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.


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


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


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