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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

The Latin American Right’s Undemocratic Core

from the Dec. 14, 2022 Bulletin

Chicanos/Latinx/Mexicanos Chicano history

Bill Gallegos, a longtime Chicano revolutionary who lives in Los Angeles, has been active over the years with groups ranging from the Crusade for Justice and the Brown Berets to the Partido La Raza Unida and the August 29th Movement. He’s currently organizing with Liberation Road and the México Solidarity Project. His authored analyses include The Struggle for Chicano Liberation and The Sunbelt Strategy and Chicano Liberation.


You identify as Chicano. What do you see as the difference between Chican@ and Mexican@ or Mexican-American?

Bill Gallegos, in the Chicano movement’s early days

My people lived in Colorado for generations before I grew up there. Chican@ is Mexican-American. We’ve lived in the same territory for centuries, in that part of México annexed by the US in 1848. We became a conquered people. But separated from our homeland, we could neither develop as Mexicans nor become US citizens equal to whites. We became something new.


In the 1960s, during the Civil Rights upsurge, we took the name “Chicano” to assert our unique character and affirm our roots. Mexicans who migrate to the US can’t assimilate like European immigrants. They end up where they’re comfortable and where racism compels them to reside: in Chican@ communities. By the second generation, they have become Chican@s too.


How did the US come to take Mexican territory?


The prime motivation came from the Southern states. They wanted new areas where they could spread slavery. They pressed for war. México had outlawed the slave trade throughout the entire Mexican nation, including Texas, soon after winning independence in 1821. In 1846, the US president accused Mexican troops of attacking “Americans” on US soil. He sent in troops. They outgunned and defeated México in 1848.

What impact did the US takeover of the Southwest have on the United States and its subsequent development?


White settlers streamed into the new territories and claimed the land for themselves, stealing millions of acres outright or through US land courts that operated only in English. The United States won control of vast tracts of fertile land for agriculture and ranching, as well as huge deposits of oil, coal and gas, and gold and silver. 

The US subsequently built up both national rail and coastal port networks to facilitate trade with Pacific rim countries. The annexed Mexican land “made America great,” enabling the United States to leapfrog over England, Germany, and other imperial powers to become the world’s number one superpower.


What impact did all this have on México?


To the winner go the spoils, and to the loser? Immiseration. The loss of territory sealed México’s fate as a neocolonial nation, with US companies allowed not just to enjoy the riches of the new US territories, but to go into México itself and fatten themselves on the abundant natural and human resources they found there.


To enforce that unequal relationship, the US has invaded México at least ten times since 1848. In 1914, for example, a tiny incident of miscommunication between US sailors and the Mexican authorities in Veracruz provided the US with an excuse to invade. Washington “sent in the Marines” — and a massacre of Mexican civilians ensued.


But the United States would rely mainly on bribery and investment to get what it wanted, establishing a cozy relationship with the PRI — México’s ruling party for 70 years — that opened the doors to US corporations.

And the impact on Mexicans living in those territories added to the US?


In 1848, at the end of the war, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave Mexicans the right to maintain ownership of their land and the right to a free education, in the language of their choice! But just like with the treaties the US signed with Indian Nations, the US never honored this one.


Instead, the dispossessed Mexicans became the backs and hands of the new owners, working in the mines, building the railroads, and doing the stoop labor — all at the special “Mexican rate.” In some places like Texas, the powers that be enforced these conditions with brutality, bribery, and political manipulation. Amid this conquest, oppression, and resistance, the Chicano people took shape.


Have Chican@s played an important role in supporting the Mexican people?


Mexicans in the US have returned to México to fight in México’s revolutions. People like Ricardo Flores Magon played leading roles a century ago. In more recent times, Chicanos organized caravans of support for the Zapatistas after their uprising in 1994. They brought food, clothes, and other necessities — and raised enough public concern in the United States to make it more difficult for the Mexican government to just go in and massacre the Zapatistas. And when AMLO was elected and Morena took control of Congress, Morena chapters sprang up in the US to add their support.


Have Chican@s impacted progressive changes in the United States?


Lots. Chican@s helped enslaved people escape to México on the “southbound underground railroad.” We organized mineworkers into unions in the Southwest. I had family in Colorado present at the infamous Ludlow Massacre in 1914. In 1947, we won an end to segregated schooling for Mexican American and white students, seven years before Brown vs Board of Education ruled segregation in the South unconstitutional.

Together with Filipino organizers, we won the first union rights for farm workers. Full civil and human rights for immigrants? We’ve been the leading edge. And our insistence on voting rights — and our votes themselves — have expanded US democracy.


Chicanos have also made a huge contribution to the US left and the fight for socialism by building the August 29th Movement (M-L) and developing the theory of Chicanos as an oppressed nation. Our history shows that liberation starts with self-determination. 

Mexican@/Chican@ Resistance Across Borders

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