Chicanos: How did we become America’s new slave culture?

by Emiliano Villa on February 26, 2014 in Cultura

Chicano_Pride_by_fokrWho are we?

In my journey as a community activist and Chicano advocate, I’ve experienced many fascinating elements that have inspired me but also scarred me to my very soul.

I have fought the Chicano politician who capitulated in the selling out of his community, broke bread with the “Old Man” whom lent the little he had but gave unselfishly of his wisdom, and have shared space with our sons who have fallen victim to a privatized prison system.

I have fought the white dragon of racism and today… today will begin the telling of those many travels.

There are many obstacles preventing the Chicano people from achieving American uni-culturalism, but none more profound than the many differing points of view available within the Chicano community itself on what it means to be Chicano.

We seem to be our own worst enemy. From the militant Chicano who stubbornly believes that his vote will never count, to the Feminist Chicana who has lost sight of the Chicano plight, to the Mexican-American who is blinded by the smoke screen of “illegal immigration” and refuses to commit to anything other than. And every one of these offshoots has a profoundly different point of view when it comes to defining who we are.

Within the Latin spectrum — from Aztec immigrant to Spanish Chicano — and all in between, sit the many facets, the nooks and crannies if you will, that blur the definition of who the Chicano truly are.

Take the Feminist Chicana and the Mexican-American for example. I can empathize with the Feminist Chicana because women’s rights are diminishing in America. Nevertheless, we mustn’t allow her to take herself away from what we need to accomplish as a community.

Recently, I contacted a Chicano advocacy organization in California that was founded by a very prominent Chicana. I wanted to interview her for a project I had been working on. Her input might have guided the Chicano community immensely in the context of the 60s Chicano civil rights movement.

But when I was finally contacted by her “scheduler”, I was immediately given the treatment. “Who was I?” “What did I want to interview her about?” “What questions will I be asking her?”

Not in a polite manner, mind you, but a very antagonistic way. She didn’t treat me the way I believe we should be treating fellow Chicano advocates. But, alas, this is the reality.

So when I asked if their organization was more involved with the women’s movement rather than the Chicano movement, that was pretty much the end of our conversation. The Scheduler would never get back to me and I would never get to interview the Chicana leader of this feminist organization set up as a Chicano advocacy.

Now, when I contacted a Mexican-American professor of Chicano studies who taught at a college in Southern California, I had come to realize how “illegal Immigration” was consuming Chicano activism to the detriment of all other Chicano issues that, I believe, are truly hindering the Chicanos Self-determination in this country.

“What can I do for you my, Brother?” the gentleman on the other end of the line bellowed with his thick Mexican accent.

I explained to him that I was a Chicano activist and was currently writing a book and wanted to create a focus group to…

“Sorry, but I must take this call brother, but call me back tomorrow so we can talk,” he would say, cutting me off. “Sure,” I told him and resigned myself to contacting him the following day.

The following day…

“Hey, brother, sorry but I am very busy. Can you call me back later?”


“Hey, brother…

“Listen,” I interrupted, “Mr. Professor, is there a time when we can discuss this thoroughly?”

“Yes, call me tomorrow after lunch and we’ll have a conversation.”

Tomorrow, after lunch…

“Hey, brother, listen, I want to help you but I am very busy. Can you e-mail me with what you want to do; then we can discuss it further. Be specific and let me know exactly what it is that you want to accomplish.”

This is what’s referred to as a gate-keepers filibuster. He would have kept this up until he frustrated or aggravated me, subsequently alienating me toward him and continuing a dynamic that seems to exist between the Chicano and Mejicano… a dynamic that needs to be discussed amongst ourselves.

Rudolfo Acuna, in his book entitled “Occupied America: The Chicano’s Struggle Toward Liberation”, writes: “… Other groups have been the victims of such forces, (i.e. racism, nativism and economic exploitation) but-with the obvious exceptions of the Indians and the blacks-they have managed to achieve a degree of acceptance and self-determination far greater than that of the Chicanos.”

In other words, besides Indians and blacks, Chicanos are at the “bottom rung of the proverbial ladder.” But since 1972, when Mr. Acuna wrote this, “Indians” have cornered the gaming industry and blacks now have a president in the White House while Chicanos by way of Mexican immigration have become America’s new slave culture.

Chicanos, how did we become America’s new slave culture? How did our leaders allow America to reduce Mexican human beings to “illegal aliens”? In a country founded by immigrants!

How is it that we have allowed our community leaders to sell us out as Motecuhzoma II had done in 1519 to the Tlaxcaltecas and a handful of Spaniards?

The time has come to hold our supposed leaders accountable. The time has come for us to collectively demand answers.

The time has come for the Chicano to wake up.

Chicanos, time to ask the NCLR what they are doing about our children’s educational future. It’s time to ask MALDEF what’s being done about the police-beating death of David Silva and the shooting of sixteen-year-old Joshua Alvarez. Time to ask, no demand, that our leaders stand up and show their faces on national media. If we can’t turn to our supposed Chicano leaders and those organizations which claim to stand for the Chicano, how are we going to demand our civil liberties from our broader American leadership?

Our fathers must take responsibility for where we are as a culture today. We must take responsibility for where our children are tomorrow.

Who are we? Time for some answers.

Reprinted with the kind permission of our amigos at

“Chicano Pride” by Fokr.


Eddie G! February 26, 2014 at 9:44 AM

I found myself agreeing with some of this, but rejecting most. I am a lighter skinned Mexican American (born in the US and raised in Mexico as a young child). All my life, up to today, I have been rejected by everyone from paisas to militant Chicanos, to American colleagues for not fitting into their idealized version of what it means to be (Chicano, American, Mexican…insert whatever term that silos you into a category here). It took me a long time to realize it, but the truth is, some people truly are busy, racist, overly cautious, scared, jealous, idealistic, etc. and their rejection should have no bearing on who YOU are. The author has suffered some of the same things I have…including finding myself all alone, not getting the help I expected from people I thought would support what I do, with no unifying culture, and even feeling like I was part of the “slave culture” he mentioned. But as Bob Marley, one of the wisest philosophers of our time said “”emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” It starts with believing you are not a slave anymore. The rest will play out in due time.

El Chato February 26, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Emiliano Villa, is this your pen name! Either that or your parents were heavy activists back in the middle to late 60’s! My wife , la hermosa Linda Maria Rivera de Garcia, an Original Chicana Activist in her home town of Omaha, Nebraska, and your’s truly, a man with many names that can be deciphered in a book I am writing, but for contemporary purposes, just call me Jose’, were in that crowded field of Raza, having blow-outs, smokers, Flor & Cantos, Carpas, and following Cesar’s lead, as a Chicano activist in Kansas City. I liked what you wrote and apparently many people on the coast did too! It is a personal introspective opinion that should be taken for what its worth and that says it all. Every Chicano has had a gang load of personal histories that have today flowered into gardens of memories, each tending this memory garden, hoeing the weeds, the former hate, the moments indelibly burned into one’s soul. I commend your piece and am somewhat celoso because I too have wanted to write about the angst of being one of the “las Chicano standing in Nebraska”. Yes, I have witnessed the window dressers, the vendidos, the Latino invasion, the South Americans with Italian names that speak spanish and get all the admin and management jobs, you name it and I have either been affected by it or have witnessed Nuestra Gente become marginalized because of this most effective principal of dividing ‘el movimiento’, divide and conquer. Like Eddie G., I meander through your piece and smell the flowers, frown when the earth turns barren. In my way of thinking, there is very little short of the genocidal principals started by the Dutch, Spanish, German and English, will the tide be turned against Raza. We are winning. In my way of thinking Cuautemoc never ceded to the demands of the Spanish, and so Chicanos continue being the soldiers we have always were meant to be, propelling our Gente’, Nuestra Cultura that has become in the eyes of 50,000,000 people, a living culture.

fco February 26, 2014 at 12:03 PM

I’m sure this article is trying to come from a good place but there’s a lot about it that I just can’t seem to agree with.
Moving past the somewhat lofty, but mostly vague, self-validating descriptors used by the writer at the opening, the piece quickly descends into describing overly-generalized role-players in the Chicano community.
But really, it feels like the writer’s biggest gripe here is that two different Chicano/as were just too busy to meet with him about ‘his project’. A Chicano male calling out a Chicana who’s too busy being feminist, or someone fighting the fight for the undocumented at the “detriment” of a much larger Chicano activism.
There’s a lot of loaded critiques of others here with very little in terms of specifics.
But probably what irks me the most is the almost complete writing off of Native and Black struggles in this country, relative to the Chicano/Mexican struggles — since according to the writer, Natives have “cornered” the gaming industry and there’s a Black president in the White House, making Chicanos the “new slaves”. Of course, this is “by way of Mexican immigrants” he admits — which in a way sounds like the writer is piggybacking on the undocumented immigrant struggle to make this “new slave” claim about Chicanos, but all this after calling that movement a “smoke screen” and a detriment to larger Chicano issues.
It’s possible I might be missing something here, but I’m pretty confused about the writer’s intentions with this piece and what he is actually trying to communicate.

Cnm February 26, 2014 at 2:58 PM

As an undocumented feminist Chicana I have to express that I am deeply disappointed with this article. Whoever wrote this needs serious sensitivity training. This article is harmful in that it the writer clearly waves their MALE LEGAL privilege and in face of women and undocumented immigrants all while simultaneously dismissing the legitimate struggles of Native and African Americans. Why must immigrant and gender equality issues be treated “non-Chicano” or even “not-Chicano-enough” issues?” Why does our “preoccupation” with salient identities disqualify us from being Chicanos? From fighting for the right thing? This author misses the point. These ARE Chicano issues. Also, we are the “new slave culture?” Can we remind this author that solidarity is NOT about undermining the history and struggles of other marginalized peoples? You know, and when he references this “new slave culture” he is talking about the VERY exploitation of migrant labor that he dismisses as “smoke screen” in the beginning of the article. If you’re going to offend people at least make up your mind.

Emiliano March 7, 2014 at 9:21 AM

First, allow me to apologize for responding so late. I replied to Eddie G in and invite all Chicanos to visit that site and lend to this discourse. Chato, thanks for the support and I will say that I’m inspired by your writing style. Keep writing. fco, I can address your very well put critique of who I am and why I write in these terms. I do not write to advocate for the black man nor the Native American. I cannot invest time in a movement aimed at immigrants to this country as Chicanitas and Chicanitos continue to be overlooked minimalized and made irrelevant in America today. I am concerned, please don’t misunderstand, but we will never gain any leverage concerning ANY of our causes till we come together as a Chicano culture. Not a Mexican, or Guatemalan, black or Native American culture but Chicano. Once we have united and have become what I, as well as many other Chicanos, envision, then we can rally around our brothers and sisters in their struggles. But until I see College education available to all our children, healthcare offered to every Chicano child and opportunity in the form of nothing less than the American dream, I refuse to take my sight off of what we must accomplish TODAY, not manana.

Cnm, You thought I was referring to immigrants as America’s new slave culture?! Wake up. A Chicano with Male privilege in a country where he can’t find a competitive scale because his association to the Mexican immigrant? really. Now, do me a favor Cnm, contact Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or ANY Native American legal fund to look into the Police beating death of David Silva. Or the shooting deaths of how many of our sons by Police officers. Someone needs to fight for Chicanos Cnm. And in that fight we’ll need help, men children and yes, women too. Maybe you can convince NOW to come to our aide. Let me know how that turned out.

Chicano, because until we lift ourselves out of this mire we find ourselves in, we will never be treated as Americans with all rights and privileges due.

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