chapter  5
40 Pages

Community Perspectives on the Movimiento: Ideology, Bilingual Education, and Ethnoregion

EI walkout, la protesta de los muchachos . .. fue una cos a . muy interesante, muy bonito. Aquella lucha que se habfa comenzado, la comenzamos ya sin miedo. . .. Se notaba que la gente estaba preparada para ya no tenerle . . . [miedo a] los anglos y su control total que no querian soltar. EUos no querian soltar nada para nosotros. As! de que en ese tiempo del walkout los mismos j6venes nos inspiraron a los demas. Nos. .. di6 mb valentia de tener aqueUos j6venes que por fin se habfan decidido a defender 10 que era un derecho de ellos. i. Verdad? Ponerle un hasta aquf a la discriminaci6n que estaban haciendo. Y 10 curioso fue, verdad, que nosotros luchabamos contra esa discriminaci6n y ellos nos acusaban a nosotros de racistas (rie). (The walkout, the students' protest. .. was something. . . very interesting,

very beautiful. That struggle that had started, we started it without fear . . . . It was evident that the people were prepared not to . . . [fear] the Anglos and their total control that they would not relinquish. They did not want to share anything with us. Consequently, at the time of the walkout the students inspired the rest of us. We gained more courage by having the students defend what was rightfully theirs. Right? To put an end to the discrimination they were practicing. And the funny thing was that as we fought against that discrimination, the Anglos accused us of racism (laughs).)

The confrontation by youth against the school authorities gave the more reluctant Mexicanos the valentía to join the struggle. Youthful leadership and community organizing, therefore, contributed to the transformation process. As the struggle developed more people became aware of the confrontation (i.e., gained increased levels of concientización) and made reference to past struggles by Mexicanos in the broader context to right an unjust and discriminatory system. For example, another community leader, Sr. Serafin, philosophically talked about the goals of the early Movimiento by comparing the community struggle to the ideals of the Mexican revolutionary leader, Emiliano Zapata, who fought for the land rights of Mexican peasants during the Mexican Revolution. Unlike Zapata, the people of Crystal City were not fighting for land, but they were fighting for the rights of the poor, equality, and the recognition that Mexicanos had as much self-worth as Anglos:

Eran los ideales iguales, que pensabámos nosotros de . . . así como aquel hombre [Emiliano Zapata] que luchaba por las tierras para la gente. Υ nosotros hacíamos para los derechos de los pobres, de la gente Era una cosa casi por otra. No más que aquf no andábamos peleando tierras. Aquí andábamos peleando la igualdad.. . y pues por que valiera el mexicano. (The ideals were the same, we thought . . . just like that man [Emiliano Zapata] who fought for land for his people. We fought for the rights of the poor, of the people. . . . It was almost the same thing. Except that we were not fighting for land, we were fighting for equality . . . and for the self worth of the Mexicano.)

In the struggle for equality, political organization and participation, and support for the Raza Unida Party, many Mexicanos underwent a change in concientización. The process of concientización is one of transformation and can be described according to Paulo Freire's three stages, i.e., magical, naive, or critical concientización (see Smith 1976 and end note 3). For example, Sra. Mascarenas noted that Mexicanos gained a different individual and group outlook, one emphasizing civil rights and the capacity to govern:

Con la Raza Unida aprendimos a defendernos. Ahora sí habalmos, sí decimos, no importa de qué raza sea, nosotros tenemos el valor de hablar y de defendernos. Υ eso es una cosa que, diría yo, una cosa muy hermosa que ganamos con la Raza Unida. Perdimos el temor. . . ya no nos consideramos inferiores.... A nosotros no nos importa qué vestimenta traígamos, somos igual que otra persona, con los mismos derechos, con los mismos anhelos y deseos. Nosotros todo lo que queríamos era un derecho que nos pertenecía y poder también mostrar al anglo, que tambíen podíamos suministrar, que también estábamos capacitados para servir en gobierno en nuestra patria, tan nuestra cómo de ellos. ¿Verdad? (With the Raza Unida we learned to defend ourselves. Now we speak up, we speak up no matter what race we are dealing with; we have the valor to speak and defend ourselves. And that is one thing, I would say, a beautiful thing that we won through the Raza Unida. We lost the fear. . . we don't consider ourselves inferior any more . . . . It is not important how one dresses, we are as equal as any other person, with the same rights, the same aspirations and desires. All we wanted were our rights and be able to demonstrate that we could provide and were as capable to serve the government in our country, as much ours as theirs. Right?)

The move from the lower levels of consciousness to the critical level of consciousness translates into behavioral outcomes. That is, more Mexicanos became involved in all aspects of electoral politics. Through democratic elections, the Mexicano community elected their own representatives thereby changing the established power structure. The outcome of this process was that Mexican Americans realized their potential through voter participation as another leader, involved in the Movement since its inception, explained:

Things got rolling immediately after the walkout, [and] . . . it just peaked during the elections. The first elections, when Gutiérrez was elected . . . Mexican Americans were made aware of their political potential by engaging in the system that we call democracy and voted. The people had a choice . . . for the Mexicano. . . . They could elect their own people and some of them could even be elected, and they were elected. I suppose the political structure that had been before was totally demolished and a new political system was set up, with the Mexicano being the person with the political clout, that is, the majority.