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5.5: Disrupting Sexism and Homophobia en La Familia

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    Political Familism

    While the ideological concept of la familia had some negative implications for Chicanas, one positive attribute was the call for total family participation in the struggle for racial justice. In her seminal 1975 sociological study, Chicana feminist Maxine Baca Zinn calls this fusion of cultural and political resistance political familism.44 She challenges the sociological literature that, at the time, attributed burgeoning egalitarian Chicano family dynamics to assimilation, instead arguing that family activism in general and Chicana participation in movement activities, in particular, brought about dramatic shifts in gender roles while enabling Chicanos to maintain familial ties. In fact, Baca Zinn claims that historically, the family has been a source of protection and refuge for Chicanos/as in a hostile racist society and the maintenance of the extended family kinship system is in direct opposition to the dominant colonial nuclear family structure. In other words, women’s participation in El Movimiento transformed their relationship to the family and to other’s gendered expectations of them.

    Expanding Notions of La Familia

    Additionally, romanticized notions of la familia were further disrupted by the Chicana Welfare Rights Organization, whose activism centered poor single Chicana mothers on welfare, unsettling the idea that the Chicano family was constituted by a male head-of-household in a heterosexual partnership. Similarly, critiques of Chicano heterosexism were taking place in the political and creative work of Chicana feminist lesbians such as Gloria Anzaldúa, Ana Castillo, Naomi Littlebear Moreno, and Cherríe Moraga. In her groundbreaking essay “Queer Aztlán,” Moraga  calls for more expansive notions of la familia, expressing a desire for “a new nationalism in which la Chicana Indígena stands at the center, and heterosexism and homophobia are no longer the cultural order of the day.”45 While Chicanismo called for the involvement of la familia to challenge oppressive external conditions, Chicana feminists extended this view to include oppressive intracultural conditions, namely sexism and homophobia, within la familia itself, demonstrating the feminist principle that the “personal is political.” Chicana feminists worked to expand and reframe the notion of la familia as an important unit that could collectively demand liberation for all its members. Writer and activist Enriqueta Longeaux y Vásquez put it this way: “look at each other as one large family. We must look at all of the children as belonging to all of us. We must strive for the fulfillment of all as equals, with the capacity and right to develop as humans."46


    44 Maxine Baca Zinn, “Political Familism: Toward Sex-Role Equality in Chicano Families,” in The Chicano Studies Reader, An Anthology of Aztlán, 1970-2015, eds. Chon A. Noriega, Eric Avila, Karen Mary Davalos, Chela Sandoval, and Rafael Pérez-Torres (Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, 2006), 438-450. Baca Zinn provides a few examples of Chicano movement organizations that drew on the strength and power of the family to advance their agenda. These include the farmworker movement, the Chicano revolt against the Crystal City school district in 1969 and the subsequent formation of La Raza Unida Party, and El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, among others (441-442).

    45 Cherríe Moraga, “Queer Aztlán: the Reformation of the Chicano Tribe, in The Last Generation: Prose and Poetry (Boston: South End Press, 1993), 145-174.

    46 Enriqueta Longeaux y Vásquez, “The Women of La Raza,” in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings, ed. Alma M. García (New York: Routledge, 1997), 31.

    This page titled 5.5: Disrupting Sexism and Homophobia en La Familia is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Amber Rose González (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .