Enriqueta Vasquez and the Chicano Movement: Writings from El Grito del Norte I by Enriqueta Vasquez; edited by Dionne Espinoza and Lorena.

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This volume is made possible through grants from the Rockefeller tion, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Exemplar Program, a gram of Americans for the Arts in collaboration with the LarsonAllen Public Services Group, funded by the Ford Foundation. Recovering the past, creating the future Vasquez, Enriqueta University of Houston Arte PUblico Press 452 Cullen Performance Hall Houston, Texas 77204-2004 Cover design by James F. Brisson Enriqueta Vasquez and the Chicano Movement: Writings from El Grito del Norte I by Enriqueta Vasquez; edited by Dionne Espinoza and Lorena Oropeza; foreword by John Nichols. p. em. Articles originally written in the 1960s and 1970s for the newspaper El Grito del Norte. ISBN-10: 1-55885-479-7 ISBN-13: 978-1-55885-479-6 I. Mexican Americans-Social conditions-20th century. 2. Mexican Americans-Social conditions-20th century. 3. Mexican Politics and government-20th century. 4. Vasquez, Archives. 5. Grito del norte (Espanola, N.M.) 6. United States-Race relations. 7. Southwest, New-Race relations. I. Espinoza, Dionne. II. Oropeza, Lorena, 1964-III. Title. E184.M5L65 2006 305.868’72079-dc22 2006042660 CIP <§ The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the can National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984. © 2006 by Arte Publico Press Printed in the United States of America 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 With love to Ruben, Ramona, and Bill Dedicated to Gloria Anzaldua, a mestiza who could weave words of serpentine grace to form vision and song of mystical sounds carried in the divine breath ofEhecatl now echoing in the mas alia creating new worlds on both sides of the border PAGE - 3 ============ Contents Foreword by John Nichols Preface by Enriqueta Vasquez Acknowledgements IX X111 xvn Introduction by Lorena Oropeza: "Viviendo y luchando: The Life and Times of Enriqueta Vasquez" XIX Conclusion by Dionne Espinoza: "Rethinking Cultural Nationalism and La Familia through Women's Communities: Enriqueta Vasquez and Chicana Feminist Thought" 205 Enriqueta Vazquez and the Chicano Movement: Writings from El Grito del Norte I. Land, Race, and Poverty Introduction .. 3 Discrimination 5 Los Pobres y Los Ricos .. 8 This Land Is Our Land . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Racism .. 14 "Communism," Just a Word . 17 Welfare and Work .. 20 More Abuses at Santa Fe Pinta . 24 II. Culture and History Introduction . 31 Teach True Values, Says La Raza Mother .. 33 'Tis the Season, Fa La La .. 36 PAGE - 4 ============ Let's Be Seen and Heard 39 16 de septiembre 43 The 16th of September . 4 7 La Santa Tierra .. 53 La Voz de Nuestra Cultura I 57 La Voz de Nuestra Cultura II 60 La Historia del Mestizo . 64 III. Nation and Self-Determination Introduction . 83 Somos Aztlan! (English) 85 i Somos Aztlan! (Spanish) .. 88 Our New Nation Is Born 90 Se Nace Nuestra Naci6n 96 Let's Take a Look at the Political System . 101 New Levels of Awareness . 106 IV. Chicanas, Organize! Introduction Ill La Chicana: Let's Build a New Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 The Woman of La Raza, Part I 116 The Woman of La Raza, Part II 122 Chicana Resolution 127 jSoy Chicana primero! . 129 National Chicana Conference, Houston .. 134 V. Corporate Institutions and Industrial Society Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 The Church Has Made Us Slaves . 143 Values Lost . 146 Apollo IX .. 149 Smog and Money Politics . 152 The Church and the People 155 158 The Atomic Age 162 Railroads and Land 163 VI. International Politics Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 Draft and Our Youth 171 Tio Sam Says: "Girnrne!" . 174 iQue Linda Es Cuba!: Part I .. 178 Raza, Nos Estan Matando. They Are Killing Us, Did you Know? 182 jQue Linda Es Cuba!: Part II .. 186 Kent State .. 190 El Soldado Raso de Hoy .. 194 El Soldado Raso Today 197 Third World Women Meet . 201 PAGE - 5 ============ Preface The publication of these articles, written over thirty years ago, resulted from the encouragement from my friend, Lorena Oropeza, who together with Dionne Espinoza made such a publication possible. It has been an honor to have known Lorena and Dionne who came to my home to interview me. Both are now profesoras at universities. That we have scholars and Chicana PHDers of this caliber teaching in our educational institutions fulfills a vision of what we hoped would come out of the Chicano Movement. Even more extraordinary is the fact that most scholars do not forget "La Causa Chicana," thus watering the rafces of the ancient past and living the Chicano epic. El Grito Del Norte, a Chicano newspaper based in Espanola, New Mexico, was born from the revolutionary flames that engulfed the Southwest in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It began as the official newspaper for Reies Lopez Tijerina's La Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres, an organization with a membership of 6,000 heirs ing descendents of fifty Mexican and Spanish land grants. With the help of Beverly Axelrod (RIP, June 19, 2002), we formed a tive of editors who came together as volunteers, community peoples and political activists. Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez led the pack, so to speak, by holding down the fort of El Grito headquarters in Espanola as it became a beehive of movement and activism. The variety of skills and people from all walks of life that united in producing this paper generated a phenomenal power of and with the people. El Grito reported Alianza demonstrations, courtroom battles, injustices and the growing militancy of the Spanish/Mexican population, Black Power, American Indian movements and national and international issues. The of history and culture in the form of poetry, stories, Xlll PAGE - 6 ============ XIV Enriqueta Vasquez recipes, and songs made El Grito appealing to everyone and it soon grew to be a very successful member of the Chicano Press tion, an organization of the time that included some fifty newspapers. Doing a newspaper became an important part of our lives and a priceless education to those creating it. One cannot separate El Grito from the Civil Rights Movement which empowered Raza with political knowledge and experience. Evolving with the activism of the times, we embraced a new literary form, breaking all conventions regarding er English, language purity, and word usage. Intellectual development grew with the use of bilingual lyrical abilities in a unique, creative, refined way, a people's way. This new Spanglish, as some call it, gave such freedom so that even my words and expressions in writing came from childhood family conversations as well as experience in nity meetings and political conferences across the country. I learned to listen, not only to words, but to the hearts of people; thus capturing the passion, anger, outrage, and indignation when discussing racism, greed, repression and exploitation. These sentiments became an eruption of hundreds of years of repressed thought now set free. This reflection of the past revealed who and what we had become and what we had lost, "por eso estamos como estamos." It deciphered the ence between "Justice" and "Justus" and in the process of activism, we envisioned a humanitarian way of governing by putting people before profits; a way to make people proud with honor and dignity. During this time, the newspaper and our homes were under stant surveillance and we were followed by local, state, and federal authorities. Many of us are in the congressional record with phone, car license numbers, and personal information openly ing us to whomever. Despite all of this, our home in San Cristobal, where we had moved to help start La Escuela Tlatelolco which would be based in Denver, became a hub of activity and a source of tion in reading, studying, discussing, and learning with family and friends. Our neighbor, Craig Vincent, became a mentor to many of us, as did Cleofas Vigil. They joined our home circle when visitors stayed with us and we learned of activists and activism across the country. Our kitchen table became the heart and axis of movement secrets, Preface xv 1 u hter and discussion. My children always listened and marvel .: g"Wow, Mom, if these walls could talk." 1 g, My articles and column, "Despierten Hermanos," today I would also say Hermanas, became a regular in El Grito del Norte, a grito that could be read and heard from New York to Mexico, Cuba, Latin ica, Puerto Rico, and all over the Southwest. I named the first column "Despierten Hermanos" and when I sent the next article, Betita called me to ask what I wanted to name it and without thinking I said, "Oh, call it 'Despierten Hermanos."' And so the column became Despierten Hermanos. I am but one of many who walked this path of change: it took a movement to change what this place called North Amerika had become. These essays represent labor and thought at a time when we even debated what to call ourselves. They are non-professional, most unplanned, some with logic and some with no logic, some great, some not so great and although diverse in subject, they remained consistent in taking racial attitudes, institutions, and ruling powers to task. I never claimed to be the best; actually I never even thought of myself as a writer or columnist, other people said that, not me. I just rambled, wrote my opinions my way, and ideas took shape flooding my mind with new ones. People either liked them or if they didn't like them, it made them think and pay attention to what took place in the country. A new dawn opened for La Raza. Of all of my writings probably the article that created the biggest whoooraah turned out to be "The Woman of La Raza." This lost me friends and made me a target for the renowned "Malinche" label. But, like so many of my writings, the rewards were many and this article opened centuries-old flood gates that poured forth in women's words and thoughts. I knew "This is very important," and from this article came a whole women's history book, The Women of La Raza, fully to be published soon. This women's book begins to define the side of that mestizo face medallion we wore so proudly, La India. The Chicana/o Movement is a vital chapter of Southwestern tory, a history needed to inspire new dreamers as activists become the elder generation. As we recall this chapter in Chicano history, we PAGE - 8 ============ Viviendo y luchando: The Life and Times of Enriqueta Vasquez Years later, Enriqueta Vasquez still remembered how whenever she visited the local hamburger joint in the town of La Junta, orado, she was handed her order in a paper sack. The restaurant's icy was to accept her money but not allow her to eat it inside. As the sign on the front door clearly read: "No Mexicans Allowed." Born in 1930 in nearby Cheraw into a family of farm workers who traveled the southern portion of the state, Vasquez had often experienced blatant discrimination against people of Mexican descent. After World War II began, however, the restaurant's segregationist policy suddenly struck her as intolerable. Was not this war being fought in the name of dom and equality and against a regime that embraced a creed of racial superiority? And did she not have three older brothers serving in the U.S. military fighting on behalf of American democracy? Although just barely a teenager, she decided to write a letter to the local paper in La Junta in which she railed against an injustice noted by many Mexican-American civil rights activists at the time: although ently good enough to risk their lives overseas, Mexican Americans were not good enough to be treated as equals at home.1 Faltering only at signing her name, she used the initials "HV" for "Henrietta Vasquez" having been renamed by a teacher upon entering the first grade. Then without telling anyone in her family, she mailed the letter and shortly afterward saw it in print.2 Long before she had become a well-known columnist for El Grito del Norte, a leading Chicano Movement newspaper, Enriqueta Vasquez was taking up the pen against injustice. Continuing that crusade as an adult, Vasquez's columns for El Grito del Norte showcased a distinctive voice of protest that was XlX PAGE - 9 ============ XX Lorena Oropeza fierce yet always hopeful. The main aim of her columns, entitled "jDespierten Hermanos!" [Wake up, Brothers and Sisters!], was to rouse an ethnic population that had long been described as a ing giant." Toward that end, Vasquez employed equal parts anger and humor to offer a Chicana perspective on such weighty topics as racism, sexism, imperialism, and poverty. As a columnist, she drew upon her own life experiences to insist upon the primacy of the cano struggle. Yet during an era of tremendous political dissent, Vasquez consistently situated the Chicano Movement within a er, even global, effort to advance equality. Candidly and even bluntly speaking truth to power, her columns traveled beyond New Mexico, where El Grito del Norte was published, and beyond the Chicano Movement. In the hope of allowing a new generation to reflect upon and perhaps find inspiration in her call for justice, this anthology has collected Vasquez's writings as they appeared in El Grito del Norte from 1968 to 1972. An anthology of Vasquez's work serves another purpose: to underscore the contributions and complexities of the Chicano ment more than thirty years after its height. Vasquez was an ardent champion of Chicano cultural nationalism, or Chicanismo, the main guiding philosophy of the Chicano Movement. In the words of the 1969 El Plan Espiritual de Aztlcm, a foundational blueprint for the Chicano Movement that Vasquez strongly endorsed, nationalism was "the key" to advancing "total liberation from oppression, exploitation, and racism."3 For more than a century, Mexican Americans had tled against discrimination in education, housing, employment, and the administration of justice. Yet during late 1960s and early 1970s, activists who called themselves "Chicanos" and "Chicanas" ed a politics of cultural identity that challenged long-held assumptions about the history and contemporary role of the racial-ethnic group within U.S. society. Rejecting any notion of themselves as newcomers or immigrants, Chicano Movement participants like Vasquez insisted instead that Mexican-origin people in the United States were nous to the continent and therefore were residing in their homeland. Aware of the difficulties of making that claim a reality, advocates of Introduction xxt Chicano cultural nationalism insisted that a critical first step was to promote cultural pride, which, they hoped, would lead to ethnic unity and, in tum, greater political clout for all Mexican Americans. Proud to be a participant in what proved to be the most intense and widespread struggle for social justice by Mexican Americans in the history of the United States, Vasquez nevertheless grappled with the dilemmas posed by this prescription. Many of her columns revolved around the same set of implicit questions: How might cano Movement participants foster unity with those Mexican cans outside the movement? What was to be the relationship between a politicized Mexican-American population and the majority society? And given the stated goal of "total liberation," what practical steps could Chicanos-and Chicanas-take to improve their status day? Her search for "answers" in her columns was revealing. ly, Vasquez's cultural nationalism never precluded her interest in inism or socialism or coalition-building in general. Although the angry criticism that Vasquez directed toward majority society was one notable feature of her columns, her vision of a better future ly included Anglo Americans and Mexican Americans alike. vering in her conviction that change was both possible and necessary, on the pages of El Grito del Norte Vasquez crafted a unique pedagogy of hope. That hope endured despite Vasquez's intimate familiarity with the pain of violence, poverty, and discrimination. For the past several decades, scholars have employed the categories of race, gender, and class as tools of analysis. Under these circumstances, much of Vasquez's life could be read as a textbook study in subjugation. To reduce her life story to victimization, however, omits her remarkable resilience. For Vasquez, multiple confrontations with inequity simply strengthened her resolve to fight against oppression. Yet in contrast to her written work, and in sharp contrast to the academic attention paid to several male leaders of the Chicano Movement, Vasquez's phy is not well known. It deserves to be. A chronicle of both suffering injustice and triumphing against it, Vasquez's personal narrative vides tremendous insight into her published work, just as the work PAGE - 10 ============ XXll Lorena Oropeza itself profoundly enriches our understanding of the Chicano ment's significance overall. Even as a child, Enriqueta Vasquez was always more inclined to speak out than bow down. As she once matter-of-factly observed, "I just had a strong sense of justice [from] somewhere." An intense sonality was apparently hers from the start: her baby picture shows a serious-looking Vasquez with her arms outstretched as if she were orating on some pressing matter. Also true, however, was that her experiences as a person of color, as a low-paid worker, and later, as a single mother and as an abused wife sharpened and refined Vasquez's innate sense of justice. Through much struggle and determination, Vasquez finally arrived as a member of the Mexican-American dle class at the age of 3 8. Yet personality and personal experience had by then forged a political activist. Not content to rest upon her plishments, Vasquez decided to abandon the comforts of a tional life and devote herself full-time to the Chicano Movement instead. A child of the Great Depression, one of the defining experiences of Vasquez's life appropriately enough was financial hardship. Her parents, Faustina Perez and Abundio Vasquez, were among the mated one million Mexicans who entered the United States during the first third of the twentieth century.4 Like many of their compatriots, they left desperate to escape the violence, chaos, and poverty of the Mexican Revolution. Traveling separately from the state of Michoacan, both found low-paid work as farm laborers in Colorado where they met and fell in love. Soon they were the proud parents of a rapidly expanding family that joined them in the fields, the oldest children working alongside their parents harvesting tomatoes, green beans, beets, and onions, the next oldest watching over the youngest ones. With only one younger sibling, Vasquez recalled pitching in with odd jobs and then caring for her little brother. Yet despite the nomic contributions of parents and children alike, the Vasquez ly, like many Mexican-American farmworkers at the time, still could Introduction xxm not afford basic medical care: only seven of Vasquez's 12 siblings reached adulthood. Given the strained economic circumstances of the family, one bright spot was making music. Thanks to a traveling music teacher named Bonifacio Silva, Vasquez learned to play the mandolin by age five. Eventually, she also became proficient on the violin and guitar. In fact, some of her happiest memories of her childhood against the bleak backdrop of Cheraw, Colorado--muddy and cold in her lection-were of song and dance. The family formed part of a village band organized by el profesor Silva that traveled to neighboring towns to celebrate such events as Mexican Independence Day, the 16th of September. Later, when Vasquez would use her columns to extol the richness of Mexican culture, her knowledge of traditional music tressed this sense of pride. As a young girl, Vasquez was closer to her father than her er. Part of the reason was that she was an unrepentant tomboy who loved sports and the outdoors. While her sisters called her ta," the name she had to use at school, her brothers called her "Henry" or "Hank." Given the choice between embroidering with the girls and helping the boys fix a car, Hank preferred the latter. Indeed, she learned to drive by the age of 12 in order to help her family with errands once her three older brothers had joined the military service and her eldest sister had gotten married. By then, Vasquez also knew how to shoot. The year before, her father, telling her stories of the Mexican Revolution the whole time, had taught her how to fire a 22-gauge rifle. Only half-joking, her mother warned that, given her daughter's quick temper, teaching her to use a gun was probably a bad idea. Nevertheless, both parents fueled Vasquez's innate sense of tice-as well as her sense of Mexican identity-by telling her various times as she grew up, "los gringos se robaron esta tierra (The gos stole this land)". Her mother, a curandera (a healer), also imparted knowledge of Mexican-and indigeneous Purepecha-culture. As Vasquez recalled, her mother helped deliver dozens of babies in the Cheraw area. She was a talented sobadora, having been taught by Vasquez's great- PAGE - 11 ============ XXIV Lorena Oropeza grandfather the art of indigenous therapeutic massage. Later Vasquez would pay tribute to the wisdom of her mother in such columns as "La Voz de Nuestra Cultura," which favorably compared the curative ers of traditional healing practices to Western medicine. By then, the two women had grown closer in part because they shared a similar political outlook. 5 As a youngster, however, Vasquez was painfully aware that she was not her mother's favorite. That designation went to an older sister who Vasquez years later described as beautiful, well behaved, and fair-skinned. Vasquez, in contrast, was dark-complected. Racism, another frequent theme in her work, consequently played a part in her political evolution as much as poverty. Encountering tle racism within her own family, she was assaulted by it outside her home. At school, children were punished for speaking Spanish. When Professor Silva arranged for the Cheraw banda to play at the "and we were good," recalled Vasquez-band members played to an empty auditorium. During a decade when deportations and tions to Mexico were common, Spanish-speaking parents preferred not to venture into the English-only school setting, Vasquez recalled; Anglo parents were apparently not interested. Only the school janitor who was responsible for opening the doors for the event showed up. Official segregation, as was the case with the hamburger joint and most other restaurants in neighboring La Junta, was also place. In La Junta, barbershops were also segregated. Closer to home, the elementary school in Cheraw had two swings, one for Anglos and one for Mexicans. Even if no Anglos were on the playground, Vasquez remembered, the ethnic Mexican children would dutifully line up to wait their turn on the swing designated for them. Subsequent years provided ample evidence of how poverty and racism were intertwined. As a teen, Vasquez landed a job at the local cannery where she noticed that during the height of the harvest son, employees, virtually all Mexican-American women, were ed to work through the day and most of the night. Yet they did not receive overtime pay. True to form, Vasquez wrote another letter, this one to the U.S. Department of Labor, prompting government gators to pay a call. Later, after she graduated from high school, Introduction xxv Vasquez, an excellent typist, moved to Denver hoping to land a tarial job. To her dismay, she was told at the state employment office that most businesses were not ready to hire "Spanish American" girls for office work. Especially, one might assume from the comment, dark-skinned ones. Vasquez's move was accompanied by dreams of a better future. For a while, those dreams came true. After a tough month of ing, she found a job doing everything from janitorial to clerical work in a furniture store owned and operated by a Jewish American man and his son, neither of whom evidently minded hiring a Mexican American. The wages were low, but the job had other benefits: Vasquez learned a lot about running a business, and the father trusted her to use the company car on weekends. She was young, happy, and independent. As someone with access to a car, she was also popular, with a wide circle of friends. Through this social circle she was duced to a friend's cousin, a New Mexican man named Herman Tafoya. They married in 1951. His parents struck her as "real nice people," Vasquez recalled. "I always thought that if you came from a good family, you were a good person."6 She was wrong. Five days after the wedding, her husband beat her. Called to service in Korea, he came back a heavy drinker and "even meaner." Vasquez thus came to know violent injustice directed against her as a woman. For several years, despite the beatings and her husband's holism, Vasquez attempted to make the marriage work. A son, Ruben, was born in 1952 while Tafoya was in Korea. Vasquez hoped that a child might bring the couple closer together, but recalled that her hope died once Tafoya returned unchanged. Nevertheless, in 1954, in another attempt to foster family unity, Vasquez relocated the family to Kentucky for several months so that Tafoya might pursue a ing opportunity there. "I tried to do what he wanted," Vasquez explained years later.7 Like many women during the 1950s, she also explained, she was convinced that the role of wives was to obey and respect their husbands, and that divorce was not only unthinkable, but also a personal failure on the woman's part. For several years, fore, Vasquez devoted the strength of her personality toward trying to 132 KB – 23 Pages