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1.1: Introduction to Chicanx and Latinx Studies

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    Core Concepts in Chicanx and Latinx Studies

    What is Chicanx and Latinx studies all about? Like the discipline of ethnic studies, Chicanx and Latinx studies is about representing self identity, stories of community, systems of oppression, social movements, and solidarity, with the goal of improving conditions for Chicanx and Latinx communities and creating greater opportunities for leadership and self-determination.1 These are referred to as the five S’s as proposed by ethnic studies scholars and teacher-trainers Theresa Montaño and Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales. In other words, to understand the lived experience of Chicanxs and Latinxs, we must consider in this order the complexity of self identity (one's personal story of their racialized intersectional identity), stories of ancestral community (counternarratives in the first person, understanding systems of oppression and domination, social movements of resistance to injustice, and solidarity between racialized ethnic groups and allies. One’s identity informs their community’s stories and vice versa. When systems of oppression have negatively impacted our status (i.e., social, cultural, political, and economic) and attacked our sense of identity, we can respond by organizing social movements (for example, labor strikes, revolutions, and civil rights marches). To sustain social movements we can build coalitions with members across marginalized and oppressed groups and their allies to aid in the resistance to forms of domination. The purpose of social movements and solidarity has been to move toward liberation for our communities, to generate a sense of empowerment and rehumanization, and to participate in a democratic multicultural society. Throughout this textbook, there are examples of each of the five S’s relative to Chicanx and Latinx studies.

    Chicanx and Latinx studies teaches that some of our familial and community hxstories have been shaped by four major historical eras including:

    1. Indigenous or pre-colonial
    2. European colonialism
    3. cultural nationalisms, and
    4. contemporary era.

    Hxstories refers to the collective impact of past events, written from a more gender-inclusive perspective. The “x” is used to disrupt the often rigid gender binarist approach to telling history. Revolutionary movements take place throughout the four eras and have included people of all genders. Scholars have struggled against institutional and cultural biases to incorporate diverse voices in Chicanx and Latinx studies in an equitable way. For example, Indigenous Latinx peoples have consistently practiced forms of cultural preservation and collective resistance to colonialism. This work has fundamentally shaped the beliefs, values, norms, and policies that influence our day-to-day lives. However, these voices and perspectives have not always been recognized. Since the turn of the twenty-first century, Chicanx and Latinx studies scholars have observed a turn toward a hemispheric approach, which emphasizes the overlapping histories and experiences of people in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. These connections and tensions are explored and addressed as a significant area of inquiry throughout this book. 

    While Chicanx and Latinx studies directly address complex realities, which include oppression, violence, and inequity, the purpose is to present a clear and accurate understanding of the potential solutions and interventions that will advance equity, self-determination, and justice. For many students of Chicanx and Latinx studies, this is a way of learning to “read the world” in order to become more civically engaged toward a fair, inclusive society where everyone has opportunity and voice.2 Learning Chicanx and Latinx studies inside and outside of classrooms means understanding that society is deeply influenced by structures of power and resistance to domination, including hope and self-determination. Chicanx and Latinx studies teaches the importance of decolonizing our minds and recognizing the many generations of resilient and powerful ancestors and relatives who have supported us on our journey to becoming educated persons. To explore more about education in the context of Chicanx and Latinx studies, visit Chapter 8: Education and Activism.

    In this case, being educated means acknowledging that our families and communities hold valuable cultural knowledge of self and community, referred to as cultural funds of knowledge and cultural wealthor nuestra herencia (our precious knowledge).3,4 Through Chicanx and Latinx studies, we observe that the purpose of education is for social change, personal and social transformation, and community service.

    Chicanx and Latinx studies, like ethnic studies, is a discipline created with the intention of being by and for the community––we are in but not of the “ivory tower” or academy. As you will learn, Chicanx and Latinx studies rose not from the university but from community demands and social movements. Today the field’s emphasis is activist scholarship, personal and social transformation, resistance, healing, and collaboration. This includes the necessity of addressing both enduring and emergent collaboration and conflicts between groups and among diverse communities. Pan-African studies Professor Melina Abdullah reminds us that Black studies is the intellectual arm of the Black Power Movement.5 Similarly, Chicanx and Latinx studies is the intellectual arm of Chicanx and Latinx social movements, providing the intellectual tools for liberation and freedom for our communities, emphasizing the importance of knowledge generated in our communities.


    Review Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium.

    This perspective is inspired by the foundational work of Brazilian educator and scholar, Paulo Freire in his seminal 1970 text, Pedagogy of the Oppressed which has been recently re-published as Paulo Freire and Donaldo Macedo, Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 50th Anniversary Edition, 4th edition (New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).

    Moll, Luis C., Cathy Amanti, Deborah Neff, and Norma Gonzalez. “Funds of Knowledge for Teaching: Using a Qualitative Approach to Connect Homes and Classrooms.” Theory Into Practice 31, no. 2 (1992): 132–41.

    Yosso, Tara J. “Whose Culture Has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth.” Race Ethnicity and Education 8, no. 1 (2005): 69–91.

    Abdullah, Melina. “Institutions Didn’t Birth Ethnic Studies, Movements Did: The Long Struggle for the Nation’s Second College of Ethnic Studies.” Ethnic Studies Review 43, no. 1 (March 22, 2020): 5–12. Pan-African Studies Professor Melina Abdullah reminds us that Black Studies is the intellectual arm of the Black Power Movement.