Chicano Movement: The Fight for the Rights of Mexican Americans
This chapter will focus on the development, significance, relations and stigmatizations that the Chola term represents within the Mexican-American visual culture. First, the historical aspect of how the term appeared, will be introduced given the previous influences of the Chicano’s identity and the Pachuca subculture. The different obstacles and limitations that the Pachuca women confronted that further became the main motives on which their culture was based upon, will be included. The second part will aim to explain the distinction between Pachuca and Chola and how the Chola culture failed to preserve the political convictions of the Pachuca but rather sought to solve the problematics of their own time and environment. The recognition of the gang’s participation will be needed for the sake of understanding the new ideas of what a Chola believed on and stood for. Third, the use of a film and its pictures will be used to describe the visual cognitive schemas that correlate the Chola with her signature clothing items, makeup, and behaviors. Lastly, this chapter will present the contemporary understanding of the term Chola, given the negative connotation that stigmatizes Latina girls but does not affect other identity groups which appropriate some of the Chola’s characteristics. American culture has become the world’s most widespread and influential culture, especially in terms of media, fashion, music, arts and films.
However, while Mexican culture internalized American trends like many others around the globe, Mexican-American style became a product of political issues and economic inequality (Ramos, 2000, p. 564). Ramos (2000) explains that from 1929 to 1944, the United States’ government carried out massive deportation, over 2 million Mexicans and Mexican descent, including US citizens by birth right, were forcibly moved out from their homes and workplaces. The incident is known as Mexican Repatriation, a campaign that continued throughout the century. This event, together with multiple social injustices encouraged the establishment of the Chicano Movement, whose main goal was to empower Mexican-American rights (Galvan, 2015, p.27). Furthermore, Galvan (2015) points out that the Pachuca and Chola subculture were originated from this Movement and therefore, to better understand the Chola’s significance, it is important to first look back at the history of systematic oppression and discrimination that the Latino communities faced. During the time of Mexican Repatriation and World War II, the Pachucas, the predecessors of Cholas, started to appear on the streets of Southern California (Galvan, 2015, p.50).
Galvan (2015) expresses that the Pachuca was the female counterpart of the Pachuco, Mexican-American teenagers who wore zoot suits with high-waisted fastened pants and long suit coats, both “representing a cultural nationalism of a ‘rebel’ network”. It is important to mention that the Pachuca also claimed their own nonconformist style of dressing while expressing their discomfort within the society. In a review of Willard, M. (2011) of the book The Woman in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Cultural Politics of Memory, Willard proclaim: “La Pachuca was invoked as an aberrant figure during World War II in the rhetoric of state institutions; the press; the military; schools, law enforcement and the legal justice system; and among Mexican Americans, (..) and during the 1960s and 1970s in Chicano movement cultural production (visual art, literature, theater, film, and academic treatises).” The Pachuca became popular, especially in Southeast Los Angeles, not only because of the specific characteristics of how they used to style their hair or wear their makeup and clothes, but also because of their representation as a rebel unified subculture and their willingness to break up the traditional gendered roles (Galvan, 2015, p. 145).
Further, deploying the schema, structured set or preconceived ideas, of how a Chola should look like. Galvan (2015) claims that the objective of following these trends were based on two reasons, first to reject the white male hyper-patriotic patriarchy during World War II and the second, to defend their social position within the Chicano Movement era. He revises that the last one could be partially explained and related with the Macho culture, which suppresses and sexualizes Latin women by the cognitive schema that men have a strong sense of masculine pride. The Pachuca-Chola homegirl became an historical subject of feminist discourse, her image transcended and is enrooted on the mental framework of displaying opposition and resistance, not just to la vida loca, but to la vida dura (Fregoso, R., 1995, p. 317).
Fregoso (1995) mentions that their character of transgressive girls disturbed private and public patriarchy as stated, but it also encouraged and brought together young women who aimed to overcome the difficulties of life at the expense of threatening the foundations of family´s structure and the Catholic church. On one side, they jeopardized the enrooted gendered structure of families by violating the boundaries of femininity either from speaking and acting in the public spaces such as parks and streets around the neighborhood or by not following domestication to child-care and household work (Fregoso, R., 1995, p.318). On the other side, Fregoso (1995) points out that the same participation on the public spheres endangered the legacy of women subordination driven by Catholicism and the particularities of the Spanish conquest. He explains that the stigmatization and preoccupation, of parents and authorities, is that streets are sites of danger where adolescents can become Pachucas and/or callejeras.
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