Defining Chicana

By js, 4 January, 2009, No Comment

I got the following from JAM who teaches a class on Chicano Rhetorics.

Here’s a working definition of the term Chicana, which can also be applied for Chicanos.

For the purposes of our class, we’ll be relying on this definition.

In Learning from Experience: Minority Identities, Multicultural Struggles, Paula M. L. Moya states the following:

I want to consider now the possibility that my identity as a “Chicana” can grant me a knowledge about the world that is “truer” and more “objective” than an alternative identity I might claim as a “Mexican American,” a “Hispanic,” or an “American” (who happens to be of Mexican descent). When I refer to a Mexican American, I am referring to a person of Mexican heritage born and/or raised in the United States whose nationality is U.S. American. The term for me is descriptive, rather than political. The term Hispanic is generally used to refer to a person of Spanish, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, Chilean, Peruvian, and so on, heritage who may or may not have a Spanish surname, who may or may not speak Spanish, who can be of any racial extraction, and who resides in the United States. As it is currently deployed, the term is so general as to be virtually useless as a descriptive or analytical tool. Moreover, the term has been shunned by progressive intellectuals for its overt privileging of the “Spanish” part of what for many of the people it claims to describe is a racially and culturally mixed heritage. A Chicana, according to the usage of women who identify that way, is a politically aware woman of Mexican heritage who is at least partially descended from the indigenous people of Mesoamerica and who was born and/or raised in the United States. What distinguishes a Chicana from a Mexican American, a Hispanic, or an American of Mexican descent is not her ancestry or her cultural upbringing. Rather it is her political awareness; her recognition of her disadvantaged position in a hierarchically organized society arranged according to categories of class, race, gender, and sexuality; and her propensity to engage in a political struggle aimed at subverting and changing those structures. (41-2)


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