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild was submitted to the court. The briefing presents arguments that supported the case and addressed issues raised during the trials, such as pointing out the violation of the 14th Amendment and other landmark court cases to reinforce their clients position. The National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union brief over the Mendez V. Westminister case not only demonstrated professional guidance in this case, but also added some legitimate support from two national organizations. In the end, it serves the side of protecting constitutional rights of Mexican Americans by only strengthening the position of those families involved with the litigation(Mendez).


This primary source is one of the official court documents about the Mendez. V Westminister landmark case, in this case it is the conclusion and injunction made by Judge McCormick. In his conclusion he finds the Westminister school district, the Garden Grove school district of Orange County, The Santa Ana City Schools and Santa Ana School Board of Education, and lastly the El Modeno School district guilty of the violation of constitutional rights of “Latin and Mexican” or Mexican-American students. In this case, Judge McCormick ordered a re-integration of schools regardless of ethnicity, and it became an incredibly important legal precedent in regards to the supreme court case of Brown V. Board of Education. That being said, the success of this court case provided the fundamental legal basis in arguing against the separate but equal doctrine. This was written and effectively implemented in March 21 of 1946.



Implementing a Curriculum: Chicano Studies and the Future of Mexican-American Education on College Campuses








This document provides insight on the petition to bring in a more inclusive curriculum by students of the University of Washington to create a new department and field of study known as “Chicano Studies”. Dated May 5, 1965, the creation of Chicano studies is believed to help the students in hopes of understanding themselves better identity wise, but also how they fit in American society. Not only is this for the Mexican-American identifying students themselves, but for others to understand the plight of Chicanos/as in contemporary American situations as it is apart of the formation of American culture of today. This only further established a professional and respected field for Chicanos/as in academia. Not only does the proposal ask for this department, but a more consolidated presence in campus with the request of Chicano/a faculty and students in order to build off the Chicano field of study. Showcasing the struggles and successes of the advocation of higher education.



This document in particular is called, “The Beginning” circa 1969, revolved around the early foundations of institutionalizing Chicano/a academic fields as well as acknowledging and establishing Chicano/a student organizations. The publication and circulation of this document spreads the goals of Mexican-American students and the desire to have a a field of study that represented their struggles and history. The idea of Chicano studies allows for Chicano students to possess already established practices that were already presented with other students and hope to create an institutional power base in order to manage and deal with the Chicano issues. Not only did this acknowledge and accepted Chicano institutions, but it allowed for other Chicanos/as to more closely examine their identity and history in an educational institution, creating more inclusive environments.  Now with a legitimate educational field they can use to spread Chicano/a awareness and history, Chicano studies can be picked up and respected as a genuine part of American history.


This is from a student newspaper about the activity level of the Chicanos/as in the University of Washington, displaying they are indeed making strides on campus and as a serious organization. This newspaper is apart of the UW daily, the college newspaper and thus it begins to acknowledge in a serious format the work that Chicanos/as have in campus. Referring to a successful implementation of a new curriculum and showing bi-lateral cooperation from other minority student organizations, such as the Black Student Union. This relates to the theme, because many of these changes and social reforms take place in educational institutions, and not only are they changing their respective university, but are bringing in larger domestic issues such as the grape boycott to spread more awareness of the issue. Along with collaborative efforts from other student groups, the goals and means of Chicano activism utilizes media newspapers to help spread their message.

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MeCHA) and the Brown Berets: The Rise of Chicano Social Justice Organizations

Printed around 1970, this picture reveals the execution of the boycott by students and members coincided with the Unified Farm Workers organization. Originally two separate groups known as Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the National Farm Workers Association, they merged in order to ameliorate the situation of farm workers in California and eventually established precedents on a national level. As a result of this merger, the connections and foundations of these two groups only increased and showed collaboration in order to achieve a goal. In this case, as a result of boycotts and organized farm workers, many of the leaders of these groups demonstrated national success in the betterment of farm worker conditions which showcased an economic struggle that many Chicano/as as well as other minority groups faced.

This primary source is a posting that encouraged others to help with the charitable act of donated supplies to underprivileged migrant families in Washington. This poster created in circa 1970 displayed an action taken by a Chicano organization known as the Brown Berets. The group was seen as part of the Third Movement for Liberation. The Brown Berets’ movements largely revolved around farm workers struggles, educational reform, and anti-war activism; they have also organized against police brutality. With much more recognition coming from institutions, these organizations developed a footing and attempted to carry out their ideals. This supports my theme because it highlights the social changes that were made because of the greater Chicano/a movement, and how these organizations used their increasing recognition and power in order to improve social conditions in the Chicano community but also as well as immigrants as well.


Dated circa 1969, The HUB Boycott Steering Committee created at least seven “Boycott Bulletins” to keep students up to date on the progress of its grape boycott. What is exceptional about these sources is that it is utilized to keep the younger generations more informed on critical topics that were predominant during the time. Especially considering the grape boycott was a result of Chicano/a activism, these bulletins advocated a more politically conscientious youth. Thus, it reaffirmed the notion of how important it is to create a politically active group in order to remain informed and be ready to mobilize.


Printed between in 1975 and 1976,  a newspaper titled, “La Gente de Aztlan”, created in the California University of North Ridge issued a campaign slogan that was frequently apart of many Chicano movements. The idea of unity was emphasized in order to promote unity in strength. Not only did this reaffirmed the Chicano/a movement in universities, but the simple fact of having a medium to do so highlights the advancement of Chicanos/as in education and in social conditions. Due to a continuous effort to utilize media, specifically college newspapers, the Chicano movement in universities were able to easier allow for a wider spread of publicity and hope to be shared among individuals in the movement. Translating the phrase on the newspaper, it states, “United We Will Win”. This is a visual and artistic method in which chicano/a activists used to spread their message of unity.





The Chicano Movement’s Lingering Effects Seen Today


Dated in 2002, this source demonstrated the modern effects of the Chicano movement as it surpassed the civil rights era and revealed its success in the position of recognition from these institutions. As the document reveals, it is a bulletin/posting  which encouraged students to join the Chicano/a organization of M.E.Ch.A, a student led group that focuses on Chicano/a empowerment and Chicano/a political action. Creating these groups not only provide a safe space for other students of color as the posting says it is open for everyone, not just Mexican-Americans. It allows for a group to educate young Chicanos/as in their adroitness in the political sphere to create changes that benefit them and other marginalized groups.

This picture taken in 2006 demonstrated the lasting effects of the original Chicano movement and how it is incorporated today, tackling social issues that need to be addressed in today’s day and age. In this case, photographer Oscar Rosales Castañeda illustrates the main plight that is seen today with immigration. Connecting this to my theme, this showcases the continued effort on part of the lasting effects chicano/a activism left behind. Now with much more representation, beyond Latinos and incorporating other ethnicities, the immigration issues not only are deemed as a social issue but as a human rights issue. Expanding from only domestic issues to much more broader ones that affects communities on a global scale.

Work Cited

Primary Sources:

  1. Longoria, J. M. 1934. “The Education of the Mexican-American.” Alonso S. Perales Collection: LULAC & Sons of America: LULAC News Monthly Bulletins, March, 4-5.
  2. Orange County Archive, “Original Court Documents-Page 1” (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  3. Orange County Archive, “Original Court Documents-Page 2” (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  4. Orange County Archive, “Original Court Documents-Page 2” (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  5. Orange County Archive, “Original Court Documents-Page 3” (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  6. Rodriguez, Jesus, “MeCHA de UW Collection”, Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, University of Washington. (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  7. Rodriguez, Jesus, “MeCHA de UW Collection”, Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, University of Washington. (Accessed November 20, 2018)\
  8. Curtis, Cathleen, “Chicano Group Active of Campus”. Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, University of Washington. (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  9. De Los Santos, Nancy, “UFW Protestors Outside of a Store During Boycott 2” Chicana Por Mi Raza: Historia Archive Collection. (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  10. Rodriguez, Jesus, “MeCHA de UW Collection”, Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, University of Washington. (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  11. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collection Division, “Grape Boycott Bulletin, Special Collections, UW Library”, Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, University of Washington. (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  12. California State University of North Ridge, Oviatt Library, Digital Collections, “La Gente de Aztlan”, Latina (o) Cultural Heritage Archives. (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  13. Rodriguez, Jesus, “MeCHA de UW Collection”, Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, University of Washington. (Accessed November 20, 2018)
  14. Rosales Castaneda, Oscar, “Immigration Rights Demonstrations April-May 2006”, Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, University of Washington. (Accessed November 20, 2018)

Secondary Sources:

  1. Correa, Jennifer G. “The Targeting of the East Los Angeles Brown Berets by a Racial Patriarchal Capitalist State: Merging Intersectionality and Social Movement Research.” Critical Sociology 37, no. 1 (January 2011): 83–101
  2. Ontiveros, Randy J. In the Spirit of a New People: The Cultural Politics of the Chicano Movement. “American Literature Initiative.” New York: NYU Press.
  3. Foner, Eric.” Give Me Liberty! an American History.” New York  WW Norton &, 2017
  4. Chávez, Ernesto. “Mi Raza Primero!” (My People First!): Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
  5. Garcia, Mario T., ed. “The Chicano Movement: Perspectives from the Twenty-First Century.” London: Routledge, 2014. Accessed November 19, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central.
  6. Brown Berets.” Reconstructed Memory Experiment – War of the Ghosts. Accessed November 20, 2018.
  7. Cockcroft, James. “Latinos in the Making of the United States”. United States of America. Moffa Press., 1995
  8.    Donato, Ruben. “The Other Struggle for Equal School: Mexican Americans during the Civil Rights Era.” New York: SUNY Press. 1997.
  9. Papaleo. “Chicano Moratorium Committee Demonstration.” Calisphere. January 01, 1979. Accessed December 21, 2018.


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