Institutional Change and the Chicano Movement
Some Not Too Objective Observations
by Abelardo B. Delgado
Somewhat less romantic or idealistic, is the dedication of life-times to education and institutional change.
Basing the concept on the old-fashioned notion that natural change is more lasting, more effective, and more meaningful.
Some Chicanos within the movement have pledged themselves to institutional change. Examining any life you wish, from the lowest socially and economically speaking, to the most affluent and aristocratic, we see life responding to old-established institutions, but tend to do some steering and setting up of the rules, leaving poor individuals no “agraviando mas de nosotros Chicanos” to move according to these institutions which mercilessly slash our destinies.
These institutions, not necessarily in that order of the importance with which they shape or destroy our lives, are the educational, political, economical, and the church and business institutions: the family, the welfare system, the prison, the law enforcement agencies, the employment agencies, and other octopus-like state, local, and federal agencies.
Examine yourself any day, and see if during one single day you do not respond to these institutions more than a dozen times. For the sake of corralling them, we refer to them as “The System.”
A reason for believing such well-founded bodies can be altered, is that it was we humans who originally got them in motion, and we are capable of either destroying them or changing them. Changing them is not necessarily the easier of the two, but I guess because some are lazy in nature and do not wish the burden of starting from scratch and creating others in their place, they settle for changing the wrong or putrid parts of these systems by healthier parts.
Most Chicanos in the Movement have a better answer, and that is the one of setting up counter-institutions of their own making and of their own control. Examples are the Colegio Chicano Jacinto Trevino and the Escuela de las Tres Culturas, Tlatelolco, to mention two challenges into educational systems. They are saying, “Look, you have not done so hot with us Chicanos; let us give it a try ourselves.” Aztlán, in itself, is a replacement of the whole nation which was deaf and dumb to our needs.
What, I ask, can we do to substitute our beloved Catholic Church which is so rooted in us and yet has done us so much harm?
I must interrupt here to inject a report and an insight. Again, I'm on a plane headed back to Denver from the Midwest Chicano Conference where we have learned that our number one institutional reformer had been placed in jail. Cesar Chavez is in jail until he calls off the lettuce boycott.
The national reaction which will follow in the next day is of historical significance as we proceed to change the institution of historians by not only writing our own history, but making it.
At the conference, ten “Becas Scholarships” for Chicano law students were received. What we must interpret that to mean is that we are finally getting to the mightiest institution of them all, the economic one, for steering our own destinies means exactly steering our own economic destiny, since the other one has at best, kept us at the fringe.
When you interpret the Movement in getting our fair share of the pie in our own country, you can bet those used to dispersing but crumbs are going to react and try to anticipate our direction and advance ahead to stop our every move.
Institutions are willing to use flexibility and even allow us to lick their walls, but when we talk seriously of making them responsible to us, we threaten their matrix, and the fight pursuing is more viscous and bloody than a bloody revolution.
Other parts of this series: