Mexican American Movements for Civil Rights as Depicted in the Movies Walkout and I am Joaquin
As a Mexican American we still battle civil right issues to this day. We live in a world full of hatred and disgusts towards our minorities. In 2016, the United States and I think it’s fair to say, the entire world, were shocked to find out who our next President would be. Since 2016, the Mexican Americans that live in the United States to stand up for what we believe in and demand rights. Mexican Americans have always fought for civil right equality in the work place, in education, and in modern sociality, it’s just now that social media is at its best, we tend to see inequality more so now.
“Walkout” is about the school system in East Los Angeles California that took place in the late 1960’s. The 60’s during this time, Mexican Americans were treated horribly. A lot of people saw Mexican Americans as second-class citizens with no education and dirt poor. Throughout the movie we see many different situations and aspects that Mexican American or “Chicano” students had to put up with within their own schools. Schools are a place that parents can leave their children knowing they will be safe and educated properly, but not for Mexican Americans. The “Chicano” students were mistreated on a daily bases, so they wanted to take a stand for equal education. Since they were seen as second-class citizens, they were constantly shut down by the city.
The movie consists the four characteristics of Mexican American Art, which is what gives this movie such a strong and meaningful message. The first one is found in the title, “Walkout” this refers to the school walkouts that the students of four major high schools in East Los Angeles participated in to make their demands and needs heard to everyone in the city. In order for this movie to show the actual walkouts, they needed to reenact the reasons why these students were forced to do walkout. That is where the fourth characteristic “Expose, show, and Oppression” comes in to help explain the causes. The movie shows us how the students were physically punished if they used their first language Spanish rather than English in the classrooms. Because they spoke Spanish, it put a negative outlook in being Mexican American. These students were shamed and bullied every single day for being Chicanos. Walkout also shows how the textbooks that were given in school were not accurate and skip out anything that had to do with Mexican Americans. They were given textbooks that were so outdated, and it basically showed how being Mexican Americans are not important to the USA. These students couldn’t even learn about the modern history at the time, let along the Chicano heroes. The libraries in the schools were very limited and did not include anything in Spanish, since they could read, write, or speak in anything other than English. It was also shown that the students were restricted from using the restrooms during certain hours. All of these examples are ways of exposing the truth about the conditions Mexican Americans had to deal with at school. Once again, schools are supposed to be safe places, not places of torture.
Since these students stood up for their rights and fought for their injustice and inequality, other people would throw items at them like animals. Although they experience this kind of behavior and ridicule, they never back down, even after the second walkout event turned violent! They fought the long and hard fight, but because of these walkouts, they are now a part of Mexican American History, which brings me to the second Mexican American Art characteristic, “To rewrite the Mexican American and the Mexican American Experience back into history.”
This forever will be in all history books, when it comes to the inequality that Mexican Americans had to live through. “Create social and racial pride” is the third characteristic that can be found in the movie. In the beginning of the movie the students have a day camp where the main teacher and supporter, Mr. Sal Castro motivates them to raise the Mexican American graduate rate. He reads the poem “I am Joaquin”, a poem that reflects the hardship that Mexican Americans and Chicanos have lived throughout the years.
“I am Joaquin” was a very important part of the Chicano movement. The strong and empowering words of the poem makes you feel proud to be Mexican American! Also, another scene that truly shows Chicano power is in the third walkout. The students walk out of the school but are blocked by policemen and are not allowed pass them. However, you see the student’s family, mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, unite as one, together holding the Mexican flag as well as the American flag. This is a very touching scene that I believe shows the unity of Mexican Americans, and how there is a lot of pride in being Mexican American.
Lastly, Showing an Oppositional way of Thinking/Questioning Authority. This movie is based on the changing lives of Mexican Americans. By making a stand and challenging the authority. Even though the cops were against the Mexican American students the whole time, even sometimes with physical brutal beatings they received within one of the walkouts, they held on. They stuck to their guns to prove their point and to stand up for justice. Even the main character was threatened by the school administrators, she was told if she went through with the walkout she would be expelled. While they wanted everyone, who was going to graduate to simply look the other way, the students risked it all and gave it their all to make their voices heard.
This movie is a great piece of history. Not many people know about the walkouts, or even the inequalities that Mexican American faced back in the day. While we still see racism and prejudice against Mexican Americans, things have changed.
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