The #aztlanreads Hashtag Is Everything

[Note, this blog title was shamelessly stolen from a tweet by @laura_luna who has her own blog, creativexicana. I only steal from the best.]

Over on Twitter Chicano MA student @xicano007, who has a library anyone would envy, started posting images of his Chicana/o books along with titles and authors. Ever the busybody I suggested he start a hashtag so we could search them more easily and maybe join in. The result was #aztlanreads and it’s glorious with an explosion of tweets of Chicana/o and Latina/o books (poetry, novels, academic writing and histories). If you read Twitter, participate. If you don’t, follow the link and look anyway. Seriously, I promise it will make your day.

There have been so many books I remembered and even more that I hadn’t heard about. I seriously have to find a job so I can afford the book habit this hashtag is creating. I hope it lasts forever. It’s the best use of Twitter I’ve ever seen.

There’s more about #aztlanreads’ wonderfulness over on the excellent blog Lotería Chicana. She points out the power that the shear volume and quality of the Chicana/o texts listed have in combating the notion that there’s a shortage of books and materials out there.

Rumor has it that there’ll be hashtags for #aztlansongs and #aztlanfilm next. I can’t wait.

UPDATE: Aztlán Reads is now a blog!

La Paranoia de Aztlán

Recently I’ve been researching a contemporary refiguring of Aztlán because of the “Aztlan conspiracy” being put about by paranoid nativists.

The Southern Poverty law center writes that the wide propagation of these false theories are led by two hate groups — the California Coalition for Immigration Reform and American Patrol.  Though them, Aztlán is being refigured as a racist conspiracy by Chicana/os against all other minority groups.  Yet this theory isn’t one held by a few fringe internet groups.  It is becoming more and more widely circulated — has even been reported by “mainstream”news papers and in the media in reports by CNN commentator Lou Dobbs.

These groups base their attacks on a misunderstanding / misreading of the “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan,” the 1969 document adopted at the first Chicano Liberation Youth Conference. The document is a revolutionary one reflecting the spirit of the radical 1960s civil rights movements that the Chicano movement itself came out of.  The Plan de Aztlán has always been a unifying myth of the Southwest as being a Chicano/a space, for Chicano/as to lead and govern their own communities, not a call for governmental overthrow. Even at their most radical, most Chicano/a activists worked for social and cultural change on issues like racism, education and housing reform and the anti-war movement, not for political revolution.  Even radical Reies Tijerina (his group La Alianza — an alliance of Mexican American and Native American tribal peoples who led an armed courthouse raid in 1967) relied largely on the law and legal documents to pursue property rights.

From El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán:

Brotherhood unites us, and love for our brothers makes us a people whose time has come and who struggles against the foreigner “gabacho” who exploits our riches and destroys our culture. With our heart in our hands and our hands in the soil, we declare the independence of our mestizo nation. We are a bronze people with a bronze culture. Before the world, before all of North America, before all our brothers in the bronze continent, we are a nation, we are a union of free pueblos, we are Aztlán.

For La Raza to do. Fuera de La Raza nada.

But many of the nativist anti-immigration groups don’t see the El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán as a relic of the counterculture of the 1960s or a poetic origin mythology. Instead they read it as the founding document of a conspiracy supported by Mexico and, in some versions, by most Mexican Americans. Illegal immigrants are seen as part of an organized plot to “reconquer” the seven southwestern states, recreating the Mexican borders that existed prior to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo.  A Chicano/a or Latino/a who was a member of MEChA while a student is seen as implicated and demands are put forward that they renounce ties to their student activist roots.

I’m not linking this blog to any of the hate filled mis-representations that these groups and people write.  It’s enough to know they’re out there.  You can look for yourself — Google “Aztlán” or “la raza” and you can find plenty of hits for sites displaying Aztlán paranoia hosted by Minutemen and groups with names like Deport Illegals.

It’s important that we claim or reclaim Aztlán for what it was intended to be.  A poetic mythology of a Chicano/a homespace that resists the notion of the United States as an Anglo space and claims Chicano/a’s right to be the southwest — that we shouldn’t be seen as outsiders or foreigners .

NACCS Presentation: “for those who dream of roses / swallow thorns”: Aztlán as Cosmopolitical Space

[This is the exact text of my talk. You can download a pdf version of all the slides: NACCS though I haven’t been able to reach Maria Teresa Fernandez to get her permission to repost them to the internet. She did give me permission to use them in my research when I spoke to her at USC in 2010.  If anyone has a current email address for her, please send it to me at annemarie (dot) perez (at) me (dot) com ]


“for those who dream of roses / swallow thorns”: Aztlán as Cosmopolitical Space

I’ve included in this talk a photographs by Mexican artist Maria Teresa Fernandez.  She’s documented the building of the Wall between the US and Mexico and the increasing militarization of the border.  These first images are about the demise of Friendship Park, the point where the US and Mexico meet the Pacific ocean.  Here’s the park as it was, a space for meeting friends and family on the other side.

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Here it is as the barricade was erected in 2009, creating a yards wide distance between US residents and the border fence, dividing people.

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New rules are in place forbidding contact that was, until recently, relatively casual and free.

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Modern usage of the term Aztlán dates from the 1960s-1970s civil rights movements. . The poet Alturista gave Aztlán’s mythology in his poem introducing the journal Aztlan Continue reading

Abstracted

[In celebration of my dissertation being accepted today by my university’s library, I’m put up its abstract. Don’t worry, I’m probably not going to post the whole thing.]

Title: ”Splitting Aztlán: American Resistance and Chicana Visions of a Radical Utopia”

My dissertation researches American resistance movements, focusing on nineteenth-century Transcendentalism and the Chicano/a movements of the 1960s through 1990s.  It is concerned specifically with the emergence of Chicano/a literature from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth century, especially Chicana authorship and editorship as part of a tradition of U.S. resistance literature.

The 1960s was a period of renewed interest in the literature of American Transcendentalist communities, especially the writings of David Henry Thoreau regarding resistance and civil disobedience.  This re-reading shaped and informed American civil protest literature of the 1960s, including that of the Chicano Movement. Reverberations connect the two periods in the area of non-violent social protest.  Further resonances may be heard now between the nineteenth-century suffrage and abolitionist movements and the 1960s civil rights and anti-war movements, as they questioned the United States’ role as an imperial nation — a role begun with the nineteenth-century policy of Manifest Destiny.

The replication of and discursive focus on nation and universalized communities of men, opened space for women as editors and authors.  Chicana writers and editors of the late twentieth century, like the protofeminists of the nineteenth-century suffrage movement, split the single “divine soul” by pointing out the contradictions and flaws in a discourse on the nation which presumes only masculine subjects.  Both ultimately created textual communities as sites for feminist, cosmopoetic and cosmopolitical interventions.  At the same time, like African American feminists of the same period, they resisted the essentialist and universalizing feminist gaze, creating out of this a U.S. differential feminism of color.

The opening section of my dissertation, comprising the first two chapters, is an introductory discussion of textual communities and resistance literature, focusing on both United States Transcendentalism and the emergence of Chicana feminist authors and editors.  Chapter Two is a reading of María Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s 1872 text, Who Would Have Thought It?, as both a satire of United States northeastern culture and politics, and a statement of resistance to Manifest Destiny.  Ruiz de Burton’s work resists the westward gaze of northeastern U.S. literature, instead looking east from western / Californian eyes, specifically at the New England northeast.  A satire, the novel was explicitly written to resist the author’s sense of cultural annihilation, against both the Californios’ sense of their own invisibility and the larger national policy of Manifest Destiny.

The second section of my dissertation, comprising Chapters Three and Four, looks at the emergence of Chicana authorship and editorship during the Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s.  Chapter Three examines late twentieth-century Chicana authorship and editorship, using close textual readings from diverse archival sources, including the Chicano newspaper El Grito del Norte and its collective of writers and editors, especially Elizabeth Martinez and Enriqueta Vásquez, to explore the evolution of Chicana editorship and the development of textual communities within and around the developing mythology of Aztlán.  Chapter Four focuses on Chicana edited anthologies in the 1980s, especially This Bridge Called My Back and Chicana Voices.  The two anthologies, though different in many respects and created for different purposes, created  textual communities of writers which participated in the project of developing and defining a specific new feminism by women of color, as well as Anzaldúa’s border theory.  This research examines and participates in the discussion of emergent writing and editorship by women of color, and how these feminists fit into the larger tradition of textual communities in the United States.

The dissertation concludes with a re-examination of Aztlán as a site of resistance, a borderland cosmopolitan and cosmopoetic space.  While “cosmopolitan” traditionally speaks of urban sensibilities, recent scholarship on the modern and postmodern evolution of cosmopolitanism offers a new and renewed vision that utilizes pre-Kantian cosmopolitanism.  This vision imagines a world city space and citizenship which exists outside the confines of borders, while also tempering the effects of globalism; a space which acts against the confines of nationalism and outside the power of the state.  This new type of cosmopolitanism has been named “borderland cosmopolitanism,” one which exists at rural crossroads as well as in cities; it is a cosmopolitanism of the indigenous as well as the elite.  Borderland cosmopolitanism does not just attack the nation; it also destabilizes citizenship and, in doing so, endangers the authority of the state and nation.