Lunes con Lalo Delgado:The Chicano Movement: Some Not Too Objective Observations
by Abelardo Delgado
Of a confusing nature even to Movement Chicanos, is the concept of Aztlán. It is a concept unknown, revered, feared, and at times, very much disliked and unaccepted.
First, it is considered foreign. By merely looking at the word or hearing it, one fights it mentally. Its authoritative, or academic source is vague in that being an Indian concept (Aztec) was merely an abstract at the time Aztecs had their empire. It was a mere reference to the territories north of their empire which now can be said to be the Western United States (South, Mid and Northwest).
It was then a name to refer to what lay north of Mexico, their empire. Now we know what lies north of that empire, our homes, our cities, our states, and as, there is a definite relationship linking us to that civilization, we, in fact, merely wish to acknowledge that we know where we are.
California and Colorado, the first to wise up to this fact, capitalized immediately on this idea, making it a definite Movement concept, a pillar. Because these two states were alert to the use the idea, certainly a bit of natural jealously and regionalism crept up, and the concept was not that readily embraced, understood, or accepted in the other Western states and to the east.
Thanks to the excellent network of communication, most Chicanos in the Movement now know of the Aztlán concept.
Aztlán became, in fact, a plan of work, within the movement in Denver, and became known as “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán.” In my earlier paper, “1970 – The Year of the Chicano,” I made some detailed reference to this plan. Let us suffice to recall that the plan speak strongly of a Chicano nationalism which is a prerequisite to assert our proper role in our communities and to be given the respect we deserve. It is based on a strong “carnalismo” which is the spiritualistic strength of the Movement.
Interpreted in general terms for most of us Chicanos, it is another attack on those who stoke the lands that belong to our “abuelos,” and a serious intent to reclaim those lands. Since the land issue is always more vividly alive in New Mexico, Aztlán has a flavor it own in that state. Most Chicanos in the Movement have, by now, gotten into the habit of introducing themselves por ejemplo, Lalo Delgado from El Paso, Aztlán.
So, do not look for this Aztlán on Gringo maps because it will not be there. As a point of departure, a friend and I were hitch-hiking and we were picked up by a nice Anglo couple who proceeded to make conversation and asked us where we were from. When we said Aztlán, they did not say anything, but went on to ask us as to how it was “over there” thinking all the while we had said “Iceland.” We must do something about our pronunciation!
Aztlán confuses the post office somewhat because most of us are writing Aztlán in our letters, educating the United States Post Office at the same time. Again, the word Aztlán, like the word “Chicano” does not set too well with some of our more educated brothers who dismiss both as nonsense or tools we invent to make boobs of the many Chicanos who swallow the terms blindly and thereby, being in fact at cruel as Gringo historians in dispensing lies. Chicano and Aztlán are both words which are “hijas legítimas del barrio y de la raza and therefore, true and strong source of pride.
Other parts of this series:
Part IV Goals
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.