From Chicano to Xicanx: A brief history of a political and cultural identity

You may have seen the expression in a Twitter bio or as a program in a college ethnic studies department (if you have one), but Chicano/Xicano signifies something that no one individual can encircle, and no entire academic course could contain.

To be a Xicano (pronounced CHEE or SHE-cano) is in several ways a choice. Where   most Latinx people define themselves in nationalist terms such as Mexican-American or some Latin American country of source, Xicanos put forth a political identity that emphasizes decolonization, rejection of cultural convention, and activism over origin or language.

Personally, as an individual of mestizx (indigenous and European) descent from San Antonio, Texas, as well as somebody who stands for the liberation of oppressed individuals everywhere, I find that being Xicano is as easy as being me.

What does it mean to be Xicano, Xicana, or even Xicanx?

Where does the expression “Chicano” come from?

The source of the expression “Chicano” is generally thought to be a shortened form of the word Mexicano, meaning one of the Mexica people, rulers of the indigenous Aztec empire. Though time has brought changes (the “x”  in the first Nahuatl pronunciation of a Mexicano could have used a soft “sh” noise instead of the harder “chnoise most commonly used now), the use of the expression is supposed to set an emphasis on indigenous roots and reject colonization, that has historically been trigger for both pride and disrespect.

Photo through Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

What exactly does the “X” stand for?

The transition of the spelling from Chicano to Xicanx(a/o), that is by no means total, is in large part because of the growth of Chicana Feminism, also known as Xicanisma. Ana Castillo, a pioneer writer in the area, coined the expression using an ”X”  at the beginning instead of “Ch” as a means to more directly identify with the indigenous etymology of the term. Her functions, along with many other Xicana writers, pushed the Xicano conversation into deeper consideration about the economic and cultural oppression of all Latina girls (who are still the most underpaid demographic in the USA) even within the Chicano Movement itself.

As Xicanista intellectuals incorporated   queer and gender theory, the second “x” was used to become more comprehensive of non-binary Xicanxs, as has occurred with the expression Latinx. All these considerations have transformed Chicanismo to a Xicanismo.

Screengrab through Urban Dictionary

When professor Francisco Rios of the University of Wyoming described the transition of the term, he said the elderly Chicano movement was “based in race and ethnicity with powerful male overtones. ” But Xicanismo & ldquo’s motion;functions to comprehend the intersecting and multidimensional nature of identities. ”

By Chicano to Xicanx

We can best understand the Chicano identity as arising from the social movements in the 1960s. The United Farm Workers were busy from the Delano Grape Strike, inspiring political activism among Mexican-Americans. This was especially true for the young who, studying from Dark student activist movements at the moment, began to form a political awareness around the title “Chicano. ” Ahead of this, the expression was unpopular and primarily a derogatory one, implying low-class standing and functioning as a reflection of racism.

Then, in 1967, Rudy “Corky” Gonzalez released “Yo Soy Joaquin,” an epic poem explaining the lengthy and complicated history of Mexican-Americans that also serves as an artistic declaration of “chicanismo,” the political ideology that would guide the Chicano Movement. Additionally, the document “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán” became the manifesto of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s, detailing a nationalism based on reclaiming the Southwest United States (called Aztlán, the “Mid” source land of the Aztec people) and activism on farmworker and land rights, as well as instituting bilingual education.

Photo through Latino Quote of the Day

Rudy “Corky” Gonzales


Is being Xicano different from being Hispanic or Latinx?

No…but also yes. To be Hispanic signifies being from a Spanish-speaking country or culture, while Latinx signifies being of Latin American descent, ” meaning Xicanos technically are both. However, similar to Hispanics and Latinx are frequently the very same folks, the difference lies in what they chose to prioritize in their identities. Although for Latinx individuals, the attention of identity lies in being from Latin America this is the language. Likewise for Xicanos, the choice to use the expression is a choice to highlight certain points of (cultural and political) identity.

Xicano as a political identity

Political topics have always informed the Xicano identity. Rejecting Anglo domination and embracing indigenous ancestry has been central to Xicanismo from its start.

As Ruben Salazar composed in 1970, “a Chicano is a Mexican-American using a non-Anglo image of himself. ” In other words, Xicanos define themselves by what it means to survive (and thrive) in modern American culture as descendants of colonized indigenous people. As   Xicanisma writer Cherrie Moraga stated, “We’ve always maintained a cultivated relationship to la tierra that still resides in our basic cultural Mexicanism. We’re a people of the planet, as El Plan de Aztlán maintained over 40 decades ago. ”

Another theme is the rejection of borders and traditional nationalism–along with all the categorical status of “immigrant” & &;ldquo;foreigner,” although this has changed over time. The Chicano Movement of the 1960s used nationalist rhetoric to unite Chicanos round the political causes of time. Modern Xicanismo/a frequently argues for a more intersectional perspective, analyzing social justice issues as they work across borders, socioeconomic statuses, and racial differences–it rejects an emphasis on national identity (even a Chicano one) as an instrument to arrange. This can be seen in who has traditionally identified as Xicano: While the term Chicano almost exclusively referred to Mexican-Americans, Xicanismo (along with the identifier Xicanx/a/o) provides a title for kids of current American immigrants in Mexico, in addition to immigrants from Central America.

Other common political topics for Xicanos are end war and U.S. imperialism, a focus on improving education for Xicanos and other minorities, and investigating the role of gender in the area.

Xicano artwork

The Xicano community has brought to life a varied collection of artwork and literature that reflects the important topics of its culture–and you’theres probably heard of a number of these functions already. Classic books such as Sandra Cisneros’ House on Mango Street explore xicanisma through brief but poetic stories of her youth, remembering shame of her family’s youth and the struggles of aging as a woman of colour. Contemporary artists such as Ariana Brown continue to explore the importance of queerness from the Xicano and Latinx identity. Music in Mars Volta or Ritchie Valens Richard & ldquo; & rdquo; Valenzuela brings Latinx and American influences .


The Xicanx adventure  

One thing that’s easy to comprehend about being Xicano is that is not an identity to be taken on lightly. It’s one that declares a consciousness and awareness that is revolutionary, a political statement. It aligns you with a background of activism. It’s also a cultural statement, adopting and mixing aspects of Mexican (and other Latinx) and American culture while linking oneself to the survival of indigenous ancestors. The best method is to hear from Xicanos.

Chicano Batman lead singer Bardo Martinez (who also identifies as afrolatino) conveys his personal relationship with Xicanismo in his music.   “I’m Mexican and Colombian; my Dad is from Jalisco, Mexico along with my Mom is from Cartagena, Colombia,” Martinez informed the Daily Dot. In many ways, I didn’t develop as a Xicano, but I became Xicano. ”

Screengrab through YouTube

By Friday night swap meets in Santa Fe Springs to building his very first lowrider bike, Bardo began to embrace his environment of La Mirada in southeast Los Angeles at a young age. After joining the student activist group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx p Aztlán (MEChA) and becoming involved with Self-Help Graphics in East L.A., Bardo turned to both activism and music as methods for expressing his frustration with the politics of the early 2000s, protesting the Iraq War and playing shows at local places.

“You become immersed in Mexican-American culture from the pure fact of being a part of the community of Los Angeles, that is extremely Xicano,” Martinez stated.

Famous comedian Cheech Marin composed an superb personal blog post on the Chicano experience in 2012:

Like its artwork, ‘Chicano’ is still an literary expression. Each generation has as much right to specify what a Chicano is. One of the primary characteristics of Chicano is conventional Mexican matches America. It’s where they influence one another, meet, and make something new.

Xicanx resources

Xicanxs continue to keep identity active in the electronic age. Veteranas and Rucas is a popular Instagram accounts, immortalizing the subterranean lowrider scene in 90s SoCal.  Xicanisma, a Facebook webpage “dismantling oppressive isms through privileged tears,” hit 100,000 followers this season, along with the Twitter accounts @QueerXiChisme arose in response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 as a voice from a queer Latinx individual like these targeted.

In the cultural history to the political priorities, from low-riders and Nike Cortez’s to anti-war protests and pushing for bilingual education, the Xicano identity is all about adopting the intricacies of a background between countries and committing to social justice to the disempowered.   As Rios reminds us, “The ways one can be Chicano/a-Xicana/o abound; we would do well to affirm these variants. ”

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for significance.

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