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40 Years of Youth Liberation

New America Media, Commentary, Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez Posted: Mar 15, 2009

In my class, History of Red-Brown Journalism & Communications, at the University of Arizona, I see the future mayor of Tucson. I see it in her eyes. In another student, I see the next Sandra Cisneros. I hear it in her Xochitl In Cuicatl in her poetry and song. I also see the next Ruben Salazar. In others, Im not sure if Im seeing Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta or Barack Obama. In still others, I see temixtianis or great teachers, members of the noblest profession.

These same students are found in every corner of the nation. Some of them are former students of Raza Studies at Tucson Unified School District. Others are direct descendants of the 1969 Chicano Youth Liberation Conference, convened by Denvers Crusade for Justice. Others are members of Movimiento Estudiantli Chicano de Aztlan or MEChA, also founded 40 years ago.

I can proudly say that I was part of that movement in its incipient Stages. Not as a founder, but simply as a youngster who was swept up in this youth liberation movement. I was not even Chicano, but what one of my students terms a Mexican Mexicano. I never got be a Mexican American, much less Hispanic. In spirit, this volcanic political eruption was akin to the Mexican Independence Movement of 1810 and also the Mexican Revolution of 1910. We rebelled, not simply because of a war or because of the daily denigration in the schools, the streets or the factories, in the cities and fields; more than anything, we rebelled against dehumanization.

Often missing from historys pages is preeminent American-Indian scholar Jack Forbes, who was part of the founding of another movement in the early 1960s: Movimiento Nativo Americano or the Native American Movement, which at its core called upon people of Mexican, Central and South American origin to reclaim their Indigenous roots. This was the antecedent for the Chicano Movement.

And now, we know that Mexican youth in this country had actually rebelled in the previous generation, creating the Mexican American Movement. Pioneer University of Southern California journalism professor Felix Gutierrez, whose parents were part of this national organization, recalls that they did not use acronyms in those days. But they, too, fought for their human rights.

If you did deep enough, you find that Mexicans in this country have been rebelling against oppression since 1848. Thats what the students in my class are finding out. Particularly, they are finding writers from the 1800s and early 1900s many of them women who led and/or documented many of these struggles. But it is said that the rebellions actually started even earlier, when the first arrow was shot at the Spanish conquistadores.

This 1960s Movement was tumultuous and convulsive. Some of what was created was romantic or idealistic. And some of it was not very liberating. Chicanas had to rebel to assert Chicana Power! Mexicanos/Mexicanas, Central/South Americans, Indigenous peoples, or peoples from the LGBT community weren't included in the liberation, either.

All these communities continue to have to assert their rights as full human beings. Yet, it cannot be denied that a tornado-like force was unleashed that created something unique, including the discipline of Raza or Chicano/Chicano Studies. Where once people denied their Mexicanness and/or their Indigeneity and meekly accepted their subjugation--people began to grasp for anything that affirmed our right to exist.

Whereas a generation ago young Chicanos, including Mechistas, competed to see who was the most Chicano/Indigenous and revolutionary, we now see them express more clearly a broader concern for all of humanity. I see it in their opposition to yet another interventionist war, their fight against the criminalization and incarceration of youth of color and in their battles against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who is now being investigated by the feds for racial profiling). I have seen it when these youth, some as young as 10, testify before bureaucrats in defense of and for the expansion of Raza Studies. They fight not simply for their rights, but the rights of all peoples.

Forty years later, the fire remains. So, too, the courage, love and intelligence. And it continues to evolve. Its called Ollin or movement. Wisdom or 52 years is around the corner, and with it, human liberation. Not simply resistance, but Creation.

Rodriguez, who writes columns for New America Media, including Arizona
Watch, can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com.

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