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“Chicanx” is historically an ethnic identity for Mexican Americans, yet the term has shifted over time. It has been used to preserve culture and resist full assimilation, as a term of derision, and more recently, as a political identity for persons of any racial or ethnic background. Even the form of the word has changed over the years (Chicano, Chicana, Chican@, Chicanx) to be more inclusive of intersectional experiences.

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This reading list begins by examining the construction of race for persons of Mexican descent living in the United States and how this construct was used by various institutions to racially discriminate against Mexican Americans. Further, this racialization process erased complex identities that included Indigenous, Black, and European ancestry. Below are works focused on activism during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which sought to address historical inequities experienced by Mexican Americans. While these inequities existed (and continue to exist) across a number of institutions, this list includes resources on education, policing, and housing. Responses to the movement are contained heavily in Chicana Feminism, which expanded the field to include intersectional understandings of race, gender, and sexuality. For this reason, resources on Chicana Feminism are heavily featured in the reading list.

Lastly, as the field of Chicanx Studies is interdisciplinary in nature and continues to evolve, the reading list concludes with current areas of study. In recent years, the field has seen increased research on LGBTQ+ experiences and has addressed more contemporary issues shared between persons of Mexican and Central American descent. Evidence of this shift in the field can be seen in the recent change in the name of the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano and Central American Studies. For this reason, the reader will find articles toward the end of the list that discuss Central American experiences and resistance to hegemonic structures and institutions.

This is far from an exhaustive list on the field of Chicanx Studies and/or the experiences of Chicanx and Central American communities in the United States. Rather, this is one collection of resources to introduce readers to foundations and key concepts within the field.

Martha Menchaca, Recovering History, Constructing Race: The Indian, Black, and White Roots of Mexican Americans (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001).

This book by Martha Menchaca covers a history of how race has been constructed and altered to categorize Mexican Americans in the United States and how these varying definitions have been used within a legacy of racial discrimination. Menchaca begins with the Spanish colonial period in Mexico, which included the introduction of slavery through racial laws, and continues through to contemporary laws regarding education and segregation. At the core of the book is the racialization process that has taken place to define Mexican Americans in the US, which ignores and erases the historical Indigenous, Black, and/or European ancestry of persons of Mexican descent.

Natalia Molina, “‘In a Race All Their Own’: The Quest to Make Mexicans Ineligible for US Citizenship,” Pacific Historical Review 79, no. 2 (2010): 167–201.

Natalia Molina examines historical challenges to Mexicans’ legal and racial status in the United States. These attempts were specifically aimed at making Mexicans ineligible for citizenship by categorizing them as “Indian,” as Native Americans, who were not eligible to become citizens under US law since they were often categorized as neither Black nor white. Using extensive archival materials, Molina contributes to our understanding of the construction of race in the US and how racial classifications are practiced at informal and formal levels.

Cybelle Fox and Thomas A. Guglielmo, “Defining America’s Racial Boundaries: Blacks, Mexicans, and European Immigrants, 1890–1945,” American Journal of Sociology 118, no. 2 (2012): 327–79.

Fox and Gugliemo provide a contemporary discussion on definitions of race in the United States through an in-depth examination of theory and literature. In doing so, they challenge the notion that “whiteness” can be expanded to include persons of Latin American and/or Asian descent in the same fashion it was expanded to include southern and eastern European immigrants. They examine “bright” and “blurred” boundaries to demonstrate how different racial and ethnic groups have been excluded from whiteness and how racial definitions within law often differed from social practices. They specifically use the history of Mexican Americans to propose a potential future understanding of race in the US for other persons of Latin American, Asian, and Middle Eastern descent.

William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, “The Lynching of Persons of Mexican Origin or Descent in the United States, 1848 to 1928,” Journal of Social History 37, no. 2 (2003): 411–38.

Carrigan and Webb examine persons of Mexican descent as the target of organized racial violence, with a specific focus on the Southwest United States. As scholars have often overlooked anti-Mexican violence, the authors’ extensive archival research adds to our understanding of racially based violence during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The authors argue that “placing the experience of Mexicans into the history of lynching expands our understanding of the causes of mob violences and the way in which individuals and groups sought to resist lynching and vigilantism.”

Gilbert Estrada, “If You Build It, They Will Move: The Los Angeles Freeway System and the Displacement of Mexican East Los Angeles, 1944–1972,” Southern California Quarterly 87, no. 3 (2005): 287–315.

Urban development has a long history of displacement among minority communities in the US, and the Mexican Community is no exception. Beginning with the forced evictions that took place in Chavez Ravine to build Dodger Stadium, Estrada examines a history of property seizure to accommodate urban renewal projects in Los Angeles following World War II. He specifically discusses the construction of LA’s freeway system and examines why more freeways were built through the predominantly Mexican East Los Angeles while construction plans in predominantly white neighborhoods were often altered or removed from planning maps.

John Betancur, “Gentrification and Community Fabric in Chicago,” Urban Studies 48, no. 2 (2011): 383–406.

Betancur examines impacts of gentrification on low-income racial/ethnic groups in Chicago, with a particular focus on Mexican American and Puerto Rican experiences. He explains that these two groups often rely on social fabrics of neighborhood support and advancement. Since these groups are more limited in mobility due to their income, they are thus more vulnerable to effects of displacement when they lose these fabrics. The author then contrasts this experience with that of past European immigrants who also depended on social fabrics, but who, unlike Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, did not confront added layers of race and urban restructuring.

Miguel A. Guajardo and Francisco J. Guajardo, “The Impact of Brown on the Brown of South Texas: A Micropolitical Perspective on the Education of Mexican Americans in a South Texas Community,” American Educational Research Journal 41, no. 3 (2004): 501–526.

Guajardo and Guajardo examine the impact of Brown v. Board of Education on Mexican Americans’ pursuit of education equity. While the landmark case ruled segregation by race to be illegal in schools, it also allowed schools to work towards integration at their own pace. Addressing the growing discontent regarding the speed at which states were addressing inequities that stemmed from school segregation, the authors situate a case study of a 1968 student walkout in South Texas within larger Chicanx youth activism across the United States, including the student walkouts (or blowouts) in East Los Angeles.

Edward J. Escobar, “The Dialectics of Repression: The Los Angeles Police Department and the Chicano Movement, 1968–1971,” The Journal of American History 79, no. 4 (1993): 1483–1514.

Escobar discusses police responses to protests and demonstrations during the Chicano Movement by examining events that took place following the National Chicano Moratorium demonstration in East Los Angeles, which included the killing of Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar. The demonstration was organized to protest the disproportionately high numbers of Mexican American casualties in the Vietnam War and included more than 20,000 participants. Escobar further discusses campaigns used by law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles to quell activities of the movement, and how Chicanx activists navigated these responses.

Margaret Rose, “Traditional and Nontraditional Patterns of Female Activism in the United Farm Workers of America, 1962 to 1980,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 11, no. 1 (1990): 26–32.

Margaret Rose discusses the role of Mexicanas and Chicanas in the unionization efforts of farm workers in early 1960s California. Rose challenges male-dominated narratives on activism within the United Farm Workers of American, AFL-CIO, which often solely focus on the contributions of César Chávez. She achieves this by revealing the wide ranges of roles played by women from Dolores Huerta, who performed leadership activities, to activists like Helen Chávez, who often performed “behind the scenes” work.

Maylei Blackwell, ¡Chicana Power!: Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011).

Maylei Blackwell’s book is an in-depth study of women’s involvement in the Chicano Movement (el movimiento) of the late 1960s and 1970s. As Chicanos in the US organized and protested in efforts to address social issues faced by the community, women began to actively engage with the many gender gaps within the movement. This ultimately led to new forms of gender consciousness, awareness and political identities that challenged the confines of Chicano nationalism. Blackwell draws on oral history and archival research to illustrate these struggles, and provides examples of pioneering Chicana activists, theorists, and feminist organizations.

Alma M. Garcia, “The Development of Chicana Feminist Discourse, 1970–1980,” Gender and Society 3, no. 2 (1989): 217–38.

Alma Garcia traces the development of Chicana Feminism from 1970 to 1980 by discussing the principles and foundations upon which it was built. This includes a discussion of specific issues facing Chicana feminists, including the relationship between Chicana feminism and cultural nationalism, feminist baiting within the Chicano Movement, and the relationship between the Chicana feminist movement and the white feminist movement. She additionally provides a comparison with Asian American and Black feminism, which also faced similar issues.

Norma Alarcón, “Traddutora, Traditora: A Paradigmatic Figure of Chicana Feminism,” Cultural Critique no. 13 (1989): 57–87.

In this key contribution to Chicana Feminism, Alarcón discusses the Virgen de Guadalupe and Malintzin as a binary pair within Mexican/Chicanx thought. As the Virgen de Guadalupe emerged as a version of the Virgin Mary, she became seen as a representation of the expected gender roles placed upon Chicanas. Meanwhile, the enslaved Indigenous Malintzin Tenepal, who translated for Cortés, came to exist as the binary opposite of Guadalupe. Historically villainized for the downfall of the Aztec empire, our understanding of Malintzin has been revisited and reframed by Chicana feminists, as she challenges gender roles and expectations. This revisioning presents Malintzin as a figure of intellect, of choice, and with voice.

Horacio N. Roque Ramírez, “‘That’s My Place!’: Negotiating Racial, Sexual, and Gender Politics in San Francisco’s Gay Latino Alliance, 1975–1983,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 12, no. 2 (2003): 224–58.

Horacio Roque Ramírez provides an overview of the activities and founding of the Gay Latino Alliance (GALA) in the San Francisco Bay Area. He discusses the organization of activists in San José and San Francisco to form the group, along with the group’s contributions to Queer Theory. Specifically, it examines how GALA activists sought to address race, sexuality, class, and gender simultaneously as multiple dimensions of their social experience. This challenged notions that these experiences were inherently unrelated to each other and positioned race and ethnicity as indispensable to queer theory.

Victor M. Rios, “The Consequences of the Criminal Justice Pipeline on Black and Latino Masculinity,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 623 (2009): 150–62.

Rios examines how race, crime, and punishment are experienced as gendered phenomena by marginalized adolescent males, specifically examining the experiences of Black and Latino youth. He discusses the multiple litmus tests that one must pass to be assigned “real man” status and how these tests are further complicated by race and class. While wealthy men can prove masculinity with their ability to earn money, youth from historically marginalized communities more often must rely on toughness, survival, and violence. The author discusses how the policing of these behaviors, and the incarceration and probation that often follows, provides masculinity-making resources that young men use to develop a sense of manhood and gendered practices that are rooted in hypermasculinity.

Edward E. Telles and Vilma Ortiz, Generations of Exclusion: Mexican-Americans, Assimilation, and Race (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2008).

Telles and Ortiz use interviews with Mexican Americans, combined with previously existing research data, to construct a thirty-five-year analysis of the Mexican American experience and the integration of this demographic into US society. Their analysis examines a number of measures, including education levels, language usage, socioeconomic status, intermarriage, residential segregation, ethnic identity, and political participation. Their findings demonstrate that Mexican Americans do not fit traditional models of assimilation, as the third and fourth generations after immigration continue to experience barriers to education, economic opportunities, and housing. While immigration literature often focuses on the first- and second-generation experiences, Generations of Exclusion tells the often unheard story of the generations that follow.

Amy Hsin and Francesc Ortega, “The Effects of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on the Educational Outcomes of Undocumented Students,” Demography 55, no. 4 (2018): 1487–1506.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) offers undocumented persons who arrived in the United States as children temporary relief from deportation and two-year renewable work permits. DACA followed failed efforts by the United States congress to pass the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act), which would have provided a pathway to citizenship and was enacted through an executive branch memorandum. This article examines DACA’s effects on educational attainment, pursuit, and outcomes by undocumented persons and how these in turn affect their social mobility.

Cecilia Menjívar, “Liminal Legality: Salvadoran and Guatemalan Immigrants’ Lives in the United States,” American Journal of Sociology 111, no. 4 (2006): 999–1037.

The field of Chicanx Studies is evolving to include research, learning, and understanding of persons of Latin American descent who experience similar challenges to the Chicanx community. The 1980s saw a dramatic increase of Central American immigration to the United States due to political turmoil, and many people settled in the southwest United States. In this article, Cecilia Menjívar examines how uncertain legal statuses affect the lives of Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants. Menjívar specifically presents research performed with persons living in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Washington, DC, from 1989 to 2001, situating their experiences within notions of citizenship, belonging, and segmented assimilation.

Giovanni Batz, “Maya Cultural Resistance in Los Angeles: The Recovery of Identity and Culture among Maya Youth,” Latin American Perspectives 41, no. 3 (2014): 194–207.

The aforementioned increase in Central American migration to the US brought with it a Maya diaspora in which an Indigenous identity is confronted with challenges of adapting to predominantly Latino/Hispanic/Chicano cultures and/or Euro-American culture. This article specifically looks at the Maya experience in Los Angeles and how Maya children navigate challenges of assimilation into the mainstream Latino community and the adoption of strategies to preserve identity. While being intentional with the words “recover” and “reconstruct” due to a history of colonization and displacement, the author explores the recovery and reconstruction of Indigenous culture through music, religion, literature, and language. While “children of Maya may ‘recover’ the essence of being Maya and the memory of a Maya past and ‘reconstruct’ what it means to be Maya in their daily lives in Los Angeles.”

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The Journal of American History, Vol. 91, No. 1 (June 2004), pp. 260–261
Oxford University Press on behalf of Organization of American Historians
Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 79, No. 2 (May 2010), pp. 167–201
University of California Press
American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 118, No. 2 (September 2012), pp. 327–379
The University of Chicago Press
Journal of Social History, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Winter 2003), pp. 411–438
Oxford University Press
Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 87, No. 3 (Fall 2005), pp. 287–315
University of California Press on behalf of the Historical Society of Southern California
Urban Studies, Vol. 48, No. 2 (February 2011), pp. 383–406
Sage Publications, Ltd.
American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 41, No. 3, Accountability and Equity (Autumn 2004), pp. 501–526
American Educational Research Association
The Journal of American History, Vol. 79, No. 4 (March 1993), pp. 1483–1514
Oxford University Press on behalf of Organization of American Historians
Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1, Las Chicanas (1990), pp. 26–32
University of Nebraska Press
The Women’s Review of Books, Vol. 28, No. 5 (September / October 2011), pp. 21–22
Old City Publishing, Inc.
Gender and Society, Vol. 3, No. 2 (June 1989), pp. 217–238
Sage Publications, Inc.
Cultural Critique, No. 13, The Construction of Gender and Modes of Social Division (Autumn 1989), pp. 57–87
University of Minnesota Press
Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 12, No. 2, Special Issue: Sexuality and Politics since 1945 (April 2003), pp. 224–258
University of Texas Press
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 623, Race, Crime, and Justice: Contexts and Complexities (May 2009), pp. 150–162
Sage Publications, Inc. in association with the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 38, No. 3 (May 2009), pp. 240–242
American Sociological Association
Demography, Vol. 55, No. 4 (August 2018), pp. 1487–1506
Duke University Press on behalf of the Population Association of America
American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 111, No. 4 (January 2006), pp. 999–1037
The University of Chicago Press
Sage Publications, Inc.