Chicano nationalism is the pro-indigenist ethnic nationalist ideology of Chicanos. While there were nationalistic aspects of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the movement tended to emphasize civil rights and political and social inclusion rather than nationalism. For this reason, Chicano nationalism is better described as an ideology than as a political movement.


Violence and discrimination against Mexican Americans (usually of lower class and visible Amerindian ancestry) continued into the 1950s and 1960s.[1][2] Many organizations, businesses, and homeowners associations had official policies to exclude Mexican Americans. In many areas across the Southwest, Mexican Americans lived in separate residential areas, due to laws and real estate company policies.[3] This group of laws and policies, known as redlining, lasted until the 1950s, and fall under the concept of official segregation.[4] In many other instances, it was more of a general social understanding that Mexicans should be excluded from White society. For instance, signs with the phrase "No Dogs or Mexicans" were posted in small businesses and public pools throughout the Southwest well into the 60's.[5]

Some members of the Mexican American community began to question whether assimilation was possible or even desirable.[6] At the same time, a sense of ethnic consciousness and unity was forming, especially among the youth, around the plight of the farmworkers. Mexican Americans, some of whom began calling themselves "Chicanos" as a symbol of ethnic pride, also began to uncover their history and critically analyze what they learned in public schools.[7] With this new sense of identity and history, the early proponents of the Chicano movement began viewing themselves as a colonized people entitled to self-determination of their own.[8] Some of them also embraced a form of nationalism that was based on their perception of the failure of the United States government to live up to the promises that it had made in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.[9][10]


The concept of Chicano nationalism is perhaps best articulated in the 1968 Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, generally considered the manifesto of the Chicano Movement[citation needed]. It states,

"El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán sets the theme that the Chicanos (La Raza de Bronze) must use their nationalism as the key or common denominator for mass mobilization and organization. Once we are committed to the idea and philosophy of El Plan de Aztlán, we can only conclude that social, economic, cultural, and political independence is the only road to total liberation from oppression, exploitation, and racism. Our struggle then must be for the control of our barrios, campos, pueblos, lands, our economy, our culture, and our political life. El Plan commits all levels of Chicano society – the barrio, the campo, the ranchero, the writer, the teacher, the worker, the professional – to La Causa."

Functions and basis

Chicano nationalism allowed Chicanos to define themselves as a group on their own terms, and was a determination on their part to mold their own destiny. It is rooted in the Aztec creation myth of Aztlán, a "northerly place". As the Aztecs are central to the conquest and history of Mexico, the use of the word took on the added dimension of the reclamation of an indigenous heritage as part of the decolonization process.

The sense of Chicano nationalism was enhanced by a geographical proximity of the United States and Mexico. Chicanos use the name Aztlán in reference to territories within the boundaries of the Mexican Cession, the land that was "granted" to Spain in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI in Bull Inter caetera, then claimed by the First Mexican Empire in 1821 when Spain signed the Treaty of Córdoba at the conclusion of the Mexican War of Independence, then claimed as "territories" (as opposed to "states", often referred to as "provinces") by 1824 Constitution, and finally ceded to the United States in 1848 as an outcome of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (although it also included Texas, which had earlier proclaimed its independence from the government in Mexico City and was independent territory.)

The commitment to a nationalist ideology allowed Chicano activists to supersede differences that threatened their unity. Mexican Americans had regional, linguistic, age, cultural, racial, and gender differences, all of which were all subsumed to a mutual dedication to the Chicano Movement.


Some small groups of Mexican nationalists, in Mexico, label Chicano nationalism as a form of separatism, similar to the Republic of Texas or black separatism which is opposed to their own idea of Reconquista and unification of Mexico according to the borders of the Adams–Onís Treaty. As chicano identity may be only composed of people of predominantly or fully indigenous ancestries, Mexican nationalists believe the idea of Aztlan to be divisive and condemn Chicano nationalists for attempting to create a new identity for the Mexican American population, distinct from that of the Mexican nation which also includes people of European ancestry (mostly Spanish).[11]

See also


  1. ^ "The lynching of persons of Mexican origin or descent in".
  2. ^ Vicki L. Ruiz. "South by Southwest: Mexican Americans and Segregated Schooling, 1900–1950". OAH Magazine of History. Archived from the original on October 10, 2007.
  3. ^ Pulido, Laura (2006). Black, brown, yellow, and left ... – Google Books. ISBN 9780520245204. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  4. ^ Pulido, Laura (2006). Black, brown, yellow, and left ... – Google Books. ISBN 9780520245204. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  5. ^ "press3b". Archived from the original on December 8, 2006.
  6. ^ Chicano Movement
  7. ^ [1] Archived July 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Muñoz, Carlos (1989). Youth, identity, power: the Chicano ... – Google Books. ISBN 9780860919131. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  9. ^ "Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo". Archived from the original on October 26, 2009.
  10. ^ "A History of Mexican Americans in California". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
  11. ^ "Cinco de Mayo: An open challenge to Chicano Nationalists". Archived from the original on December 3, 2013.