Cool statement in the column below by Gustavo Arellano on Cal State L.A.'s Department of Chicana(o) and Latina(o) Studies, celebrating its 50th anniversary.
"Chicana(o)" itself draws unnecessary criticism, primarily because it isn't an identifier for many who call themselves "Mexican American," "Latina/Latino," or "Hispanic." It's a regional term to a great extent with Chicana(o) being more of a California, than Texas, term, but which is also used throughout the Southwest, and to some extent, in Mexico, too. I don't want to understate any of this as "Chicana(o)" is still a viable term today, Texas included. Take for example, the Chicano/Hispanic Law Students Association at the University of Texas at Austin, or Chicana/o Studies at The University of Texas at El Paso. Many of us also regularly use the term either in our teachings or as a matter of course.
However, it's also a generational term associated with civil rights, as reflected in organizations today like the Texas Association for Chicanos in Higher Education) which was founded in 1974 in the heyday of the "Chicana(o) Movement" (also referred to as the "Mexican American Civil Rights Movement").
I became a "Chicana" back in the early 1970s when I was in middle school in my West Texas hometown of San Angelo. I was already a Mexican American, but I chose to identify with the Chicana(o) Movement not only because my family, especially my grandparents, were always involved in the defense of civil rights in my hometown community, but also because it connected me to the Mexica (pronounced "Me-shica" [or "Aztecs"]) which is believed to be the source of the term: "Me-xicana(o)" became "Xicana(o)," or Chicana(o). (Note: There are other theories on the origins of the term, but this seems to me to be the most logical.)
According to Mexico's census bureau, Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Geografía (INEGI), in 2015, 25,694,928 people in Mexico, or 21.5% of Mexico's population, self-identified as indigenous, with well over 1.5 million speakers of Nahuatl, the language of the Mexicas, alone. That is why the migrant stream tends to be more darkly hued, rather than fair-skinned. Despite their construction as "immigrants" in the context of a nation state that is itself a modern idea that represents the smallest part of the history of peoples native to this continent, they are actually "migrants" that have always navigated the continent, North and South, East and West sin fronteras, without borders.
That said, for many Chicana(o)s, "Aztec" is a metaphor for the deep, ancestral identification with, and connection to, the peoples of this continent, as a whole.
As with all Ethnic Studies courses, in general—and as the column below lays bear—despite its critics, Chicana(o) Studies is unapologetic and here to stay.
Chicana(o), or Mexican American Studies, moves our youths' imaginations away from paralysis and powerlessness toward "the creative activity of being" as eloquently expressed by Lugones (2010) in her pathbreaking analysis of gender.
Shouldn't this be what all education is about?
Thanks to Juan Tejeda for sharing.