In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Chicano Studies

  • Introduction
  • 1900–1950 Scholarship
  • 1960–1970 Scholarship
  • 1980–1990 Scholarship
  • 1980–2000 Chicana Feminist Scholarship
  • 2000s–Early 21st Century Scholarship

Latino Studies Chicano Studies
Nicole Guidotti-Hernández
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 December 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0125


Radicalized Mexican Americans, who called themselves Chicano/a, began a social protest movement in the 1960s and 1970s, eventually creating the field of Chicano/a Studies. Their protest was a departure from the middle-class politics of respectability in 1950s organizations like LULAC or the American GI Forum that were established by what historians have called the Mexican American generation. In contrast, many working-class youth and their allies took to the streets by staging protests and walkouts, and created their own institutions and organizations like MAYO (Mexican American Youth Organization), Mecha (Movimiento Estudantil Chicano de Aztlán), and the Brown Berets or Las Hijas de Cuatémoc, among others. Demanding equality for Chicanos in employment, schools, and social services, they responded to a lack of attention and care on the part of institutions for their ever-expanding demographic as a majority minority in states like Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico. As youth began to organize, they asked for classes at UCLA, UT Austin, the University of Houston, the University of Arizona, and California State College Los Angeles in the 1960s, or created their own consciousness-raising groups or experimental educational settings. While courses filled the void in the US academy, many cite El Plan de Santa Barbara (the 1968 manifesto for the implementation of Chicano studies educational programs throughout California) and El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán (the 1969 pro-Indigenous treatise advocating for nationalism and self-determination) as key documents calling for Chicano self-determination and educational access, including the formation of Chicano studies in the US academy. Chicano/a Studies is an interdisciplinary field of research that integrates the methodological tools of textual, historical, quantitative, ethnographic, and cultural analysis to highlight the experiences of Mexicans in the United States. The first Chicano studies programs were founded in 1967 at California State College Los Angeles, and 1970 at UT Austin’s Center for Mexican American Studies and UCLA’s Chicano Research Center respectively. This was also when UCLA founded the journal of record in the field, Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies. In 1972, at the annual meeting of the Southwestern Social Science Association held in San Antonio, Texas, Chicano faculty and students discussed the need for a national scholarly and activist organization. Chicano Social Scientists split off from the Southwestern Social Science Association to then form the National Caucus of Chicano Social Scientists. In 1976, the organization voted to change the name to the National Association for Chicano Studies, providing a space for Chicano studies scholars to exchange ideas and share research at its annual conference. Because of feminist and queer critiques about the exclusionary nature of Chicano nationalism, NACS became NACCS (the National Association of Chicano and Chicana Studies) in 1995 in an attempt to acknowledge and challenge gender discrimination and exclusion. While an integral part of Latino studies, Chicano/a studies remains separate because of (1) the fact that Mexican origin people make up the majority population among Latinos, (2) the field retains its ethnonationalist heritage as part of the scholarly genealogy, and (3) because it is deeply institutionalized in West Coast, Southwest, and Midwest colleges, universities, and high schools.

General Overviews and Related Articles

Scholars have most rigorously focused on the formation of the field through its ethnonationalist sentiment of pride and self-determination during the Chicano movement. The texts most cited as essential field overviews are Acuña 1987. While Acuña offers a chronological argument that Chicanos have always been a part of US history, Muñoz focuses on the great social actors of el movimiento (the movement). The many offshoots of this literature focus on regional histories (Gomez-Quiñones 1990, García 1997, and Montejano 1987 [cited under 1980–1990 Scholarship]). Feminists have critiqued the masculinist nature of both the field and history of el movimiento for writing women and their exclusion out of the narrative. García 1997 provides foundational writings by early Chicana feminists documenting their struggle for inclusion in the Chicano movement, Chicano studies, and the Anglo women’s movement. Other anthologies and journals such as Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS, 1997–2001) began to document Chicana lives, myths, and symbols, including La Malinche and La Virgen de Guadalupe (Rebolledo 1995 [cited under 1980–1990 Scholarship] and Alarcón 1998). Further bifurcation occurs in feminist scholarship, with the advent of Chicana lesbian and trans critiques of their invisibility both within el movimiento and the traditional heteronormative politics of the Chicano family, Chicana constructions of gender, and the need for decolonization (Anzaldúa 1987, Moraga 1990, Alarcón 1998, Pérez 1999, Saldívar-Hull 2000, and Galarte 2011). Most recently, a new generation of scholars has emerged to detail the centrality of Chicana feminists and cross-ethnic alliances of political organizing during and after el movimiento (Blackwell 2011 and Márquez 2013 [cited under 2000s–Early 21st Century Scholarship]).

  • Acuña, Rodolfo. Occupied America; A History of Chicanos. HarperCollins, 1987.

    Early historical overview of what constitutes the history of Chicano peoples.

  • Alarcón, Norma. “Chicana Feminism: In the Tracks of the Native Woman.” In Living Chicana Theory. Edited by Carla Trujillo, 371–382. Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1998.

    A foundational feminist article that critiques sexism and the erasure and appropriation of indigeneity in Chicano studies.

  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Ante Lute, 1987.

    Feminist theory that develops borderlands methodologies and a theory of mestizo consciousness.

  • Blackwell, Maylei. Chicana Power! Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011.

    A history of Chicana women in the Chicano movement.

  • Galarte, Johannah Frances. “El sabor del amor y del dolor: Violence, affect and the (trans)body in the Chicana/o historical imaginary.” PhD diss., University of Illinois, 2011.

    Theorizes trans Chicana/o subjectivities.

  • García, Alma. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings. New York: Routledge, 1997.

    Collection of historic essays on Chicana feminism from the 1960s onward.

  • Gomez-Quiñones, Juan. Chicano Politics: Reality and Promise. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990.

    A political history of Mexican Americans in the Chicano movement.

  • Moraga, Cherríe. Loving in the War Years: Lo Que Nunca Pasa Por Los Labios. Boston: South End Press, 1990.

    Feminist text that uses Chicana lesbian sexuality as the site of theory.

  • Pérez, Emma. The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

    Feminist critique of the methods that comprise the field of Chicano history.

  • Saldívar-Hull, Sonia. Feminism on the Border: Chicana Gender Politics and Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

    Using Chicana literary texts as its basis, argues for a kind of feminism that transcends borders while recognizing the centrality of ethnic, gender, and racial differences.

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