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1: Foundations and Contexts

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    Learning Objectives

    • Analyze and articulate core concepts related to identity in Chicanx and Latinx studies and the core frameworks of the textbook, including transnational, intersectional, and relational perspectives.
    • Apply knowledge produced by Chicanx and Latinx communities about the origins, critical events, and cultural context of the field, with a particular emphasis on agency, social movements, and collective self-determination.
    • Review a foundational overview of the textbook, including its organization, sections, and content.


    “Quien no sabe de donde viene no sabe hacia dónde va (someone who doesn’t know where they came from doesn’t know where they are going)" — dicho

    This dicho or proverb means that it is critical and important to have a sense of the past to know and understand how the present came to be, in order to address or change what is before you. This wisdom about our past to understand the present is what drives the field of Chicanx and Latinx studies, which, like other ethnic studies disciplines, has worked for over fifty years to provide a more accurate understanding of the political, cultural, historical, and social contexts that shape our current-day experiences of race, identity, community, and the disparities that plague our society. This work includes supporting the activism surrounding legislation to legally mandate that the past and present realities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities and the contributions of historically marginalized groups are taught in schools through required ethnic studies courses in the general education curriculum for K-12 and college. The field has also contributed directly to activist campaigns and community projects that combat societal inequality and create more justice and opportunity for all. 

    This Open Educational Resource (OER) textbook aims to provide a comprehensive overview and introduction to key concepts, content, and overall work in this area, as well as the current state of the field. Open Educational Resources are instructional materials that are designed to be freely used, shared, and adapted. This textbook is licensed CC BY-NC-SA 4.0, which means that it can be directly used for any non-commercial purposes, as long as the material is fully attributed as the source and also uses the same type of open licenses, so the material you create can be shared the same way. Regardless of the license, you must always cite and attribute your sources.

    To begin our journey in Chicanx and Latinx studies, this introductory chapter provides core information and context for learners to help guide you through this content. We focus on new directions in Chicanx and Latinx studies, which are the areas of scholarship being embraced and advanced by students and leaders in the field, including a transnational perspective that finds affinity with marginalized communities across the globe and is inclusive of work produced outside of the U.S., an intersectional approach that takes multiple identity categories and systems of power into account, and a relational perspective that embraces and utilizes comparative, interdisciplinary scholarship for the advancement of Chicanx and Latinx studies.

    The overall intention of this textbook is to:  

    The Chicanx and Latinx studies discipline emerged from earlier versions of Chicano studies and Puerto Rican (Boricua) studies, in conjunction with other ethnic studies disciplines. This early work was directly inspired by the student activists in the East Los Angeles walkouts and the ethnic studies movements originating at Merritt College in Oakland, California, San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University), and the University of California, Berkeley in the 1960s and 70s. Chicanx and Latinx studies is one of the five ethnic studies disciplines that emerged from this historic movement. The others are Native American/American Indian studies, Black/African American studies, Asian American and Pacific Islander studies, and comparative ethnic studies (sometimes also just called ethnic studies). The four historically defined core disciplines in ethnic studies have also developed in close relationship with other interdisciplinary fields focusing on social justice and liberation through activism and applied scholarship, including women’s studies, queer studies, and whiteness studies, among others.

    This chapter is organized into four sections. The first section addresses the definition and purpose of Chicanx and Latinx studies. The second section addresses the historical roots of the discipline in relation to ethnic studies, how it began, and how it is expanding. In the third section, we discuss new directions in Chicanx and Latinx studies, which emphasize the importance of diversity, inclusion, and the need for more equitable representation. In the fourth section, you will learn more about the remainder of the textbook, Chapters 2 to 10.

    Chicanx and Latinx Etymologies

    Throughout this textbook, you will have multiple opportunities to learn about and explore key identity terms and labels, such as Chicanx, Latinx, Indigenous Chicanx/Latinx, Afro-Latinx, Chicana/Latina, and Jota/o/x, and others beginning with Chapter 2: Identities, along with Chapter 4: Indigeneities, Chapter 5: Feminisms, Chapter 6: Jotería Studies, Chapter 7: Social Movement Activity, and Chapter 8: Education and Activism. In this chapter, we provide a preliminary set of definitions that are a foundation for your exploration of the topics, concepts, and content in this textbook.

    Chicana, Chicano, and Chicanx are social and political identity terms chosen by people of Mexican heritage living in the United States to signify their Indigenous ancestry to the greater Southwestern and Mesoamerican (also called Anahuac) regions. This identity term emerged as a direct response to the term “Mexican American” to focus greater attention on the political, social, and cultural position of people of Mexican heritage. Chicana is the feminine form and refers to women and girls, and Chicano is the masculine form, which refers to men and boys. When the term ends in an ‘x,’ it signifies a non-binary gender, either referring to all people regardless of gender or specifically referring to people of non-binary identities. Chicana/o/x is a chosen term, unlike Hispanic, which became popularized and is assigned by the United States Census and other government offices to emphasize Spanish influence and Spanish language communities.

    Chicana/o/x is closely tied to the terms Xicana, Xicano, and Xicanx  a term which emphasizes the heritage of families whose homelands in Mexico are tied to the cultural, linguistic, and social practices of Indigenous peoples. The use of the “X” instead of the “Ch” is to emphasize the spellings and pronunciations used in many Indigenous languages, compared to Spanish and European languages. Because Chicanx and Xicanx are also political labels, someone may identify as a supporter of the Chicanx community or the Chicanx movement, even if that is not their heritage. For example, someone born of Ecuadorian parents who grew up in East Los Angeles and is regularly involved in community-based efforts for social justice may have an enduring personal connection with Chicanx identity and community. 

    Latina, Latino, and Latinx are used to identify people with ancestry connected to anywhere in Latin America. Latinx differs from Latina/o as the “x” renders the term gender-neutral and more inclusive. Indigenous Latinx is used to identify Indigenous migrants from Latin America living in the United States who remain connected to their Indigenous languages, ceremonies, medicines, foodways, and ancestral lands. This topic is covered in more depth in Chapter 4: Indigeneities. Similarly, Afro-Latinx signifies a Latin American person of African heritage, with national or regional variations of the term, such as Afro-Mexican or Afro-Brazilian. These identity terms reflect the diverse experiences that Chicanx and Latinx studies attempts to represent and will be explored in greater detail in Chapter 2: Identities.

    In this book, we pay close attention to the terms and labels used to identify groups of people. The terms Chicanx and Latinx are used as broad terms that include people of all genders. Depending on the context, we may refer to Chicanx communities specifically, Latinx communities in general, or Chicanx and Latinx communities as a whole (sometimes shortened to Chicanx/Latinx). Note that Latinx always includes Chicanx, as this is a broader category. In other instances, gendered terms like Chicana, Chicano, Latina, and Latino are used to refer to gendered communities of people.

    Navigating this Textbook

    This textbook is designed primarily in a digital format. If you are accessing this OER material online or using a web-enabled device, we encourage you take advantage of the links that include external content along with internal navigation to other portions of the textbook. While the textbook is structured so that you can progress through each chapter, you are encouraged to explore topics that are meaningful to you. Each chapter is designed to provide a foundation of core concepts, themes, and examples about major areas in the discipline of Chicanx and Latinx studies. We highly encourage learners and teachers to supplement their learning in this book with intentional inquiry on these topics that is relevant to your local context. For this reason, each chapter is about 20 pages, when exported to a PDF and printed. This allows instructors and students to engage with foundational and recent scholarship, including relevant case studies and current events.

    Each chapter starts with an overview page that summarizes the content, like the current page does for Chapter 1. Through the chapter, you will find key terms that are indicated with bold emphasis and linked to the list of key terms on the chapter’s conclusion page. As well, Chapter 11: Teacher and Learner Resource Guide contains ancillary learning materials for each chapter, including slides, media, discussion/writing prompts, and suggested activities. You are encouraged to access these resources to develop classroom learning experiences and independent engagement with the content. These materials include external links that are not maintained by the authors and may contain content that is not openly licensed or fully accessible and require alternative engagement. Section 11.11: Comprehensive Glossary includes all key words from the entire text.

    Content Warnings

    The content in this textbook deals with sensitive topics that may elicit strong emotional and/or psychological responses. Some of the readings, media, and images are explicit in their treatment of racial and gender violence, including discussions of suicide, depression, and death. Reading, viewing, and discussing these materials can be demanding and difficult in ways that are often unexpected. The authors encourage readers to grapple with difficult topics to the best of their ability and to take care of their well-being as they read. Specific content notices are provided where applicable, alerting readers to specific topics, accompanied by the ojo emojii (🧿), which in many Latinx cultures is a symbol of protection.   

    • 1.1: Introduction to Chicanx and Latinx Studies
      This section is about Chicanx and Latinx studies, which focus on self-identity, community stories, systems of oppression, social movements, and solidarity to improve conditions for Chicanx and Latinx communities. It explores historical eras, revolutionary movements, and a hemispheric approach. Chicanx and Latinx studies aim to promote equity, justice, and self-determination, emerging from community demands and social movements as an intellectual arm for liberation and freedom.
    • 1.2: Struggle and Protest for Chicanx and Latinx Studies
      This section is about the historical roots of Chicanx/Latinx studies. It discusses key documents and movements that contributed to the emergence of this academic field, such as the Plan de Santa Bárbara and the Chicano Youth Conference. It highlights the role of activism by communities of color and Indigenous peoples in shaping Chicanx and Latinx studies. The section further explores the student-led strikes in the 1960s that advocated for racial justice and established ethnic studies programs.
    • 1.3: New Directions in Chicanx and Latinx Studies
      This section introduces frameworks in Chicanx and Latinx studies. It emphasizes marginalized voices and diverse experiences within the field, advocating for inclusive labels and broadening the conceptualization of ethnicity and race. The frameworks discussed are intersectional, which examines multiple identities and power structures, transnational, which explores dynamics beyond individual communities and nation-states, and relational, which draws from diverse experiences and comparisons.
    • 1.4: Overview of the Textbook
      The section introduces the three parts of the textbook: the first establishes the foundation of identity formation and historical processes in Chicanx and Latinx studies; the second explores the intersections of Chicanx and Latinx identities with Indigeneity, feminism, and jotería studies; and the third part examines the social, political, and cultural dynamics impacting Chicanx and Latinx communities through activism, education, health, and cultural productions.
    • 1.5: Conclusion

    This page titled 1: Foundations and Contexts is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Melissa Moreno & Mario Alberto Viveros Espinoza-Kulick (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .