Chicano Culture and Its Influence Today

Previously a predatorial word, Chicano, feminine term Chicana, is an identity for people who were born in America of Mexican descent. 


It was adopted with pride and became popularized during the Civil Rights Movement for Chicanos in the 1960s. The name was given in order to take their power and control from the negative connotation behind it. The term also helped many Mexican Americans identify themselves as both Mexican and American. It helped them connect to both their indegionous roots and American development.


The term became an expression of the political and cultural stance of Mexican Americans from years of social oppression from their white counterparts. Chicanos faced laws that kept their economic and social status unreasonable and depended on the white majority of Americans. They faced racist stereotypes that would hurt their identities and opportunities as Mexican Americans.

Many Chicanos were unhappy with the treatment of Chicano workers, unlearned history, and their culture that was overseen. Many felt as if their identities and voices were not heard in politics or respected for their individuality. In response to this, the Chicano movement was born. 


The 1960s was the birth of the Chicano movement in America. They fought to keep their identities as both Mexican and American and to identify proudly as Chicano. Leaders such as Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez and Cesar Chavez became the face of the Chicano movement and left their mark on America.  


Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales was a Chicano boxer and political activist. In 1965, Gonzalez wrote the poem “Yo Soy Joaquín (I Am Joaquín).” This poem describes his sacrifice in his culture to achieve economic stability. The poem related to many Chicanos and influenced the movement in taking pride in their Mexican-American culture. Gonzales founded “Crusade For Justice” in 1966 which influenced people to voice their wants for racial justice to be talked about in the government. He also led marches in the voice of their pride. 


Cesar Chavez held a peaceful protest regarding farmworker’s conditions. The workers were underpaid, treated poorly, and were exploited. Cesar Chavez helped not only Chicanos but also all races who were in farm labor. Given that there were many Chicanos working in farm labor, it impacted the Chicano community to continue the protest for better treatment for them. He arranged the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee and had a great victory in recognition and union with boycotts, protests, and strikes. Although today many farmworkers have similar work conditions as they did before, many states are allowing the workers to unionize and protest for better conditions inspired by Cesar Chavez and continue his goal towards better working conditions.


Identifying as chicano/a is not as common today; many people use that term to describe themselves in honor of their roots which represent their struggles, power, and pride. Isabella Banuelos, a Chicana at DVC states, “I identify with the term Chicana because it best describes who I am. I say it with pride and power. I will always identify with both my American and Mexican culture.”