Chicanas Chingonas...are those Chicanas and Latinas who have used their talents and abilities to make this a better world. Whether in professional fields, educational, cultural or social work, these are mujeres who made--and make-- social change happen on a broader scale. This includes grassroots activists, artists, writers, educators, lawyers, professors, community organizers, and crusading parents who have critiqued a system, observed a need, created a symbol, done so many things that made this a more just and hopeful society. Chingonas do the kind of work that rarely makes it into the "master narratives" of American history, or Chicano history, but their influence touches all of us.
These women are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Chicanas and Latinas who offer us insight and vision as they incite change through different forms of social, political, and educational activism. (Summaries are by Chicanas.com except where otherwise indicated)
Gloria Anzaldua was a Chicana tejana lesbian-feminist poet, writer, and scholar who played a fundamental role in the development of Chicana feminist theory in the 1970s and beyond. She was co-editor of three of the most influential publications in the emergence of Chicana feminisms: This Bridge Called My Back:Writings by Radical Women of Color, Haciendo Caras/Making Face, Making Soul: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color, and Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Gloria's work theorized a "borderlands" that was historically and geographically situated in the U.S. Southwest, as well as a metaphorical borderlands that encompassed the lives and desires of those marginalized by the power structures of U.S. society.
"We have not one movement but many.
Ours are individual and small group movidas, unpublicized movimientos -- movements
not of media stars or popular authors but of small groups or single
--Gloria Anzaldua, Haciendo Caras/ Making Face, Making Soul
Gloria died from diabetes-related complications in 2004 at her home in Santa Cruz, California, and was buried by her family in South Texas. This web altar marks some of the memories Gloria left, and the lives she touched. During her life, Gloria was active in the migrant farm workers movement; she taught Chicano Studies, Feminist Studies, and creative writing in various universities (SFSU, UT Austin, Norwich Univ) and conducted writing workshops around the country. She was in the final stage of completing her Ph.D. dissertation at UC Santa Cruz when she passed; she was awarded her Ph.D. posthumously from the University in 2004.
Ms. Abrego has worked in various capacities as poet, scholar, and community leader. She was the first Chicana lesbian to be director of Youth Services at Horizons Community Center in Chicago. A colleague described Ms. Abrego as "a gifted poet and communicator, and a woman of ideas that are both visionary and practical. Her abilities as a youth mentor/program director represent a very special communication gift -- where she conveys clear values of honesty and community, while being non-judgemental of the thoughts and feelings expressed by the youth she serves." She is also a longtime poet and writer, with work published in Chicana Lesbians: The Girls our Mothers Warned us About and The Sexuality of Latinas. She was "the visionary and founder of the oldest and largest women of color annual fundraising dance, the International Women's Day Dance in Chicago -- begun when women of color were being effectively kept out of predominantly white women's bars through selective enforcement of the need for multiple photo id's etc. -- and continuing to the present day." --MaryBeth Welch
Maxine Baca Zinn, PhD is professor of sociology at Michigan State University where she is also senior research associate at the Julian Samoria Research Institute. Dr. Zinn is a specialist in family, race and gender issues. Dr. Zinn’s work examines the ways in which structural factors shape gender relations and power dynamics in Chicano families. Her work argues for a reconstruction of family life through incorporating race as a dimension of social structure rather than merely an expression of cultural difference. She is the co-editor of Women of Color in U.S. Society, with Bonnie Thornton Dill, eds., (Temple University Press, 1994), and Through the Prism of Difference (Allyn and Bacon, 1997). Dr. Zinn holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Oregon. Much of Baca Zinn's research relates to the racial subtext of the national debate about family values. According to Baca Zinn, racial and ethnic preconceptions have created a hierarchy in which the same family structure is more acceptable for some members of society than others. For example, as more and more middle-class, white women enter the labor force, female-headed households are gaining acceptance. On the other hand, female-headed black families have been labeled deviant and pathological, although 50 percent of black women have been in the labor force since 1880. –from her bio at the Radcliffe Institute
Dr. Barcelo became President of Northern New Mexico College in July of 2010. She has worked in various capacities at the university pursuing diversity goals and community outreach initiatives. As former VP for Minority Affairs at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Barcelo carried primary responsibility for minority affairs and diversity issues. In previous positions in Academic Affairs, and Multicultural Affairs at the Universities of Washington and Iowa, she administered various Cultural Centers, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Program, Disability Services, and Office of University Women. Dr. Barcelo has a long record of research and activism in Chicana Studies and the Chicana academic organization, Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social.
Dr. Broyles-Gonzalez was invited to a White House ceremony by President Bill Clinton and the First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act: June 10, 1998. The White House ceremony highlighted Professor Broyles-Gonzalez' historic 1996 lawsuit which challenged the unequal pay of women professors at the University of California, and was settled in October of 1997. Her victory places UC discriminatory actions within permanent court scrutiny and custody, and is an enduring marker in the struggle for womens rights. Professor Broyles-Gonzlez is a Yaqui-Chicana native of the Arizona-Sonora borderlands with a doctorate in German Studies from Stanford University. In 1985 she became the first woman of color to receive tenure at the University of California in Santa Barbara; she advanced to full Professor in 1991. In 1996 she received the lifetime Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Association for Chicana/o Studies. Her most recent book El Teatro Campesino: Theater in the Chicano Movement has received broad critical acclaim. (submitted by Dr. Antonia Castaneda, St. Mary's University)
Cecilia Burciaga has a long and distinguished record in higher education,
seeking policies to increase representation and enhance the educational
experience of students of color. Ms. Burciaga is currently Assistant
Vice President for Residential Learning at CSU Monterey Bay. Previously,
she served twenty-three years in the offices of Graduate Studies, Affirmative
Action, and Development at Stanford University, and as a much beloved
Resident Fellow in the Mexican-American Student Residence, Casa Zapata,
with her late husband, artist/muralist Antonio Burciaga (d. Oct. 1996).
Ms. Burciaga was named to Clinton's Presidential Committee on Latinos
in Higher Education. She has addressed audiences on issues, and has received
honors and awards, all too numerous to list here.
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Norma V. Cantú is currently a Professor of Law at the University of Texas Law School. During the Clinton administration, she served eight years as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Before that, she worked for fourteen years as regional counsel and education director of Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). In that capacity, she litigated scores of important cases affecting educational funding, disability rights, student disciplinary policies, access to special services for English-language learners, and racially hostile environments. As Assistant Secretary, Cantú was responsible for enforcing the Federal civil rights statutes that protect the rights of students to equal educational opportunity without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age. Read more about the work of former Secretary Cantu here. (suggested by Isabel Martinez)
Ana Castillo has made her life's work writing and educating about Chicana feminist issues in the United States, and most recently, Latina issues across the Americas (I Ask the Impossible, new poetry). Through poetry, fiction, and personal narrative, Ana's woman-centered work deftly portrays both the horrific nature of misogynist violence against women at the same time that she describes with respect and wonder the networks and institutions of love, support, and friendship that sustain Chicanas in this crazed society we call home. Ana's books are too numerous to list here, but the most recent include your webjefa's all-time favorite, So Far From God, as well as Loverboys, Massacre of the Dreamers, and Goddess of the Americas. Here's my short reviews of So Far and Massacre, and Ana's own gorgeous website.
Professor Castañeda continues to produce scholarship that brings together academe and Chicana/o Studies in the most compelling ways. Her dissertation studied the gendering of colonization in early California via the bodies of indigenous women, while her more recent explores the previously unacknowledged experience of bilingual children who translate for their parents and families.
Lorna Dee Cervantes, poet/activist/artist
Lorna Dee is an accomplished and award-winning poet. Her first book Emplumada received an American Book award in 1982 for its insightful portrayal of Chicana/o communities in San Jose's rapidly changing urban environment in Northern California. One of the most well-known poems from the book is Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, An Intelligent, Well-Read Person, Could Believe In The War Between Races. Her poems include thoughts on growing up in Mexican-American communities in the San Jose/Santa Clara Valley area of Northern California. Two poems, "Freeway 280" and "Beneath the Shadow of a Freeway" document the loss/destruction of historica Chicano neighborhoods for the building of the 280 freeway in San Jose. Chicana/o literary critic Jose David Saldivar wrote about her work, "No book has so successfully made the California urban and rural worlds of unfinished freeways and 'spinached specked shoes' of cannery workers come alive. No book has so carefully elucidated what living as a Chicana in the West means...." Read more about Lorna at her official website....
This gifted Chicana writer was recently awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant for her literary accomplishments which include Caramelo, The House on Mango Street, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories as well as two books of poetry, My Wicked Wicked Ways and Loose Woman. Sandra currently resides in San Antonio where she is working on a novel and occasionally offering her time for Latina/o Writer Workshops with the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.
Nadine and Patsy were threatened, and then lost their jobs for teaching students about Chicano heroes like Cesar Chavez, and about the history of people of Mexican descent in this country (with Elizabeth Martinez' book, 500 Years of Chicano History). The teachers also implemented a Racial Tolerance educational program in their classes and sponsored students who organized the school's first chapter of MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan)--for this, Nadine Cordova was labelled a 'racist', threatened, and finally fired. In November 1998, the sisters were awarded a half-million dollar settlement by a federal magistrate in a judgment against the Vaughn School Board. Early details are in this recent article about their struggle to retain their jobs. Since then, the sisters have received the Multi-Cultural Educators of the Year from the National Association of Multi-Cultural Education; the Pilgrimage for Peace Award from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe; and the Guardian of Constitution Award from ACLU-NM. In September of 1998, Nadine wrote this site "We actually got fired on July 7, 1997. Since then my sister and I have moved to Albuquerque, NM. I removed my sons from the Vaughn school district immediately and enrolled them in Albuquerque Public Schools. My home and my husband still remain inVaughn and not having my family together has been quite difficult. Patsy started teaching at Mckinley Middle School here in Albuquerque this fall semester. I am currently working as administrative assistant at University of New Mexico Chicana/o Studies Program since June. Both Patsy and I are very happy with our new jobs and new friends.
Marta Cotera served as a Chicana feminist icon to the current generation of Chicana feminists, activists, and scholars. Since the 1960s, she was active both in the Chicano movement, and in documenting the role of women within the movement. She is best known for her book, Sol y Hembra, one of the first and best histories of Mexican American women and their contributions to civil rights and Chicana/o history. Your webjefa was at a recent conference (April 2000) at Southwest Texas University in which Professor/activist Carmen Tafolla (otra chingona) recalled Cotera's Sol y Hembra as "the book we carried everywhere, like a Bible..." ^back to top
Nancy de los Santos is the associate producer of the motion pictures Mi Familia and Selena, A fifteen-year veteran of the Hollywood film industry, Nancy began her career as the producer for the Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel television series At the Movies, and worked on a number of feature films including A Time for Destiny, The Abyss and Alien Nation. De los Santos directed a short film from her own script for the Universal Television Film Project, Breaking Pan With Sol, which received the "Best Short Film" award from the Chicago International Latino Film Festival. Her teleplay, Mothers Against Gangs is in development with Olmos Productions. She is co-producer of The Bronze Screen: The History of Latinos in Hollywood, currently in development. Nancy has spent the past three years focusing on major film projects with director Gregory Nava as the associate producer of the films Mi Familia and Selena. De Los Santos was named one of the Ten To Watch in Hispanic Magazine's issue on Hispanics in Hollywood. (written by Sandra Fernandez).
Josefina Fierro de Bright was born in Mexico in 1920. She grew up in farm labor camps as the daughter of a bordera who served meals to migrant workers in Maderna, California . Josefina gave up her studies at UCLA to become an organizer, and her style was described by veteran longshoremen’s leader Bert Corona as gutsy, flamboyant, and tough. As executive secretary of El Congreso (the first national Latino civil rights org) from 1939 to the mid-1940s, she organized protests against racism in the LA Schools, against the exclusion of Mexican-American youths from public swimming pools, and against police brutality. In 1942, she was a key figure in organizing the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee, to support the seventeen Chicano youths held without bail on little evidence for the alleged killing of one youth. With Moreno, she helped to coordinate El Congreso’s support for Spanish-speaking workers in the furniture, shoe manufacturing, electrical, garment, and longshoremen’s unions. --from Dolores Hayden, "Reinterpreting Latina History at the Embassy Auditorium," The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History.
Alana Torres, Live Oak High School ('98), Morgan Hill, CA
Alana led the fight for the right of gay and lesbian students to attend Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, California without pervasive and degrading harassment. Alana says "After I graduated, I was no longer afraid: I was angry! I realized I was treated so unjustly that I had to do something about the corruption at Live Oak. I couldn't let this happen to anyone else. I wanted to get involved in making policy changes to help queer youth at Live Oak. I wanted to make sure that other gay students at that school had equal rights in terms of sexual harassment. Read more of Alana's story at the Education Week archives or the ACLU website.
Francisca Flores was active in the struggle for Raza rights from the 1940s through the 1990s. She worked on the defense committee for the Sleepy Lagoon case, helped Carey McWilliams with his landmark book, North From Mexico, and edited Carta Editorial. She was often red-baited during the McCarthy era but helped to hide and organize underground screenings of "Salt of the Earth." She was a co-founder of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), served as the editor and publisher of Regeneracion, was a founder of the Comision Femenil Mexicana, and she also co-founded and served as the first director of the Chicana Social Service Center in Los Angeles. Francisca passed away April 27, 1996, at the age of 82. (--William V. Flores, Dean of Social & Behavioral Sciences, CSU Northridge)
"We knew this was coming," said Isabel Garcia, about the May 2001 deaths of fourteen Mexican men migrating across the Arizona desert in 130-degree heat. Garcia is a lawyer in Tucson and co-founder of the Arizona Border Rights Project, an umbrella group of 60 organizations that assists immigrants. "We've been forewarning, lobbying, begging, cajoling, protesting, shouting, praying. We've done everything to bring attention to this very deadly law enforcement strategy that has been used by the border patrol of driving people into the most remote areas, where they have to know this will occur." Garcia works against the current generation of border control policies being pursued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The "blockade-style" enforcement strategies attempt to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants, but Garcia says they have actually forced migrants to cross into more hostile and dangerous desert terrain, where they risk accidents, dehydration, and death. At the same time, border communities are increasingly hostile to all Mexican, Chicana/o and Latina/o peoples. Garcia asks the question, "How many deaths will it take before we realize that our policy is at the root of the problem?"
Carmen is one of the best known artist/folklorists in the Chicana/o art community. Her work reflects her interpretations of the collective regional memory of the traditions and customs of her native South Texas. Amalia Mesa Bains writes that Carmen's "visual storytelling offers varied groupings of characters engaged in the everyday events and festivities of their community" (CARA). In art school, Carmen studied children's art along with high art, and chose to focus on the latter's accessibility. Her art, she says, is simple, direct, and accessible. For example, a table is drawn at a tilt to illustrate its contents rather than follow the traditional rules of perspective. She adds, "I wanted to make the point that the aspects of Chicano culture that we take so much for granted are beautiful and worthy of depiction in fine art"
Irasema T. Garza served as the 14th Director of the U.S. Department of Labor Women's Bureau from 1999-2001. The Women's Bureau was created by Congress in 1920 with a mandate to "promote the welfare of wage-earning women," and is the only federal agency charged with advocating on behalf of women in the workforce. Ms. Garza is currently Director of the Women's Rights Department of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO; she has been active with the AFSCME for over ten years. In 1994, Ms. Garza served as Executive Director of the Congressional Commission on Family and Medical Leave. Ms. Garza is a native of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan.
Anna Nieto Gomez was one of the most articulate and outspoken Chicana feministas since the early days of the movimiento chicano. Nieto Gomez launched an early and enduring critique of the Chicano movement for ignoring women's issues. She founded an early feminist journal, Encuentro Femenil, in which she and other Chicanas spelled out an inclusive Chicana/o agenda, including issues around childcare, reproductive rights, and the feminization of poverty.
Laura led her staff in fighting the censorship of the Gilroy Unified School District (California).
The Free Press won the right to run a paid ad for counseling and support
services for gay and lesbian youth at the Billy
DeFrank Center in San Jose despite the complaints of a former superintendent
of schools, church leaders, and parents. The (new) District superintendent
told school board trustees that the students were granted freedom of
expression under California state law, so they grudgingly agreed that
the item could not be banned from the paper. Some of them said they would
still rather the students didn't run the ad, although at least one recognized
that services like the DeFrank Center's can make a difference in the
high risk of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.
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A painter, graphic artist, and muralist, Guerrero-Cruz has also taught these art mediums to the young. A resident of Los Angeles, Guerrero-Cruz has been very active in social issues in the community. She has done work for ARTSTEACH UCLA, the East Los Angeles Rape Hotline and Child Abuse Center. Recent exhibitions have included 'Dia de los Muertos' for The Photo Center in 1986, Self-Help Graphics at Atelier in 1986, and 'Women by Women' at the Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco in 1985.
Antonia Hernandez, Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund
Ms. Hernandez runs the country's premier Latino legal advocacy organization. MALDEF is "a national non-profit litigation organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of the nation's 35 million Latinos through the legal system, community education, research and policy initiatives. An expert in civil rights and immigration issues, she began her legal career as a Staff Attorney with the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice and worked as counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary before joining MALDEF in 1981 as Regional Counsel in Washington, DC. --from her MALDEF biography
Dolores Huerta, labor leader, vice-president of United Farm Workers, Chingona de las Chingonas
Dolores Huerta is the original vice-president of the UFW, the first organization to support Mexican-American farm workers, which she cofounded with the late Cesar Chavez. See her current Foundation website here. Active since the early 60s with the farmworkers, she organized the grape boycott in New York in the late 1960s, worked to pass the first laws protecting collective-bargaining rights for California farm workers in 1975, and helped establish the first credit union for farm workers. She is currently working with her daughter Juanita to establish workshops to train a battalion of young labor organizers, a venture partially supported by funds from a lawsuit settled by the San Francisco Police Department for injuries that officers inflicted on her during a 1988 political demonstration. Dolores continues to tour the country lecturing, organizing events, lobbying legislators, and negotiating new contracts. She shrugs off the suggestions that she has become an icon of feminism or a symbol of Chicano pride. "I get a lot of accolades, but I feel a little unworthy of them," she says. "I've only been part of a continuum; so many have fought and died for all of us. I've just done my job." (--Chiori Santiago, Latina magazine, Summer 1996 issue...)
Maria Martin, radio producer
Ms. Martin is a founder and executive producer of the award-winning national radioshow, Latino USA. The show is the only national, English-language radio program produced from a Latino perspective, produced in conjunction with UT Austin's Mexican American Studies department (and co-anchored by another award-winning Chicana journalist, Maria Hinojosa). Prior to joining Latino USA, Martin worked as Latino affairs editor at National Public Radio, coordinating projects on "AIDS in the Latino Community", and Hispanic Heritage Week specials. Her first post in radio was as news and public affairs director for KBBF, a bilingual radio station in Santa Rosa, California. She started as a volunteer reporter and co-producer of Somos Chicanas, one of the first radio programs to address the needs and concerns of Hispanic women.
Irene Martinez, co-founder, Fiesta Educativa
Ms. Martinez is co-founder of this nonprofit organization dedicated to providing bilingual education and support services for children and families with disabilities. Founded in 1978 in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles, the organization continues to help mostly-Latino parents understand and take advantage of federal and state services for children with disabilities, including Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism. Parents and children share stories and resources, hear bilingual presentations by professionals, discuss issues like communication and sexuality. Parents also gain a valuable ally in dealing with government bureaucracy as they learn about the laws governing the education and daily lives of the disabled: California’s Lanterman Act, and the federal individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. Fiesta Educativa sponsors a yearly conference in late May; for info call 323.221.6696
Vilma Martinez was one of the first Chicana lawyers; she graduated from
Columbia in 1967, worked for the NAACP Legal
Defense Fund and then for a major firm in New York. She left the firm in
1973 to become the General Counsel of MALDEF.
She was the third person to head MALDEF since its founding in 1968. She
was an outstanding General Counsel, administratively in terms of placing
the organization on a sound financial basis and substantively in terms
of involving MALDEF in the key civil rights issues of the 70s and 80s,
such as reapportionment. She left MALDEF in the mid-80s to become a partner
in a major LA firm. (--Miguel Mendez, Stanford Law School)
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San Francisco resident Amalia Mesa-Bains is an artist, scholar, curator, and writer who has been involved in the Chicano artist movement since the 1960s. Dr. Mesa-Bains is a leading altar installation artist, incorporating Chicano culture and folk traditions into her work. She was the curator for the traveling Ceremony of Memory exhibit and the regional committee chair (Northern California) for the exhibition Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985 (CARA). She also has written extensively on Chicano art and culture. Among her many awards is a 1992 Distinguished MacArthur Fellowship. She has served as a consultant for the Texas State Council on the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and is a former Commissioner of Arts for the City of San Francisco. She holds a BA in painting from San Jose State University, an MA in interdisciplinary education from San Francisco State University, and an MA and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the School of Clinical Psychology, Wright Institute in Berkeley. --from Amalia's PBS bio
Cherrie Moraga is a prolific, award-winning Chicana writer/activist/poet/ playwright. Her many published works include Loving in the War Years/Lo Que Nunca Paso Por Los Labios, Cuentos: Stories by Latinas, and The Last Generation. Three of her plays are published in Heroes and Saints and Other Plays by West End Press. She is also co-editor of the pivotal Chicana feminist text, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, both the English and Spanish versions (co-authored separately with Gloria Anzaldua and Ana Castillo). Cherrie has taught drama and writing courses at various universities across the nation, and is currently a faculty member at Stanford University. Her newest play, Watsonville, enjoyed a successful run in San Francisco last year.
Perez Ferguson has been active in politics for over 15 years. She served as the first Chicana president of the National Women’s Political Caucus from 1995-99 and as vice president from 1991-95. The NWPC is a bipartisan political organization that recruits and trains female candidates to run for elected office. In 1990, Ms. Perez Ferguson was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from California, again the first Chicana to do so. Other public service positions included Planning Commissioner, Affirmative Action Commissioner, and Chair of the Ethnic Advisory Board for Education in California. --Pat Sweeney.
Cuando Guadalupe comenzó su educación como niña en el Valle del Rio Grande en Texas, ella fue designada como "retardada" debido a su baja calificación en una prueba de IQ (en inglés, por supesto). Mucho años despues, cuando era adulto y madre, ella volvió al high school y sobresalió en sus clases. Siguió su educación hasta recibir un Doctorado en Educación y ahora es Profesora de Educación en la University of Houston. Leer toda su historia. --Jaime Garmendia
Adaljiza Sosa Riddell, UC Davis professor/activist/founder of MALCS
Adaljiza Sosa Riddell is
a professor emeritus of Chicana/o
Studies at UC Davis, and an esteemed mentor of contemporary
Chicana graduate and undergraduate students. She played a pivotal role
in the development of Chicana Studies by founding Mujeres Activas en
Letras y Cambio Social, a national organization devoted to developing
strategies for social change, and to "bridge the gap between intellectual
work and active commitment to our communities" (MALCS Declaration).
MALCS is open to all Chicana scholars, activists, community members,
and students. For more information and membership info, see the MALCS
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Graciela is the director of San Antonio's
Peace & Justice Center--a nationally renowned gente-based progressive
organization that challenges our cultural view of women, people of color,
queers and the poor through art, alliances, literature and action. Because
of their work, they have been attacked by the Religious Right in this city
and conservative white gay men. Their attacks in the media culminated in
Esperanza's defunding from the city's art budget; the city cut over $70,000.
A lot of that money was earmarked to the Lesbian/Gay Film Festival, the
MujerCanto festival (an arts festival that featured women) and MujerArtes
(another mujer based arts program). The city council freaked under the
pressure from this unholy alliance. Anyway, Esperanza no se muere! Graciela,
her partner Gloria and the rest of the Board and staff of Esperanza weathered
through the storm. (written by Dulce Benavides, San Antonio Lesbian/Gay
Association, who adds that "The experience that we had...cemented
the fact that sexism, racism, classism and homophobia are branches from
the same tree of intolerance and that we (as gay people) are not immune
from its rotten fruit").
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Seventeen months ago, fourth-grade teacher Laura Simon borrowed a video camera and proceeded to document the lives of her students, motivated by the passage in 1994 of Proposition 187 in California, which, among other things, would bar undocumented children from public schools. Despite her lack of previous experience, her film, Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary, won the Freedom of Expression Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival and a congratulatory note from Hillary Rodham Clinton. The film aired the week of July 1 on PBS, but is sure to repeat....look for Fear and Learning at Hoover on your local PBS station....
Phyllis is one of those amazing women who works tirelessly at both personal and professional levels to ...well, simply to make the world a better place for Chicana/os, Latina/os, and everybody else. She raised over eight foster children while a widow, worked counseling Chicana/o and Mexicana/o youth in the San Jose School District, drove buses to the fields so farmworkers could attend church, organized spiritual retreats for Chicanas and Mexicanas who felt alienated from the Church, and hit the pavement to support the United Farmworkers, as well as various other Chicana/o protest organizations. By the mid-1970s, called to recognize her talents as a gifted minister, she shifted her energies from the institutional Catholic Church tradition to the formation of an independent Catholic community with her late husband Tony which is committed to an egalitarian, antipatriarchal Catholic vision and which incorporated the indigenous elements of a Chicana/o spirituality. The Comunidad, as they called it, continues to meet today after eighteen years of independent existence. I was fortunate enough to meet Phyllis and her late husband Tony while doing fieldwork in San Jose and am currently writing a chapter about their many contributions to San Jose's Chicana/o community.
Among Tecihtzin's many accomplishments, she is the founder of Ballet Folkorico en Aztlán in San Diego. The Ballet was founded in 1969 and is now directed by her daughter, Teresa. Tecihtzin still teaches costume design and sewing to the members. Tecihtzin, who is now 78 years old, also founded the Centro Cultural de la Raza in San Diego. The Centro is a Chicano/a multidisciplinary cultural center that promotes, preserves and creates arts and culture. She also founded Teatro Razita, a youth group that provided a venue for Chicanitos in the early 1970's. Teatro Razita gave a memorable performance of El Quinto Sol in front of the pyramids of Teotihuacan as participants of the 1974 TENAZ Festival (international chicano teatro association). She also represents the Chicano Nation at various indigenous gatherings and councils. She is a noted storyteller and author of various literary works. Her book Chía: A Powerful Recuerdo (Tochtli Publishing, 1996) preserves the Tejana language and culture as Tecihtzin tells of her childhood experiences growing up along the San Antonio River in Tejas during the 1920s. --written by Nancy Rodriguez y Viviana Enrique
During the 1930s, widespread unemployment, deportation of Mexican migrant workers, and anti-Mexican racism gave birth to a vibrant resistance movement, much of it based in organized labor. The Mexican labor movement of this period was characterized by increasing numbers of Mexicana workers. Manuela Solis Sager, Emma Tenayuca and Luisa Moreno led Mexican workers' movements in Texas during the 1930's and beyond. These women were part of the historical struggle to incorporate Mexican workers into progressive US trade unions at a time when 88% of all Mexican workers were employed in low-paying, low-status sectors of the economy. Each of these women was instrumental in one of the most famous conflicts of Texas labor history--the 1930 strike at the Southern Pecan Shelling Company. During the strike, thousands of workers at over 130 plants protested a wage reduction of one cent per pound of shelled pecans. Mexicana and Chicana workers who picketed were gassed, arrested, and jailed. The workers were victorious, though mechanization of the plant years later led to large scale unemployment. --From the now defunct Women in the Global Economy website at UT Austin. Also see Lacy's page for more on Emma Tenayuca
Elizabeth Toledo has spent her life strengthening U.S. civil rights by serving in various community organizations. She has worked with Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to seek equality of opportunity for all. Toledo believes that "We empower ourselves--and we become more powerful--when we seek allies and build bridges between people and causes that at first glance might appear different from our own."
Gloria works in a variety of arenas to educate us all about the complexities of the human experience. A professor of Spanish at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, she teaches fulltime, but also finds time to write poetry (I Used to Be a Superwoman) and children's books. She has authored a series of books for young people from the perspective of youths of color, including Juanita Fights the School Board in which Juanita deals with school discrimination against Chicanas and fights to continue her education; Maya's Divided World, which addresses the issues of divorce and a mother/daughter relationship; and Tommy Stands Alone, which tells the story of a Chicano teen who becomes a social outcast after realizing he is gay. Read more about Gloria...