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Chicano Liberation (draft 10.6.21)

We Chicanos are a sub-group of people of Latin American origin in the United States. Together, Latinos/as and Chicanos/as are now the third-largest group of people of the global majority (people of color) in the United States. Although our numbers have grown significantly, big differences remain between, and within, our various sub-populations.

For Chicanos, most of our ancestors were born in what is now the US Southwest, long ago, before the war with Mexico that resulted in the expansion of the United States into the region. Some of our families have immigrated, and those stories are important to document.

We hold a wide range of jobs, but for the most part we are primarily members of the working class and the working poor. Although a few of us hold middle-class positions, the majority of our people are especially vulnerable.

As a sub-population group, we are one of the most inter-mixed, marry-outside-our-sub-culture group in the United States. We may be members of every permutation of skin pigmentation and culture mix, including red, white, brown, Black, and Asian.

We have been referred to as the "sleeping giant," a population who are yet to flex our collective influence.

The diversity amongst us reflects a complex, vibrant reality. A few of us are individuals who have been, and are, engaged with the practice of Re-evaluation Counseling, or more commonly referred to as Co-Counseling or Co-escucha.

MY STORY

Here’s a little about myself, as a kind of introduction to the oppression of Chicano people and the evolution of wide-world Chicano liberation.

According to my parents, my paternal grandfather arrived in southern New Mexico from Casas Grandes, Mexico, before the United States expanded into the Southwest.  He had a farm and had been in the cavalry. My maternal grandfather herded sheep all his life.

I've been active in local community work for most of my adult life, as well as with Re-evaluation Counseling. I’ve worked in the state I grew up in, New Mexico, finding ways to think about people and improve their lives and build opportunities. I began this work as a young person with a Catholic youth group that served our neighbourhood. I lied to get my first job, in a restaurant, where I worked through high school.

We had limited understanding or awareness of why or how things happened in our communities, and most important in our families, with the people we loved and grew up with. (Our family had relationships in the larger community, but mostly lived within, and among, our own.) Things were mostly unclear and un-explained.

What explanations there were mostly blamed those whose lives took a negative turn, or who died suddenly. One young man was attacked by a group of boys in front of a grocery store. I did not know him well, but his tragic death terrified me. Later, drugs changed things. Friends began using, then selling, then died or went to prison. Use and abuse of alcohol were common and a source of family tragedies.

Racism showed up inside my family. My father was dark, and my mother was light-skinned. It was painful to watch my darker sister and brother be teased and tormented about skin color.

Some family members had close relationships with Indigenous communities, pueblos, and tribes. Again, racism was constant against those whose appearance was more Indigenous. I saw that they endured a hurtful level of harshness in their lives because they refused to assimilate.

My families told stories about cross-cultural relationships. Most were told in ways that could get listeners to laugh at the ironies and tragedies that occurred. It was how we learned to cope, sometimes at an individual’s expense. I learned that certain parts of New Mexico were unsafe—people were targeted as Mexicans and Black. No one had told me that this is how society is organized, or why.

My maternal grandmother claimed Spanish descent (although two of her children were sent to Native boarding schools.) The idea had become common that those of us with lighter skin could be successful  because we were Spanish. And yet all of us were taught that growing up meant learning to assimilate into the dominant society.

The important things were communicated in Spanish, although some of us knew only English, because our parents had been told that the children would do better in school if they only used English.

These struggles left many with questions about who we were. As Chicanos/as, we knew that we were not Mexican, but we were not anglo or white. We did not know our real history, given that school did not teach it.

Even so, an awareness began to emerge about the issues of social justice in our communities, about who we were, about what had happened and what might be possible. Older young adults began to question things, and eventually to talk openly about racism—in society, and as it had been communicated through the education system.

Many Chicanos/as had enlisted in the military, as enlistment was part of a tradition and a right of passage. They also began to question. Some enlistees were angry, expressing their feelings in active and reactive frustration, not least of which was the movement against the war in Vietnam.

The term Chicano/a did not have common usage until this questioning began to bring awareness. (The term Latinos/as, and in the recent period the term Latinx, are also used to describe us. I understand the latter term is designed to acknowledge and reflect our diversity to include the GLBTQ  and Trans members of our communities.)

THE CURRENT SITUATION

Circumstances we each continue to face are rooted in our history, in the ways that racism can show itself, through the pretext of skin color and national origin; in the legacy of our geographical colonization and taking of our resources; and in the ever-morphing racism that is a replay of what has occurred from the beginning of the westward expansion of the United States; and in the wear and tear from our ever-skewed economic and societal order.

A small portion of our population includes families who have immigrated into this country. Over the last period, political rhetoric has scapegoated immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. Lies have been told to divert people into constant worry about protecting the southern border. These racist practices and appeals are an attempt to divert against our communities general popular anger and frustration communities, with a goal of ensuring white dominance. This racism also keep us confused and manipulates us into becoming fractionalized and at times pitted against one another.

Life within many of our communities is becoming more and more perilous. Not only does the economic order continue to endanger the survival of our planet and make many places in the world uninhabitable, but also Covid-19 has caused death and tragedy for many of our families. The national rhetoric and policies continue to scapegoat our people. Propaganda, hate, and fear prompt violence against our communities.

Re-evaluation Counseling calls on us to grow in our awareness and practice—and important for us, self care. (RC has no requirement, of course, that anyone give up their thinking or replace it with someone else's analysis.)

Our RC perspective about human beings, about the challenges we face as an ever-growing number of humans in the midst of many societal tangles, can be useful in moving our society forward. This movement starts with the “first person singular” (you) and with me. The implications are critical for the long-term survival of everyone.

Our particular RC understanding and practices make for a way of living that is distinct. It provides important insights into who we are and how we got here as an expanding, adaptive, and changing group of members of the human family. The challenges and complexities of our situation, while daunting and even dangerous, can be regarded as interesting. Even as we are stereotyped, demeaned, and marginalized, there is an urgent need for us to make sense of the challenges we are facing in our day-to-day lives, as well as thinking through our history.

As we think about our whole group, whatever terms are applied, our intention has been to establish a common thread that strives to take into account all our histories. Some of our histories have common threads. With some others, it can be challenging for all of us to notice how we are connected.  

 Although for many of us, the appearances of the challenges we face can compel us into a patterned discouragement, and sometimes into tragic lives, we as a collection of people have been able to maintain a spirited determination that can not be permanently defeated. The implications from our basic demographic profile radiate potential, and give us good reason to ponder and marvel. We have resilience. We have skills of cultural dexterity. We are full of a sheer determination to survive and to thrive. We are determined as individuals to raise our children into strong and resilient humans who will to care for one another and for our communities. Our strengths and our prospects are actually quite incredible. We can use the theory and practice of Re-evaluation Counseling to hold onto, and act on the basis of, our picture of these realities as we overcome the hurts imposed by centuries of oppression.

Lorenzo Garcia
International Liberation Reference Person for Chicanos

 


Last modified: 2021-10-07 19:51:57+00