Chicana, Chicano, Chican@, Chicanx

Self-naming is political, ideological, and resistant. “Chicano” remains thus inflected, true to its emergence in activist communities of the 1960s and 1970s to signify self-determination, working-class origins, and a critique of social relations of power. Although not entirely clear who first appropriated “Chicano” for this usage, it is generally accepted that at one time the word circulated in Mexican Spanish as a negative reference to the “lower classes.” Its appropriation by students and activists transformed it into an empowering alternative to “Mexican,” “Mexican American,” or “Hispanic.” To name oneself as “Chicana” or “Chicano” is to assert a gendered, racial, ethnic, class, and cultural identity in opposition to Anglo-American hegemony and state- sanctioned practices of representing people of Mexican descent in the United States. As it evokes the “radical” politics of cultural nationalism, “Chicano” stands against the institutionally normative “Hispanic,” as well as the linguistically insistent “Latino” (Alcoff 2005). Always associated by Chicanas and Chicanos with State attempts to classify, homogenize, and deracinate, “Hispanic” is typically linked to conservative political values, even as it is often the name chosen in English by many in the U.S. Southwest who in Spanish might call themselves tejana or mejicano. In the U.S. Southwest, “Mexican...

This essay may be found on page 32 of the printed volume.

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