“Aztlán es una fábula”

Navigating postnational spaces in Chicana/o culture 1

Authored by: Marc Priewe

Routledge Handbook of Chicana/o Studies

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138847873
eBook ISBN: 9781315726366
Adobe ISBN:


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At the peak of the Chicano civil rights movement, students and activists convened in Denver, Colorado, to propose El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, the political and cultural manifesto that propagated a Chicano nationalism based on the collective history of subjugation, disempowerment, and cultural denigration of Mexicans in the United States. The plan, by demanding the separation of the Southwest from the United States, constituted a nationalist blueprint and declaration of independence by the “bronze people.” 2 During the heyday of Chicano cultural nationalism, “Aztlán” became the central signifier for conceptualizing a specific, exclusionary ethnic essence. By spatially and culturally linking the geographies of what are now the U.S. Southwest and Northern Mexico, Aztlán represented the place of pre-border origin and thus the spiritual and cultural unity between Mexicans on both sides of the border and Chicana/os. For the time being, the national and racial visions encapsulated in the concepts of Aztlán and chicanismo were important for Chicana/o identity formations, because contrary to the generally negative representation of Mexican Americans in U.S. mainstream discourse, the two concepts designated Chicanas/os as the original inhabitants of the contemporary Southwest and accentuated the positive aspects of the mestizo heritage. 3 Seen from a critical perspective, however, the discourse of Aztlán nationalism merely reversed the Eurocentric binary oppositions of Us/Them, Mexico/USA and, by the same token, marked Anglo-America as Mexico’s negative, racialized Other. Contrary to more recent enunciations that foreground borderland hybridity and transculturation, the discourse of Chicano nationalism explicitly countered and excluded elements from Anglo American culture and thus denied the latter’s role in the constitution of contemporary Chicana/o subjects. In addition, Chicano nationalist ideology largely negated and suppressed the expressive voices of LGBT and/or women writers and artists until the mid-1970s.

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