"Chicano writers from El Paso are the most progressive, open-minded, far-reaching, and inclusive writers of them all."

Octavio Romano

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lunes con Lalo Delgado: Wisdom for Your Week - The Chicano Movement: Some Not Too Objective Observation - Background


Lunes con Lalo Delgado: Wisdom for Your Week
The Chicano Movement: Some Not Too Objective Observation - Background

by Abelardo B. Delgado


We can truly say that the Chicano has recently been defined, exposed, structured, and felt, particularly in the Southwest, but to say that the Chicano movement began “not too long ago” is an error. The Chicano community in the United States has been in a constant state of rebellion against the economic and foreign mode of life that has been imposed on us ever since the very first day that a white man and a brown man crossed paths. This refusal to acculturate, to be absorbed or assimilated into the dominant and larger society, is the heart of the Chicano Movement, and it has been ticking away, quite healthily, without the need of a transplant. Among our abuelos, there were many silent heroes in the scope Jacinto Trevino who never had a corrido written about them, but whose feats of sheer defiance at life's risk surpassed our present demonstrations.

Hanging onto the language and values, treasured much more than the luring plushness of materialistic wealth, was the base of, and, perhaps, the most meaningful contribution in the Chicano Movement. We presently criticize our ancestors for taking so much abuse as the hands of the powerful gringos, but fail to see with what meticulous care they managed to protect the family and children for a later day, our day, today! 

While it is true that they took some literal kicks from despotic patrones, back seats here and there, outright omission of this and that, subject to derogatory remarks and stern lookdowns, the pioneers in the Chicano Movement managed to survive, and what is best, theirs and our dignity -- though roughened and bent -- was never destroyed.

The Pachuco movement was a more manifest way of expressing a desire to remain autonomous, but unfortunately, the movement was too much of a retreat into drugs rather than a direct confrontation with the oppressors. We became infested with a blinding desire to strike out, and did so through gang wars with our own carnales. This was n the early 1940s and continued into the 1950s and was perhaps, a close predecessor of a combined effort emulated throughout the Southwest, in particular – in El Paso, (El Chuco) Texas and Los Angeles, California. 

The peg pants gave way to khakis, the oxblood shoes, with triple soles and horseshoe tips, to combat boots; but the “calo” (slang) way of communication remains even now, a strong influence of our language, i.e., “ese,” “bato,” “carnal,” “jefe,” etc. It was at the beginning, not necessarily a youth thing with us; but quite mature men were involved. The duck-tail haircut and the fancy sharkskin zoot suit were trademarks. 

The gangs, the ambassadors of this movement – almost a millions Chicanos through the Southwest were part of a movement in that they dared, by their dress, walk, and way of speaking, to be identified with the Pachuco; thereby, daring school officials, employers, and others to scorn them.

It can be said that after World War II, a vast majority of Chicanos, returning as veterans exposed to a semblance of force equality in the army structure, came to demand equality in their own communities. This new breed of exposed Chicanos had seen the high prices paid during World War II by La Raza, and when returning, brought back the bill to America. While this was a healthy experience, a sad mentality accompanied many of our Chicano brothers. The bug that bit them, causing them to claim a better way of life, had the moral ill effects that could only be done a la gringo way. 

Most of those ex-G.I,.s realizing their own short-comings, language, and educational-wise, decided that their children would speak English only; and that education was, indeed, the salvation of the Chicano. Most of us, in the movement, are direct descendants, or second generation, of that Chicano and that mentality.


from The Chicano Movement: Some Not Too Objective Observations by Abelardo B. Delgado, (Denver: Colorado Migrant Council, 1971), prepared by the Colorado Migrant Council. Published with permission from the Delgado Estate. (c) Abelardo Delgado 1971.

Commentary by Raymundo Eli Rojas: In my interview with Lalo Delgado, he explained that as the movement was in its flow and Chicano Studies Programs were springing up across the nation, they had no texts to use. So a common Delgadoism (as Richardo Sanchez would call it) would be to write your own. The King of Self-Publication, Lalo put out several self-published manuscripts that he would use in his Chicano Studies classes. The above one happen to be published by the Colorado Migrant Council and distributed by Totinem Publication of Denver.

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