Reading today over at the excellent blog, Lotería Chicana, Cindy has written today about Oscar Zeta Acosta who would have turned 75 this year. It’s a great post on a great blog and inspired me to put down my own thoughts about the Chicano wild child lawyer and writer that was Oscar Zeta.
His biography is probably equal parts history and myth. In the passionate and wild time that was the the Chicano movement in 1960s and 1970s Los Angeles, Acosta still stood out as larger than life.
I first encountered Zeta Acosta’s prose in Revolt of the Cockroach People. I read it when I as eighteen, followed quickly by Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo. However much I may take issues with the sexism and narcissism of Acosta’s texts, I love these books and on some level, have compared every bit of Chicana/o writing I’ve read since to them. Though Acosta wasn’t originally from Los Angeles, these are Los Angeles texts about a moment in our history when everything was being questioned, when change was both seen as possible and being demanded.
It’s fitting, perhaps, that the birthdays of César Chávez and Zeta Acosta are so close — the men were born a decade and a week apart. Chávez is seen as the saintly figure who fought self-lessly for decades to life and move his people forward, fighting for the rights of downtrodden farmworkers from the 1960s until his death, peacefully in his sleep, in 1993. Acosta raged through life, a representation of raw Chicano manhood. … Read the rest
[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. … Read the rest