Origins of the Chicano Rights Movement

Many associate the Chicano Rights Movement with the civil and women’s rights movements of the 1960s. Like those other fights for justice and equality, the Chicano Rights Movement came about decades earlier. Here is a bit of key information about the origins of the Chicano Rights Movement.

Also known as the Chicano Civil Rights Movement or El Movimiento, the fight was known as the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement in the 1940s, but got its start in the late 1800s. As it was with many other peoples of color in the United States at that time, Mexican Americans were far too often treated unfairly by the government, discriminated against socially, economically disadvantaged, and politically disenfranchised. Farm workers’ rights was a major issue that led to the growth of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, as was the desire to combat images and stereotypes in the media that portrayed Mexican Americans negatively.

Another key problem that leaders of the movement saw was the blatant targeting of Mexican Americans by law enforcement officials. This was particularly prominent in the Los Angeles area, and the LAPD soon became notorious for harming Mexican American people more often than they helped them. Outraged by this substandard treatment, vocal and politically active leaders came together to kick off the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. The struggle was not called the Chicano Movement during the 1940s, as “Chicano” was a derogatory term that many Mexican Americans refused to adopt. Most in the community did, however, adopt the principles behind chicanismo: the idea that Mexican Americans made significant contributions to the US politically, socially, and artistically, and deserved recognition and equal treatment.

As the various civil rights movements of the 50s and 60s came to a head, the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement became known as the Chicano Rights Movement. Its influence had spread throughout the US, and its leaders became more outspoken and well known. Some notable leaders of the Chicano Rights Movement include Cesar Chavez, Dr. Hector P. Garcia, and Rodolfo Gonzales. With greater numbers of adherents and more attention being focused on the movement, the leaders of the struggle began to collaborate with prominent organizations from other civil rights movements, such as the NAACP. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, is a product of the Chicano Rights Movement that was formed in 1968 and modeled after the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

As the movement worse on, many Latina women who were involved felt that they were being marginalized. This resulted in the formation of Chicana feminist groups, including Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional. One of the aforementioned organization’s biggest victories was putting an end to forced sterilization of Chicana women, which was not uncommon at the time.

Today, the Chicano Rights Movement continues in various forms. Farm workers’ rights is still a big concern of many involved in the fight for Chicano rights, as is targeting and unjust treatment by law enforcement officials and the justice system. Immigration has become a larger part of the movement’s concerns, and leaders have made great strides in getting accurate, fair representation of Mexican Americans in more segments of the media. Political participation and voter empowerment are aims of the movement’s contemporary leaders, as is educating a larger percentage of Latinos about their voting rights.