Chicana feminism

Chicana feminism, also called Xicanisma,[1] is a sociopolitical movement in the United States that analyzes the historical, cultural, spiritual, educational, and economic intersections of Mexican-American women that identify as Chicana. Chicana feminism challenges the stereotypes that Chicanas face across lines of gender, ethnicity, race, class, and sexuality. Most importantly, Chicana feminism serves as a movement, theory and praxis that helps women reclaim their existence between and among the Chicano Movement and American feminist movements.[2]


Emerging out of the identity movements of the 1960s, Chicana feminists created a distinctive trajectory and mapping of feminist political thought and practice that centered their unique experiences with gender, race, class and sexuality.[3] Since many feminist methodologies are similar in practice, Chicana feminists distinguished themselves from other feminists by centering their unique lived experiences with gender, race, class, sexuality and nationalism – offering critiques and responses to their exclusion from both the mainstream Chicano nationalist movement and the second wave feminist movement. One important way they were able to do this was through the inclusion of different varieties of the Spanish language, a vital component to the preservation of Chicano/a culture.[4] Chicana feminism maintains that throughout history, women have been oppressed, and sometimes even abused, in many different societies.[5] In Latin America, just as in Europe, Asia and Africa, many women were, for centuries, treated by their fathers, brothers and husbands with discrimination. Women in Latin America, Mexico included, were often seen as child-bearers, homemakers, and caregivers. These women took care of their children, perform household chores, and cooked for their husbands.[citation needed]

In Latin America, women at those times had to act according to some social standards. In many Latin American cities, for example, women were not seen with good eyes if they spoke to men they did not know. Meanwhile, prostitution, for example, was legal in many Latin American areas,[6] and men were not criticized, but rather seen as heroic, if they had several girlfriends, even if the man was married.[citation needed]

In 1848, with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, Mexico ceded to the US: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and part of Colorado and Wyoming. Former citizens of Mexico living in those territories became US citizens.

During the twentieth century, Hispanic immigration to the United States began to slowly but steadily change American demographics. Many women of Hispanic origin contributed to the women's suffrage movement including Adelina Otero-Warren and Maria de G.E. Lopez. By 1940, Los Angeles was one of the cities with the largest group of Chicanos in the United States.

Euro-American women also had their own problems: they were also stereotyped as homemakers, caregivers, and child-bearers. Unlike women of minority races, however, white women largely evaded dealing with racism, unless they or their husbands befriended people of Black or Hispanic background. Euro-American women combated this with the emergence of waves of feminism, the first wave addressed suffrage while the second wave of feminism discussed issues of sexuality, private vs. the public sphere, reproductive rights, and marital rape.


Chicana feminists challenged their prescribed role in la familia, and demanded to have the intersectional experiences that they faced recognized. Chicanas identify as being consciously aware, self-determined, proud of their roots, heritage, and experience while prioritizing La Raza. With the emergence of the Chicano Movement, the structure of Chicano families saw dramatic changes. Specifically, women began to question the role that they were assigned within the family and where their place was within the Chicano national struggle.[7] In the seminal text, La Chicana by Elizabeth Martinez, Martinez writes: "She [La Chicana] is oppressed by the forces of racism, imperialism, and sexism. This can be said of all non-white women in the United States. Her oppression by the forces of racism and imperialism is similar to that endured by our men. Oppression by sexism, however, is hers alone."[8] Women also sought out to battle the internalized struggles of self-hatred rooted in the colonization of their people. This included breaking the mujer buena/mujer mala myth, in which the domestic Spanish Woman is viewed as good and the Indigenous Woman that is a part of the community is viewed as bad. Chicana feminist thought emerged as a response to patriarchy, racism, classism, and colonialism as well as a response to all the ways that these legacies of oppression have become internalized.[9]

Chicana feminism have many different movements within the culture and ethnicities, according to Garcia (1989) the Chicana feminist movement was created to adhere to the specific issues which have had on Chicana women of colour which has originated from the Chicano movement because women desired to be treated equally and have the acceptance and motivation to what the Chicanos were doing.[10]

The Chicana feminist movement has certainly influenced many Chicana women to be more active and to defend their rights not just as single women but women in solidarity who come together forming a society with equal contribution.[11]

Chicana feminist Garcia (1989) has noted that awareness is only the start such awareness becomes the catalyst for change which is what Chicana feminism is about Chicana feminism is also about creating intersectionality.[12]

Milestones of Chicana feminism[edit]

  • 2003 Blea, Irene. The Feminization of Racism, Greenweed Press
  • 1991. Blea, Irene. La Chicana and the Intersection of Race Class and Gender. Greenwood Press.
1963 Raza Unida party Chicano student movement citizenship which included training conferences for Mexican and American youth. This party also won the electoral victory crystal city.[13] 
  • Second wave feminism which created the national council of negro women active founded by Dorothy Height.[14]
  • 1967/1970- Chicana feminism (Brown Berets created by Viki Castro who then renamed themselves Las Adelitas de Azlan.[citation needed]

Political organization (1940s–1970s)[edit]

Beginning in the 1940s, Mexican-Americans led a civil rights movement with a goal of achieving Mexican-American empowerment. By the 1960s, the Chicano Movement, also known as El Movimiento, became a prominent campaign in the lives of many Mexican-American workers and youth.[15]

In 1962, The United Farm Workers (UFW) organization was founded by César Chávez,[16] Dolores Huerta, and Philip Vera Cruz.

Between the late 1960s through the 1970s, The Chicano Student Movement began in which students fought and organized for better quality education.[17]

The first efforts of organizing the Chicana Feminist Movement began in the later part of the 1960s. During the Chicano Movement,[18] Chicana women formed committees within Chicano organizations. Similar to the organization of other groups in the Women's Movement, the Chicana feminists organized consciousness-raising groups and held conferences specific to the issues that Chicana women faced.[19]

The Farah Strike, 1972–1974, labeled the "strike of the century," and it was organized and led by Mexican American women predominantly in El Paso, Texas.[20]

Although community organizers were working toward empowering the Mexican-American community, the narrative of the Chicano Movement largely ignored the women that were involved with organizing during this time of civil disobedience.

Chicana Feminism serves to highlight a much greater movement than generally perceived; a variety of minority groups are given a platform to confront their oppressors whether that be racism, homophobia, and multiple other forms of social injustice.[21]

Chicana liberation unshackles individuals, as well as the broader group as a whole, allowing them to live lives as they desire – commanding cultural respect and equality.[22]

Chicana feminists collectively realized the importance of connecting the issues of gender with need for improvement with respect to other civil liberties such as socioeconomic background, heritage, and many others.[23]

Chicanas in the Brown Berets[edit]

The Brown Berets were a youth group that took on a more militant approach to organizing for the Mexican-American community formed in California in the late 1960s.[24] They heavily valued strong bonds between women, stating that women Berets must acknowledge other women in the organization as hermanas en la lucha and encouraging them to stand together. Membership in the Brown Berets helped to give Chicanas autonomy, and the ability to express their own political views without fear.[25]

Chicana feminist organization[edit]

The 1969 Chicano Youth Liberation Conference began the Chicano Movement and eventually, MEChA. At the conference women began to get involved in the male-dominated dialogue to address feminist concerns.[26]

At the first National Chicana Conference held in Houston, Texas in May 1971, over 600 women organized to discuss issues surrounding regarding equal access to education, reproductive justice, formation of childcare centers, and more (Smith, 2002). While the event was the first major gathering of its kind, the conference itself was fraught with discord as Chicanas from geographically and ideologically divergent positions sparred over the role of feminism within the Chicano movement. These conflicts led to a walkout on the final day of the conference.[27]

Revolutionary Chicanas during this time period while critiquing the inability of the mainstream Chicano nationalist movements to address sexism and misogyny, simultaneously renounced the mainstream Second Wave feminist movement for its inability to include racism and classism in their politics. Chicanas during this time felt excluded from mainstream feminist movements because they had different needs, concerns and demands. Through persistent objections to their exclusions women have gone from being called Chicano women to Chicanas to introducing the adoption of a/o or o/a as a way of acknowledging both genders when discussing the community. Chicanas demanded free day-care centers and a reform of the welfare system, they sought to fight against all three structures of oppression they faced, including sexism, but also prioritizing racism and imperialism.

One of the First Chicana organizations was the Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional (CFMN), founded in 1973.[28] The concept for the CFMN originated during the National Chicano Issues Conference when a group of attending Chicanas noticed that their concerns were not adequately addressed at the Chicano conference. The women met outside of the conference and drafted a framework for the CFMN that established them as active and knowledgeable community leaders of a people's movement.[29]

Female archetypes[edit]

Central to much of Chicana feminism is a reclaiming of the female archetypes La Virgen de Guadalupe, La Llorona, Fredia Khalo, and La Malinche.[30] These archetypes have prevented Chicanas from achieving sexual and bodily agency due to the ways they have been historically constructed as negative categories through the lenses of patriarchy and colonialism.[31] Shifting the discourse from a traditional (patriarchal) representation of these archetypes to a de-colonial feminist understanding of them is a crucial element of contemporary Chicana feminism, and represents the starting point for a reclamation of Chicana female power, sexuality, and spirituality.

La Virgen de Guadalupe and La Malinche have become symbolic means of suppressing Chicana women's sexuality through the patriarchal dichotomy of puta/virgin, the positive role model and the negative one, historically and continuously held up before Mexican women as icons and mirrors in which to examine their own self-image and define their self-esteem.[4] Gloria Anzaldúa's canonical text addresses the subversive power of reclaiming indigenous spirituality to unlearn colonial and patriarchal constructions and restrictions on women, their sexuality, and understandings of motherhood. Anzaldúa writes, "I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white".[32] La Malinche is a victim of centuries of patriarchal myths that permeate the Mexican woman's consciousness, often without her awareness.[4]

Malintzin (also known as Doña Marina by the Spaniards or "La Malinche" post-Mexican independence from Spain) was born around 1505 to noble indigenous parents in rural Mexico. Since indigenous women were often used as pawns for political alliances at this time, she was betrayed by her parents and sold into slavery between the ages of 12–14, traded to Hernan Cortés as a concubine, and because of her intelligence and fluency in multiple languages, was promoted to his "wife" and diplomat. She served as Cortés's translator, playing a key role in the Spaniard's conquest of Tenochtitlan and, by extension, the conquest of Mexico.[33] She bore Cortés a son, Martín, who is considered to be the first mestizo and the beginning of the "Mexican" race.[31]

After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, a scapegoat was needed to justify centuries of colonial rule. Because of Malintzin's relationship with Cortés and her role as translator and informant in Spain's conquest of Mexico, she was seen as a traitor to her race. By contrast, Chicana feminism calls for a different understanding. Since nationalism was a concept unknown to Indigenous people in the 16th century, Malintzin had no sense of herself as "Indian", making it impossible for her to show ethnic loyalty or conscientiously act as a traitor. Malintzin was one of millions of women traded and sold in Mexico pre-colonization. With no way to escape a group of men, and inevitably rape, Malintzin showed loyalty to Cortés to ensure her survival.[31]

La Malinche has become the representative of a female sexuality that is passive, "rape-able", and always guilty of betrayal.[4] Rather than a traitor or a "whore", Chicana feminism calls for an understanding of her as an agent within her limited means, resisting rape and torture (as was common among her peers) by becoming a partner and translator to Cortés. Placing the blame for Mexico's conquest on Malintzin creates a foundation for placing upon women the responsibility to be the moral compasses of society and blames them for their sexuality, which is counterintuitive. It is important to understand Malintzin as a victim not of Cortés, but of myth. Chicana feminism calls for an understanding in which she should be praised for the adaptive resistance she exhibited that ultimately led to her survival.[31]

By challenging patriarchal and colonial representations, Chicana writers re-construct their relationship to the figure of La Malinche and these other powerful archetypes, and reclaim them in order to re-frame a spirituality and identity that is both decolonizing and empowering.[34]


One critique of Chicana feminism was that it was a separatist movement that would divide the Chicano Movement. Loyalist Chicanas felt that the creation of a separate Chicana feminist movement was a dangerous and divisive political tactic, influenced too heavily by the Anglo women's movement. Loyalists believed that racism was the most important issue Chicanos and Chicanas were facing. They felt that the sexual oppression Chicanas faced from Chicanos was the fault of the system rather than the men, and breaking down the racial oppression affecting both Chicanos and Chicanas would resolve the sexual inequality the women experienced.

Similarly, Chicana feminists have been blamed for tearing at the values of Chicano culture. The first reason for this is that loyalists believed Chicana feminists were anti-family, anti-culture, and anti-man, thus pitting them against the Chicano movement. Furthermore, feminism itself was viewed by many as individualistic and as something that was taking away from other issues, such as racism.[7]

However, following the contributions of Chicana feminist writers, including Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga, Chicana feminism has gained the support of feminists of diverse backgrounds. The emergence of queer theory and intersectionality in feminist movements has challenged the misogyny of the Chicano movement and has broadened and strengthened the Chicana/o movement to be in solidarity with other people of color in the United States.

Cultural identities and spirituality[edit]

The term "Chicano" originates from Aztec indigenous peoples who pronounced it "meshicano" in the native Nahuatl language. However, historically the Spaniards had no "sh" in their vocabulary and pronounced it "mexicano" (spelled mexicano), a pronunciation that has been carried into the present. Historically, the term Chicano has not always been positive and empowering. The term Chicano was for a long time used in a demeaning manner, and was associated with newly arrived Mexican immigrants in the early twentieth century until it was later reclaimed by Chicana feminists with the emergence of the Chicano Nationalist Movement.[35] Many white Americans used the word Chicano to describe Mexican immigrants as poor, unskilled, and ignorant people. Later, the term was used to distinguish first-generation, American-born Mexican-Americans from the older generations of Mexican immigrants; two groups that were often separated by a language barrier. Most first-generation American Chicanos adopted English as their first language, with some Chicanos blending both English and Spanish to create a hybrid dialect or slang argot called caló (also called pachuco). The U.S. media, not being able to fully understand these emerging American identities, stigmatized Chicanos and Mexican in propagating the notion that came from a country of corruption, and that they were criminals, thieves, and immoral people.

The definitions of Chicana/o in the United States are contested. Because many Chicana/os are born to parents who are immigrants from Mexico, one definition of Chicana/o is rooted in the idea that this identity straddles two different worlds. The first world is that of the country of origin from which their families descended from, such as Mexico, Guatemala, or El Salvador. Many Chicanos today, for example, continue to practice the religion, language, and culture of their respective family's countries of origin. Another definition of Chicano is rooted in the identity being completely embedded within the "American" culture. Many Chicana/os have assimilated into "American" culture and use English as their primary language. Despite these two distinctions in definition, some might argue that Chicanos are stigmatized by both cultures because they don't fit into either one completely. For this reason, one view of Chicano identity is that a new culture is created in order to resist oppression and navigate both worlds.

Contemporary renditions of the word Chicano have been to replace the “C-H” beginning with the letter X, making the word Xicano. This is significant because it recenters the Nahua language and pronunciation of the sound “ch”, tying the Xicana/o to indigenous roots and decentering Eurocentric ties to identity.

Chicana feminism has also created another linguistic change, there is another “x” at the end of Xicanx, and it is being used to be inclusive of others gender identities and move away from a colonial imposed binary and gendered language.[36] There has been resistance to this change in language and there is discussions of whether or not this is useful from academics and community members, Feminists and queer folk are fighting for this change in language be inclusive as well as creating a new formation of history. The usage of Xicanx is powerful due to trying to move back to indigenous roots as well as trying to create more space for Queer folk who have been marginalized by previous Chicano/a movements.

Duality and "The New Mestiza"[edit]

The concept of "The New Mestiza" comes from feminist author Gloria Anzaldúa. In her book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, she writes: "In a constant state of mental nepantilism, an Aztec word meaning torn between ways, la mestiza is a product of the transfer of the cultural and spiritual values of one group to another. Being tricultural, monolingual, bilingual or multilingual, speaking a patois, and in a state of perpetual transition, the mestiza faces the dilemma of the mixed breed: which collectivity does the daughter of a dark-skinned mother listen to? [...] Within us and within la Cultura Chicana, commonly held beliefs of the white culture attack commonly held beliefs of the Mexican culture, and both attack commonly held beliefs of the indigenous culture. Subconsciously, we see an attack on ourselves and our beliefs as a treat and we attempt to block with a counterstance."[32] Anzaldua presents a mode of being for Chicanas, that honors their unique standpoint and lived experience. This theory of embodiment offers a mode of being for Chicanas who are constantly negotiating hybridity and cultural collision, and the ways that inform the way they are continuously making new knowledge and understandings of self, often time in relation to intersecting and various forms of oppression. This theory discloses how a counter-stance cannot be a way of life because it depends on hegemonic constructions of domination, in terms of race, nationality, and culture. A counter-stance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence.[37] Being solely reactionary means nothing is being created, revived or renewed in place of the dominant culture and that the dominant culture must remain dominant for counterstance to exist. For Anzaldua and this theory of embodiment, there must be space to create something new. The “new mestiza” was a canonical text that redefined what it meant to be Chicana. In this theory, being Chicana entails hybridity, contradictions, tolerance for ambiguity and plurality, nothing is rejected or excluded from histories and legacies of oppression. Further, this theory of embodiment calls for synthesizing all aspects of identity and creating new meanings, not simply balancing or coming together of different aspects of identity.


Mujerista was largely influenced by the African American women's "Womanist" approach proposed by Alice Walker. Mujerista was defined by Ada María Isasi-Díaz in 1996. This Latina feminist identity draws from the main ideas of womanism by combating inequality and oppression through participation in social justice movements within the Latina/o community.[38] Mujerismo is rooted in the in relationships built with the community and emphasizes individual experiences in relation to "communal struggles"[39] to redefine the Latina/o identity.

Mujerismo represents the body of knowledge while Mujerista refers to the individual who identifies with these believes. The origins of these terms began with Gloria Anzaldúa's This Bridge We Call Home (1987), Ana Castillo's Massacre of the Dreamer: Essays in Xicanisma (1994), and Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Moraga's This Bridge Called My Back (1984). Mujerista is a Latina-oriented “womanist” approach to everyday life and relationships. It emphasizes the need to connect the formal, public life of work and education with the private life of culture and the home by privileging cultural experiences.[40] As such, it differs from Feminista which focuses on the historic context of the feminist movement. To be Mujerista is to integrate body, emotion, spirit and community into a single identity.[41] Mujerismo recognizes how personal experiences are valuable sources of knowledge. The development of all these components form a foundation for collective action in the form of activism.

Nepantla spirituality[edit]

Nepantla is a Nahua word which translates to "in the middle of it" or "middle". Nepantla can be described as a concept or spirituality in which multiple realities are experienced at the same time (Duality). As a Chicana, understanding and having indigenous ancestral knowledge of spirituality plays an instrumental role in the path to healing, decolonization, cultural appreciation, self-understanding, and self-love.[42] Nepantla is often associated with author Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldúa, who coined the term, "Nepantlera". "Nepantleras are threshold people; they move within and among multiple, often conflicting, worlds and refuse to align themselves exclusively with any single individual, group, or belief system."[43] Nepantla is a mode of being for the Chicana and informs the way she experiences the world and various systems of oppression.

Body politics[edit]

Suzanne Bost discuss in Encarnacion : Illness and Body Politics in Chicana Feminist Literature, about how body politics has shifted in the way it used to be looked at by Chicana feminism. It has moved beyond just looking at identity politics, it now looks at how “[...]the intersections between particular bodies, cultural contexts, and political needs”.[44] It is now looking beyond just looking at race, but incorporating intersectionality and how mobility, accessibility, mental and physical abilities, caregivers and their roles in lives, work with the body of Chicana's. Examples of Frida Kahlo and her abilities are discussed, as well as Gloria Anzaldua's diabetes, to illustrated how abilities must be discussed when talking about identities. “Since there is no single or constant locus of identification, our analyses must adapt to different cultural frameworks, shifting feelings, and matter that is fluid.[...] our thinking about bodies, identities, and politics must keep moving.”[44] Chicana feminism needs to move beyond just looking at singular aspects of identities, but using all of them and contextualizing its effects on what is going on in time. Identifying as Chicana/o/x means to be political and the body that you inhabit will be politicized as well, to understand how it is being politicized along with your identities is to look at how it is done. Bost uses examples of contemporary Chicana artists and literature to illustrate this, Chicana feminism has not ended; it is just manifesting in different ways now.

LGBT interventions[edit]

Chicana feminist theory evolved as a theory of embodiment and a theory of flesh due to the canonical works of Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga, both of whom identify as queer. Queer interventions in Chicana feminist thought called for an inclusion and honoring of the cultures’ joteria. In La conciencia de la mestiza, Gloria Anzaldua wrote, "the mestizo and the queer exist at this time and point on the evolutionary continuum for a purpose. We are blending that proves that all blood is intricately woven together and that we are spawned out of similar souls"[45] This intervention centers queerness as a focal part of liberation, a lived experience that cannot be ignored or excluded.

In Queer Aztlan: the Reformation of Chicano Tribe,[46] Cherrie Moraga interrogates the construction of Chicano identity in relation with queerness. Offering a critique of the exclusion of people of color from mainstream gay movements as well as the homophobia rampant in Chicano nationalist movements. Moraga also discusses Aztlan, the metaphysical land and nation that belongs to Chicano ideologies, how this communidad and ideas need to move forward into making new forms of culture and community in order to survive. "Feminist critics are committed to the preservation of Chicano culture, but we know that our culture will not survive marital rape, battering, incest, drug and alcohol abuse, AIDS, and the marginalization of lesbian daughters and gay sons".[46] Moraga brings up criticisms of the Chicano movement and how it has been ignoring the issues within the movement itself, and that need to be addressed in order for the culture to be preserved rightfully.

In "Chicana Lesbians: Fear and Loathing in the Chicano Community," [47] Carla Trujillo discusses how being a Chicana lesbian is incredibly difficult due to their culture's expectations on family and heterosexuality. Chicana lesbians who do become mothers break this expectation and become liberated from the social norms of their culture.[48]

In 1991, Carla Trujillo edited and compiled, the anthology Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About[47] (1991) was published by Third Woman Press. This anthology was controversial and banned because of its cover art which was a piece by Ester Hernandez titled La Ofrenda. Since its original publication, the book has been re-published however, the cover art has changed. This anthology includes poetry and essays by Chicana women creating new understandings of self through their sexuality and race. This book brings visibility to Lesbian Chicana writers and artists whose work hasn't been as mainstream as other feminist artists. The contributions pages gives information about the writers and their histories, this also makes the book transparent about who is writing and bringing visibility to various different names.[47]

Ecofeminism in the Chicana feminist movement[edit]

Chicana environmentalism combines the notion of ecofeminism and environmental justice whilst also providing a critique on the westernised view of ecofeminism and the toxicity caused by disregarding a certain race and the knowledge and history that they possess.[49]

In the simplest terms, ecofeminism can be defined as the significant connection between the oppression of women and nature, and the ways in which the two can coincide harmoniously.

After the term ecofeminism was derived in the '70s, there has been a significant increase in the amount of recognition women have received regarding creating positive alternatives for sustainable practices.[50] Due to environmental sustainability being predominately of a western, patriarchal mindset its important for women, specifically indigenous women, to reject these premises and follow more nurturing, traditional practices. Environmental conservation in Chicana culture can be interpreted in many different ways. Firstly, it can be seen as empowerment of ones’ culture, i.e. rejecting Eurocentric ideologies and believing in the "womanness" of a curandera. In Mexican American culture, the curandera is believed to have healing powers. Unpacking the notion of spirituality, the practise of curandera are often observed from the view point of the patriarchal spirituality as being the creation of witchcraft. Derived from European Christianity, a curandera's "earth-based healing and nature-based spirituality" was something to be feared by those who disregarded its importance.[51]

Some see ecofeminism as not just a birth right in Chicana history, but it is also strategic. The concept allows for the empowerment of women and provides an authority position for women in society. This power comes from an association of being nature goddesses and creates a sense of privilege that would otherwise cease to exist.

Some of the ways in which Chicana women take back their ecological and ontological power can be seen through the use of literature and art. For example, murals in the San Francisco Bay area. Juana Alicia's La Llorona's Sacred Waters (2004) and MaestraPeace (1994), a collaboration among Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edith Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton, and Irene Pérez. La Llorona's Sacred Waters murals exhibit many aspects of ecofeminism in the ways in which it draws to the devastation of colonialism and the ways in which it destroyed both the natural environment and the people that inhabited it. The mural also signifies the clear links between the relationship of women and nature. Chalchiuhtlicue is an indigenous goddess of the lakes and rivers, whilst also being associated with strong fertility. She served as having the power to both give life and take it away.[52] The murals in the San Francisco bay area serve as a political statement of the duty of women's social justice struggle and the constant resistance against colonialism and environmental depredation. In La Llorona's mural, Chalchiuhtlicue has a scroll rendering from her mouth with the message that she is speaking out against the horrid social conditions of her peoples.

Ecofeminism has long been a part of the Chicana history, although poorly documented. The diversity in the movement accounts for pushing towards an epistemological and ontological form of decolonization. The movement has been amplified through the reorienting of representation and by unpacking the way individuals absorb the relationships between nature and spiritual relations.

Chicana art[edit]

Art gives Chicana women a platform to voice their unique challenges and experiences.[53] During the Chicano Movement, Chicanas used art to express their political and social resistance. Through different art mediums both past and contemporary, Chicana artists have continued to push the boundaries of traditional Mexican-American values. Chicana art utilizes many different mediums to express their views including murals, painting, photography, and more. Chicana artists worked collaboratively often with not only other women but men as well. Chicana art embodies feminist themes, particularly the way Chicanas have to find ways to share their erased history and in the depiction of La Virgen.

The momentum created from the Chicano Movement spurred a Chicano Renaissance among Chicanas and Chicanos. Political art was created by poets, writers, playwrights, and artists and used to defend against their oppression as second-class citizens.[54] During the 1970s, Chicana feminist artists differed from their Anglo-feminist counterparts in the way they collaborated. Chicana feminist artists often utilized artistic collaborations and collectives that included men, while Anglo-feminist artists generally utilized women-only participants.[55]

Through different art mediums both past and contemporary, Chicana artists have continued to push the boundaries of traditional Mexican-American values.[56]

Art centers/collectives[edit]

The Woman's Building (1973-1991)

The Woman's Building opened in Los Angeles, CA in 1973. In addition to housing women-owned businesses, the center held multiple art galleries and studio spaces. Women of color, including Chicanas, historically experienced racism and discrimination within the building from white feminists. Not many Chicana artists were allowed to participate in the Woman's Building's exhibitions or shows. Chicana artists Olivia Sanchez and Rosalyn Mesquite were among the few included. Additionally, the group Las Chicanas exhibited Venas de la Mujer in 1976. [55]

Social Public Art Resource Center (SPARC)

In 1976, co-founders Judy Baca (the only Chicana), Christina Schlesinger, and Donna Deitch established SPARC. SPARC consisted of studio and workshop spaces for artists. SPARC functioned as an art gallery and also kept records of murals. Today, SPARC is still active and similar to the past, encourages a space for Chicana/o community collaboration in cultural and artistic campaigns.[55]

Las Chicanas

Las Chicanas' members were women only and included artists Judy Baca, Judithe Hernández, Olga Muñiz, and Josefina Quesada. In 1976, the group exhibited Venas de la Mujer in the Woman's Building.[55]

Los Four

Muralist Judithe Hernández joined the all-male art collective in 1974 as its fifth member.[55] The group already included Frank Romero, Beto de la Rocha, Gilbert Luján, and Carlos Almaráz.[57] The collective was active in the 1970s through early 1980s.[55]

Street art[edit]


Murals were the preferred medium of street art used by Chicana artists during the Chicano Movement. Judy Baca led the first large scale project for SPARC, The Great Wall of Los Angeles. It took five summers to complete the 700 meter long mural. The mural was completed by Baca, Judithe Hernández, Olga Muñiz, Isabel Castro, Yreina Cervántez, and Patssi Valdez in addition to over 400 more artists and community youth. Located in Tujunga Flood Control Channel in the Valley Glen area of the San Fernando Valley, the mural depicts California's erased history of marginalized people of color and minorities.[55]

[58] The Great Wall of Los Angeles, Judy Baca, Los Angeles, 1978

In 1989, Yreina Cervántez along with assistants Claudia Escobedes, Erick Montenegro, Vladimir Morales, and Sonia Ramos began the mural, La Ofrenda, located in downtown Los Angeles. The mural, a tribute to Latina/o farm workers, features Dolores Huerta at the center with two women on either side to represent women's contributions to the United Farmer Workers Movement. In addition to eight other murals, La Ofrenda was deemed historically significant by the Department of Cultural Affairs. In 2016, restoration on La Ofrenda began after graffiti and another mural were painted over it.[59]

La Ofrenda, Yreina Cervántez, Los Angeles, 1989

An exhibition curated by LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and the California Historical Society featuring previously mistreated or censored murals chose Barbara Carrasco's L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective in addition to others. Beginning in 1981 and taking about eight months to finish, the mural consisted of 43 eight-foot panels which tell the history of Los Angeles up to 1981. Carrasco researched the history of Los Angeles and met with historians as she originally planned out the mural. The mural was halted after Carrasco refused alterations demanded from City Hall due to her depictions of formerly enslaved entrepreneur and philanthropist Biddy Mason, the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II, and the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots.[60]

Performance art

Performance art was not as popularly utilized among Chicana artists but it still had its supporters. Patssi Valdez was a member of the performance group Asco from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s. Asco's art spoke about the problems that arise from Chicanas/os unique experience residing at the intersection of racial, gender, and sexual oppression.[55]


Laura Aguilar, known for her "compassionate photography," which often involved using herself as the subject of her work but also individuals who lacked representation in the mainstream: Chicanas, the LBGTQ community, and women of different body types. During the 1990s, Aguilar photographed the patrons of an Eastside Los Angeles lesbian bar. Aguilar utilized her body in the desert as the subject of her photographs wherein she manipulated it to look sculpted from the landscape. In 1990, Aguilar created Three Eagles Flying, a three-panel photograph featuring herself half nude in the center panel with the flag of Mexico and the United States of opposite sides as her body is tied up by the rope and her face covered. The triptych represents the imprisonment felt by the two cultures she belongs to.[61]

Other mediums

In 2015, Guadalupe Rosales began the Instagram account which would become Veterans and Rucas (@veterans_and_rucas). What started as a way for Rosales family to connect over their shared culture through posting images of Chicana/o history and nostalgia soon grew to an archive dedicated to not only ’90 Chicana/o youth culture but also as far back as the 1940s. Additionally, Rosales has created art installations to display the archive away from its original digital format and exhibited solo shows Echoes of a Collective Memory and Legends Never Die, A Collective Memory.[62]


La Virgen

Yolanda López and Ester Hernandez are two Chicana feminist artists who used reinterpretations of La Virgen de Guadalupe to empower Chicanas. La Virgen as a symbol of the challenges Chicanas face as a result of the unique oppression they experience religiously, culturally, and through their gender.[63]

Collective memory/correcting history

The idea of sharing the erased history of Chicanas/os has been popular among Chicana artists beginning in the 1970s until present day. Judy Baca and Judithe Hernández have both utilized the theme or correcting history in reference to their mural works. In contemporary art, Guadalupe Rosales uses the theme of collective memory to share Chicana/o history and nostalgia.

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (September 26, 1942 – May 15, 2004)

Chicana literature[edit]

Since the 1970s, many Chicana writers (such as Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa and Ana Castillo) have expressed their own definitions of Chicana feminism through their books. Moraga and Anzaldúa edited an anthology of writing by women of color titled This Bridge Called My Back [64](published by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press) in the early 1980s. Cherríe Moraga, along with Ana Castillo and Norma Alarcón, adapted this anthology into a Spanish-language text titled Esta Puente, Mi Espalda: Voces de Mujeres Tercermundistas en los Estados Unidos. Anzaldúa also published the bilingual (Spanish/English) anthology, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Mariana Roma-Carmona, Alma Gómez, and Cherríe Moraga published a collection of stories titled Cuentos: Stories by Latinas, also published by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.

The first Chicana Feminist Journal was published in 1973, called the Encuentro Feminil: The First Chicana Feminist Journal, which was published by Anna Nieto Gomez.[65]

Juanita Ramos and the Latina Lesbian History Project compiled an anthology including tatiana de la tierra's first published poem, "De ambiente",[66] and many oral histories of Latina lesbians called Compañeras: Latina Lesbians (1987).

Chicana lesbian-feminist poet Gloria Anzaldua points out that labeling a writer based on their social position allows for readers to understand the writers' location in society. However, while it is important to recognize that identity characteristics situate the writer, they do not necessarily reflect their writing. Anzaldua notes that this type of labeling has the potential to marginalize those writers who do not conform to the dominant culture.[67]

Chicana music[edit]

Continually left absent from Chicano music history, many Chicana musical artists, such as Rita Vidaurri and María de Luz Flores Aceves, more commonly known as Lucha Reyes, from the 1940s and 50s, can be credited with many of strides that Chicana Feminist movements have made in the past century. For example, Vidaurri and Aceves were among the first mexicana women to wear charro pants while performing rancheras.[68]

By challenging their own conflicting backgrounds and ideologies, Chicana musicians have continually broken the gender norms of their culture, and therefore created a space for conversation and change in the Latino communities.

There are many important figures in Chicana music history, each one giving a new social identity to Chicanas through their music. An important example of a Chicana musician is Rosita Fernández, an artist from San Antonio, Texas. Popular in the mid 20th century, she was called "San Antonio's First Lady of Song" by Lady Bird Johnson, the Tejano singer is a symbol of Chicana feminism for many Mexican Americans still today. She was described as "larger than life", repeatedly performing in china poblana dresses, throughout her career, which last more than 60 years. However, she never received a great deal of fame outside of the San Antonio, despite her long reign as one of the most active Mexican American woman public performers of the 20th century.[69]

Other Chicana musicians and musical groups:

Notable people[edit]

  • Norma Alarcón – Influential Chicana feminist author
  • Gloria Anzaldúa – Scholar of Chicana cultural theory and author of Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, among other influential Chicana literature
  • Martha P. Cotera – Activist and writer during the Chicana Feminist Movement and the Chicano Civil Rights Movement
  • Alma M. Garcia – Professor of Sociology at Santa Clara University
  • Cherríe Moraga – Essayist, poet, activist educator, and artist in residence at Stanford University
  • Chela Sandoval – Associate Professor in the Chicano and Chicana Studies Department at University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Sandra Cisneros – Key contributor to Chicana literature
  • Michelle Habell-Pallan – Associate Professor, Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington
  • Anna Nieto-Gómez – Key organizer of the Chicana Movement and founder of Hijas de Cuauhtémoc
  • Martha Gonzalez (musician) - Chicana artivist and co-leader of Grammy-award-winning Quetzal (band)
  • Carla Trujillo - Writer, editor, and lecturer
  • Emma Perez - Scholar of Chicana history and author of "The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History"

Notable organizations[edit]

  • Chicas Rockeras South East Los Angeles – Promotes healing, growth, and confidence for girls through music education
  • California Latinas for Reproductive Justice – Promotes social justice and human rights of Latina women and girls through a reproductive justice framework
  • Las Fotos Project – Empowers Latina youth, helping young girls to build self-esteem and confidence through photography and self-expression
  • Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) – Located in Long Beach, CA this museum expands knowledge and appreciation of modern and contemporary Latin American art.
  • Ovarian Psycos - Young feminists of color in East L.A. who empower women through their bicycle brigades and rides.
  • Radical Monarchs - a radical social justice group located in California, for young girls of color to earn social justice badges. Influenced by Brown Berets and Black Panthers, these young girls want to create change in their communities.[76]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Anzaldúa, Gloria, and Cherríe Moraga, editors. This bridge called my back: writings by radical women of color. Watertown, Massachusetts: Persephone Press, c1981., Kitchen Table Press, 1983 ISBN 0-930436-10-5.
  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Aunt Lute Books, ISBN 1-879960-56-7
  • Anzaldúa, Gloria. Making Face. Making Soul: Haciendo Caras: Creative & Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color, Aunt Lute Books, 1990, ISBN 1-879960-10-9
  • Arredondo, Gabriela, et al., editors. Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8223-3105-5.
  • Castillo, Adelaida Del. "BETWEEN BORDERS: ESSAYS ON MEXICANA/CHICANA HISTORY." California: Floricanto Press, 2005.
  • Castillo, Ana. Massacre of the dreamers : essays on Xicanisma. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8263-1554-2.
  • Cotera, Martha. The Chicana feminist. Austin, Texas: Information Systems Development, 1977.
  • Córdova, Teresa. "Anti-Colonial Chicana Feminism." New Political Science, vol. 20, no. 4, Dec. 1998, p. 379. ISSN 0739-3148
  • Davalos, Karen Mary. "Sin Vergüenza: Chicana Feminist Theorizing." Feminist Studies, vol. 34, no. 1/2, Spring/Summer2008, pp. 151–171. ISSN 0046-3663.
  • Dicochea, Perlita R. "Chicana Critical Rhetoric." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 25, no. 1, Mar. 2004, pp. 77–92. EBSCOhost, ISSN 0160-9009
  • García, Alma M., and Mario T. Garcia, editors. Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings. New York: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 0-415-91800-6.
  • Garcia, Alma M., "The Development of Chicana Feminist Discourse, 1970-1980" in: Gender and Society, Vol. 3, No. 2. (June 1989), pp. 217–238.
  • Havlin, Natalie. "To Live a Humanity under the Skin": Revolutionary Love and Third World Praxis in 1970S Chicana Feminism." Women's Studies Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 3/4, Fall/Winter2015, pp. 78-97. ISSN 0732-1562.
  • Hurtado, Aida. The Color of Privilege: Three Blasphemies on Race and Feminism. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1996. ISBN 978-0-472-06531-8.
  • Moya, Paula M.L. "Chicana Feminism and Postmodernist Theory." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society, vol. 26, no. 2, Winter2001, p. 441. ISSN 0097-9740
  • Ramos, Juanita. Companeras: Latina Lesbians, Latina Lesbian History Project, 1987, ISBN 978-0-415-90926-6
  • Rodriguez, Samantha M. "Carving Spaces for Feminism and Nationalism: Texas Chicana Activism during the Chicana/O Movement." Journal of South Texas, vol. 27, no. 2, Fall2014, pp. 38–52. ISSN 1099-9310.
  • Roma-Carmona, Mariana, Alma Gomez and Cherríe Moraga. Cuentos: Stories by Latinas, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.
  • Roth, Benita. Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America's Second Wave, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-521-52972-7
  • Saldívar-Hull, Sonia. "Women Hollering Transfronteriza Feminisms." Cultural Studies, vol. 13, no. 2, Apr. 1999, pp. 251–262. ISSN 0950-2386.
  • Vivancos Perez, Ricardo F. Radical Chicana Poetics. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

External links[edit]