In March of 1968, 15,000 thousand Chicana/o students from several East Los Angeles high schools and throughout the city of Los Angeles walked out of their classrooms to protest a racist and inferior public educational system. The Eastside Blowouts coincided with community efforts to establish Chicana/o Studies programs in local schools and universities.
Nearly twenty-five years later, on April 28, 1993, UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young made an extraordinary announcement on the eve of Chicana/o labor hero César Chávez’s funeral that Chicana/o Studies would not be elevated to the status of department.
In response, on May 11, 1993, over 600 students occupied the faculty center at UCLA to protest Chancellor Young’s failure to expand Chicana/o Studies. Eventually, six individuals went on a fourteen-day hunger strike that resulted in the creation of the César Chávez for Interdisciplinary Instruction in Chicana/o Studies.
In both cases, it is clearly evident that the development and the struggle for the implementation and preservation of Chicana/o Studies programs originated from a politics of radical resistance in the Chicana/o community and not a sudden acceptance of the Chicana/o people into the halls of academia.
Under the political militancy manifested by the vibrancy of the Chicana/o protest movement, and under the rubric of El Plan de Santa Barbara, Chicana/o Studies programs were founded at several universities and colleges during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Chicana/o Studies programs were conceived as autonomous educational and cultural centers within the institution of higher education, which would then act as the intellectual arm of the Chicano Movement.
According to El Plan de Santa Barbara, Chicana/o Studies programs revealed a “growing solidarity and the development of a common social praxis.” Chicana/o Studies was to be rooted in the community. But the founders of Chicana/o Studies envisioned a broader conceptual program: “we believe that higher education must contribute to the formation of a complete [wo]man who truly values life and freedom.”
Furthermore, the founders of Chicana/o Studies took as its creed the words of Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos: “At this moment we do not come to work for the university, but to demand that the university work for our people.”
Throughout Aztlán in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chicanas and Chicanos organized communities to demand and oversee the creation of Chicana/o Studies programs at the universities and colleges.
So where am I going with all of this? Well, Chicana/o Studies resurfaced in the news recently in of all places Texas. Even after Chicana/o Studies was completely dismantled, educators fired, and books banned in the successful Chicana/o Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, MALDEF and the Librotraficantes of the world had the audacity to declare “victory” for the creation of court ordered “culturally-relevant courses” that was meant to appease the apolitical and confused crowd.
Meanwhile, Chicana/o Studies was still illegal, educators were still fired, and books still banned.
One step forward, five steps back. One step forward, ten steps back. You get the picture. Repeat.
Well, it seems that “El Librotraficante” is at again yet this time in his home state and who apparently can’t seem to get enough of the media spotlight thus declaring “victory” in defeat in Arizona wasn’t enough for him, and he is now seen “begging” the right-wing Texas State Board of Education to create a Mexican American Studies course within the Texas public school system: “I would beg you,” Diaz responded, “to hear our community say that it should be listed explicitly.”
Its the old classic win-win scenario that El Librotraficante has mastered in the last couple of years by playing the card of “leader” and “activist” yet from our vantage point you can clearly tell he is racking up the “credentials” for a future run for some political office? Ah, those Hispanics in Texas sure know how to manipulate the language of the Chicano Movement for their own benefit que no?
Anyway, on the one hand, if El Librotraficante gets the Mexican American Studies course, he can continue to “fundraise” around the country for “La Causa” by going on his beloved speaker’s circuit pontifacting on how he fought for the course regardless of what actually gets taught since he’s not actually proposing curriculum, pedagogy, funding proposals, etc, since he’s leaving that up to the good graces of the right-wing STATE.
Seems like El Librotraficante didn’t learn a lesson from the Tucson struggle verdad? Dang, it seems like he didn’t learn his Chicano Movement history either.
On the other hand, if he loses, El Librotraficante can say he will “fight until the end” knowing full well that he will just disappear like he did in Arizona.
Because El Librotraficante gives the impression that he’s for social justice, he is a darling of the Latinos in Social Media (LATISM) crowd. Yet, if the following exchange isn’t revealing enough then what is: “But a few board members were skeptical. Diaz made public a conversation he’d had with Houston Republican Donna Bahorich before the meeting. Bahorich wondered, Diaz said, whether Mexican-American literature would be “as intellectually rigorous” as British literature. “These courses don’t exist,” Georgetown Republican Tom Maynard told Diaz at the meeting, “but the school district has the capacity to create the course.” A handful of schools already offer them, in fact.”
I wondered how El Librotraficante responded to Bahorich’s racist talking point? I’m pretty sure that went over his head since he must have been on his knees begging.
Unless I am mistaken, Bahorich will be an influential member not only in voting to “create” such a course but in deciding on the content of the course.
The Centro Victoria at the University of Houston-Victoria recently distributed a lesson plan to educators in Texas titled “Made in Texas: Mexican American Literature and Culture” that purports to teach “students in their English class who Mexican Americans are, why they are here, what their literary descendants and contemporaries have written about and why.”
While the lesson plans appear to be instructive at first glance, a closer look reveals that they are devoid of any historical connection with the Indigenous past of Texas and gives students the impression that history and progress begins with the shipwreck of the Spaniard Alvár Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1528 who brought salvation to a “backward people.”
So if this lesson plan is any indication as to the type of knowledge that Chicana/o students will be learning, well you can probably guess that this Mexican American course that some are begging for won’t be too empowering and pretty much contradicts El Plan de Santa Barbara.
Hmmmm, yeah lets forget several thousand years of Indigenous history by reinforcing the racist narrative that history doesn’t begin until the Spaniards came.
Change does not happen as a result of begging rather change happens because of direct community pressure and confrontation. Learn your history. Since 1521, absolutely nothing has been given to us, everything we have has been fought for with blood, sweat and tears.
So back to El Plan de Santa Barbara, maybe El Librotraficante and those who have suddenly dropped to their knees with their “Si Señor” mentality while begging the Texas State Board of Education for a Mexican American Studies course might want to READ the opening pages of El Plan de Santa Barbara as it outlined the basic steps of “ORGANIZING AND INSTITUTING CHICANO PROGRAMS ON-CAMPUS.”
“Rhetorical liberalism is omnipresent in higher education perhaps more so than in other sectors of the society. Nonetheless, the contradiction between rhetoric and reality that is characteristic of ‘America’ is a feature of the campus, also. The existing interests and traditional structures have no intention of sharing power, providing access, extending prestige and permitting plural participation. Power must be taken, here, as elsewhere.
The institutionalization of Chicano programs is the realization of Chicano power on campus. The key to this power is found in the application of the principles of self-determination and self-liberation. These principles are defined and practiced in the areas of control, autonomy, flexibility, and participation. Often imaginary or symbolic authority is confused with the real. Many times token efforts in program institutionalization are substituted for enduring constructive programming. It is the responsibility of Chicanos on campus to insure dominant influence of these programs. The point is not to have a college with a program, but rather a Chicano program at that college.
If Chicanos do not exert dominant influence over the program, better no program at all. For without the requisite control, Chicano participation provides an ersatz legitimization for the continuance of the pattern of dominant-subordinate relations that characterizes Chicano colonial status within the larger society. The demand for self-determination in higher education is not a question of puerile power.
Institutionalization is defined as the process by which programs are conceived, structured, and their continuation and further elaboration secured. The practice of self-determination serves best the interest of the Chicano community and the long range interests of society as a whole.
But old patterns may persist, the anglo may move to deny and limit Chicanos, and there will be ‘Mexican-Americans’ to serve him. Chicano faculty and administrators and even student groups, same as politicians, can function as ‘tio tacos’, the store managers, radio announcers, police officers, ad nauseum. It is all too easy for programs to be co-opted, for them to function as buffers of denial and agencies of control; in that case better no program at all. Yet the colleges and universities, through Chicano programs may serve the community.
The premises for Chicano programs are: that the colleges/universities must be a major instrument in the liberation of the Chicano community; colleges/universities have a three fold responsibility: education, research, and public service to the Chicano community; only by comprehensive programs instituted and implemented by Chicanos, for Chicanos that focus on the needs and goals of the community will the larger purposes of the academic institutions and the interests of the Chicano community be served. These premises are in turn local particularizations of a wider system of values beliefs, ideas, organizational modes, and commitments to which the Chicano is dedicated. One of these that has a direct bearing on Chicano-University relations is, that the concept of “community” is all inclusive. The Chicanos on campus are an organic, integral part of the Chicano community. Among Chicanos on campus there can be no distinctions or separations because of personal occupational differentiations. Moreover, the Chicano community on campus is an extension of the larger community. The base of the Chicanos on campus is the Chicano community. Participation for the Chicano means total access to institution & by the total community.
The primary goals of the various programs must be to serve the interests of the Chicano people through the institutions of higher learning, In education, as in other matters there is one loyalty–the community; one criteria–service to La Raza. In higher education, the thrust is directed toward the creation of parallel institutions that are controlled by Chicanos serving the interests of the community. These interests are defined only by Chicanos. Education can not be isolated from other factors determining the situation of the Chicano in this society.
The base, the strength, of any action on campus depends on the Chicano community at that campus–employees, students, faculty, and administrators. This base must be well organized and the group must possess general agreement as to its orientation before moving to secure programs. Without a position of strength it will not be able to exercise control over the programs and without unity of goals, the programs would be constantly in jeopardy because of internal differences. It is no accident that programs that best fulfill expectations are to be found where the student groups are strong, more sophisticated, and most demanding. Before moving overtly, the Chicano must assess the situation; he must be organized and committed, otherwise, co-optation and tokenism will result, The Chicano cannot depend on the good will and false promises of others. He must recognize that he will secure his rights only to the extent that he is strong.