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The positive significance of the Southwest can be explained by the fact that the present states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and parts of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas were at one time Mexican territory. Mexico inherited this vast territory when it acquired its independence from Spain in 18211. Furthermore, these Southwest Mexicans never acquired a strong link to Mexico. Mexicans in some of these regions, in New Mexico primarily, maintained a strong link with their past and a heritage that they traced to the Southwest and to colonial New Spain. Mainstream society promoted a separate identification of Mexicans, even as they were being incorporated into the Union. The positive impact was that Chicano were the only national groups which kept Spanish language traditions in the U.S. territory. Spanish authorities and officials established written traditions in this land before the first English colonies penetrated this region. Also, they established Spanish as an official language and provided education on Spanish2. Churches and church schools were also crucial vehicles in preserving Spanish. In the nineteenth century, when Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy took control of the Catholic Church in New Mexico, he attempted to wrest control away from local Hispanic leaders; nonetheless, he had to allow the use of Spanish in Catholic schools. Also in nineteenth-century New Mexico, schools newly established by Baptist churches taught Spanish along with English so that future ministers could be effective in proselytizing New Mexicans. In California, mission churches ministered in Spanish, offering a continuity lasting from the colonial period until the end of the nineteenth century3.
In the process of these territorial severances, many Southwest Mexicans felt insecure that provisions protecting Mexicans would be honored; others were embittered because they felt Mexico had betrayed them. As a consequence, out of the tens of thousands of Mexicans living in the Southwest, about three thousand took advantage of official Mexican attempts to repatriate marooned Mexicans in the newly acquired American territories. The experience of oppression of Mexicans who remained behind in the U.S. was cited regularly by Chicano Movement activists as a basis for charges of historical mistreatment4. In essence, it is true that, because of an Anglo-American unwillingness to accept Mexicans as equals, they often ignored treaty agreements that gave Mexicans all the rights of citizens. But as Anglo domination increased, Spanish was pushed out of areas dominated by Anglos; at times it was vilified and almost always subordinated by them. Immediately after the war with Mexico, for example, most official and economic activity was conducted in English. In the political arena, Mexican Americans promoted bilingualism in the legislatures of New Mexico and California, yet proceedings almost always took place in English. As Spanish-speaking politicians improved their English or lost their power, Spanish was eradicated. The American acquisition threatened identity and ethical unity of the population, their cultural traditions and values. The Mexican population opposed this influence speaking Spanish language at home and preserving their cultural traditions. The break that immigration brought to the mainspring ideal of the Chicano Movement, a claim to the Southwest heritage, presented movimiento ideologies with a ...Show more


The Chicano Movement ushered in a new era. It was a time when young people from ethnic and mainstream groups in various parts of the country sought to express their hopes for the country. In the history of the U.S., no other era embodies the rise of youthful self-conscious idealism…
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Chicano History
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