What is Aztlán?

Homeland, quest, female place

Authored by: David Carrasco

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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A significant part of writing and public attention on Aztlán especially since the proclamation of El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán has been concerned with where Aztlán was. Was it in a specific geographical location in northern Mexico or somewhere in the Southwestern part of the United States or lodged in the hearts and minds of our Mexica (generally known as Aztecs) forbears and now Mexican Americans? Even when Aztlán is viewed more broadly in terms of art, migratory space or cultural contact a preoccupation with the geographical location of the Aztec place of origins is evident. For instance in the landmark book The Road to Aztlán: Art from a Mythic Homeland (2001) that accompanied a stunning art exhibition of the same name at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art 2001), the editors achieved a near magic trick by both ‘deterritorializing’ and ‘reterritorializing’ Aztlán. On the one hand, they included essays and art that encompassed the American Southwest and portions of Mexico showing that Aztlán is not a specific historical location at all but refers to a huge geographical area where people, objects, ideas, and meanings traveled and were exchanged over enormous distances and punishing terrain. On the other hand, in the last section of the book we see Aztlán “re-territorialized” in a series of specific Chicano locations where artworks in exhibitions and public walls in various Chicano and other communities show that multiple but specific Mexican American homelands, Aztláns all, exist. As one cultural critic says Aztlán refers “to all those places where there is a strong Mexican and Chicano/a cultural presence” (Fields & Zamudio-Taylor 2001, p. 42).

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