A New Wake-Up Call: “¡Despierten Hermanos y Organizense Chicanas!”

Founded in 1968 by Elizabeth “Betita” Martínez and Beverly Axelrod, the bilingual Chicana/o newspaper El Grito del Norte sought “to advance the cause of justice for poor people and preserve the rich cultural heritage of la Raza in [northern New Mexico]” by using familiar language to connect the struggles of its readership to the colonizing institutions culpable for their mistreatment (El Grito del Norte). In addition to calling attention to community needs and promoting Chicano interests in local politics, the newspaper acted as a safe space for women staff members to gain experience with the day-to-day operations of a full-scale news production. As a result, Chicana feminist contributors began to introduce ideas of the Chicana struggle for autonomy to the same audiences that were witnessing and broadly supporting the ongoing Chicano movement.

While it was originally intended to be published as a single article, Enriqueta Longeaux y Vasquez’s “¡Despierten Hermanos!” column became a focal point of El Grito del Norte and a key component of the newspaper’s emerging feminist disposition. In fact, Vasquez’s grito, her “scream,” consists of an urgent message to her Chicano brothers, who know what it is like to demand equal rights, to “wake up” and just as vigorously fight to defend the rights of their Chicana sisters. For example, in “The Women of La Raza, Part I,” Vasquez voices her frustration at the exclusion of Chicana women from the benefits of the Chicano movement. She describes the Chicana woman as one who “has had to suffer the torments of her people in that she has had to go out into a racist society and be a provider as well as a mother” and is “shunned again by her own Raza” when she attempts to become active in the Causa (10). The double oppression which Vasquez refers to here captures the dilemma faced by Chicana women advocating for greater agency at the time, namely the lack of belonging they felt to both the Chicano movement and the white feminist movement and thus a need to define themselves outside of both realms. Later, in “The Women of La Raza, Part II,” Vasquez shifts her focus to the Chicana women in her community, explaining “my dear sisters, we are bearing the brunt of raising our families in this barbarous society. We women must learn to function again like full humans, as did our ancestors,” alluding to the matriarchal prehistories woven into Mexican ancestral culture (13). By ending her stirring call to action with the words, “Let’s hold our heads high and proud and walk in beauty,” Vasquez suggests that engaging in political action as a Chicana woman is not only empowering but also consistent with ancient cultural tradition (13).

The first page of the La Chicana special edition of El Grito del Norte from 1971. Images of Chicana women of all ages protesting, marching, organizing, working, and playing. These images surround the title of the first section, which is Viva La Chicana and all Brave Women of La Causa."

El Grito del Norte features images of Chicana girls and women in solidarity with one another in a variety of forms. The rallying cry of “Viva la Chicana” is made more poignant with the inclusion of individual people in photographs to relate the movement for equal rights back to.

A few years later, the excitement for feminist ideas building up from within El Grito del Norte gave rise to the publication of a newspaper section dedicated to “La Chicana.” Articles with evocative titles, such as “Viva La Chicana and All Brave Women of La Causa,” “Our Unknown Revolucionarias,” and “Chicanas in La Pinta” spanned the sixteen-page feature, complete with photos of women of all ages protesting for their rights. “Viva La Chicana,” introduces the feature with the emboldening proclamation that “Our people are refusing to be filled with shame any longer, they are refusing to be oppressed, they are demanding liberation and a decent life,” yet insists that this transformation cannot be completed without the “unused talents, brain, energy” of those women not yet active in the movement, perhaps because the “machos” in their lives have dismissed La Chicana’s role (A-B). In her article, “Message to My Sisters,” contributor Anita Rodriguez echoes the need for all Chicana women to consider the role of oppression in their lives: “[The Chicana] has a responsibility to chase out of her head all those gringo ideas and values that have sneaked in. She has a responsibility to say to all the men who keep her tied to the house and buying-buying-buying — you don’t fool me any more, ya basta!” (J). Vasquez, Rodriguez, and all the women in training on the editorial staff over the newspaper’s 1968-1973 run period witnessed first-hand the positive impact that their reporting and commentary inspired and shared that knowledge and experience as they moved on to other publications. The feminist themes present in El Grito del Norte and the methods of their circulation bear close resemblance to the consciousness raising groups of the parallel Second Wave Feminist Movement and can be viewed as a precursor to the use of other forms of media to accomplish similar goals of Chicana empowerment.

Works Cited:

El Grito del Norte, vol. 1, no. 1, El Grito del Norte Editorial Collective, August 24, 1968.

Longeaux y Vasquez, Enriqueta. “The Women of La Raza,” El Grito del Norte, vol. 2, no. 9, 1969, pp. 8-10.

Longeaux y Vasquez, Enriqueta. “The Women of La Raza II,” El Grito del Norte, vol. 2, no. 10, 1969, p. 13.

Rodriguez, Anita. “Message to My Sisters,” El Grito del Norte: La Chicana, vol. 4, no. 4-5, 1971, p. J.

“Viva La Chicana,” El Grito del Norte: La Chicana, vol. 4, no. 4-5, 1971, p. A-B.

“A New Discovered World:” Chicana Feminist Publications on Campus

Just as the vitality of El Grito del Norte’s feminist awakening can be traced to the mentorship relations that introduced the young Chicana contributors to the in’s and out’s of the writing and printing process, Chicana feminist scholar Maylei Blackwell describes how new feminist visions came to fruition in Chicana studies programs across the United States in her chapter “Contested Histories: Las Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, Chicana Feminisms, and Print Culture in the Chicano Movement, 1968–1973.” Veteran Chicana activists took residency at universities and enlisted a new generation of Chicana student change-makers in the struggle to create a lasting assertion of their identities, struggles, and cultures against the tides of erasure (Blackwell 62) . This movement was especially noticeable in California, where students at San Diego State University, California State University, Fresno State College, and Stanford University, among others, formed organizations, courses, newsletters, and support groups in recognition of the shortcomings of the broader Chicano movement and the white feminist movement (Blackwood 64). For example, at California State University Long Beach in 1971, Anna Nieto-Gomez and a group of Chicana undergraduates, together forming the feminist student newspaper Hijas de Cuauhtémoc (Blackwood 69). This publication grew into the landmark 1973 journal Encuentro Femenil, published in two numbers in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and considered one of the first true Chicana feminist periodicals (Del Castillo).

Elsewhere, in her 1971 class “Imágenes de La Chicana” at Stanford, Rita Sánchez (and later Carol Castillo) encouraged her 32 undergraduate students to immerse themselves in the expression of their experiences as Chicana women, and their collaboration resulted in a “collection of student writings in a first attempt at a Chicana journal at Stanford” (Sánchez 2). The first edition of Imágenes de la Chicana incorporates a variety of poetry, essays, vignettes, and research projects, and Sanchez states in its preface that the text is a response to the lack of writings by or about Chicana women (3). This work, then, intends to stir the creative energy of the Chicana woman, wherever she may be. The energy in question is on full display in Dolores Rays’ poem “Descubistre,” in which the speaker stumbles across the beauty of the culture she has been taught to suppress and is overcome with the urge to do everything all at once:

to scream

to cry

to yell

to fight

to hate

to blame

to condemn

to think

to reflect

to ponder to understand

to read

to learn

to teach

to sing

to jump

to dance

to drink

to smoke

to party

to smile

to laugh

to talk

to love. (Rays 8)

The configuration of these single lines reads as an incantation of divine power, as if it is a command from the ancestors of long ago, instructing the women to bask in the newfound warmth of her soul. Rays’ speaker concludes by addressing the Chicana subject in the present with her blessing: “Now you are alive not merely in existence. Now you can live not merely function. Now you are living” (9). Here, Rays urges the reader to join the battle to defend La Raza, for the revelations of identity that occur outside of the “white-oriented society” are freeing. Free of discrimination, of humiliation, of abandonment and isolation, “this new discovered world” consists of the company of women who have understood the weight of the Chicana’s burden (9).

Image of the page corresponding to the editorial statement of the second and final issue of Imágenes de la Chicana. Surrounding the statement are candid pictures of the publication's contributors in collage form.

The editorial statement page for the second and final issue of Imágenes de la Chicana (1972). Framing the statement are images of the women who contributed to the publication and to the broader goal of reframing Chicana feminism.

In the second and final edition of Imágenes de La Chicana, the editors decide to appeal to a Chicano audience alongside the Chicana audience clearly addressed in the first issue. They assert in the preface, “Chicanas and Chicanos have always struggled alongside one another, and that unity adds strength” (Imágenes de la Chicana). Although the statement appears to be a compromise that weakens the independent feminist ideas of the original issue, it is underpinned by the idea that the liberation of Chicana women, at least in the eyes of the editorial staff, remains the primary objective, given that this cause lacked support from Chicano political organizations on numerous occasions. Thus, instead of limiting themselves to the existing boundaries of the Chicano movement, the students are challenging their Chicano brothers to adopt their cause and stand in solidarity with them. In this issue, Debbie Reed’s poem “Recuerdos de mi Barrio” describes a challenge that does indeed affect the entire Chicana/o community, namely “Anglo” infiltration (27). As “teachers, preachers, English majors / City planning, Urban renewal / McDonald’s, 7-11’s, and parking lots” invade the spaces that have been carved out by people who “can’t turn back to our fathers,” it is the most the speaker can do to hold on to at least the Spanish language, “nuestra lengua” (Reed 27). Since the patterns of colonization and of modernized removal repeat themselves as the “past and present mingle as one,” Reed, through her speaker, emphasizes how important it is for the Chicana/o community to resist, to keep its language, its meaning, its pride, its culture, its very blood (27). This edition of Imágenes de La Chicana serves as a reminder of the oppression of the Chicana woman on account of her sex, which exists in addition to the oppression faced by Chicano/a men and women on account of their race.

Works Cited:

Blackwell, Maylei. “Contested Histories: Las Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, Chicana Feminisms, and Print Culture in the Chicano Movement, 1968–1973.” Chicana Power! : Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement. 1st ed. Austin: U of Texas, 2011. Chicana Matters Ser. pp. 59-84.

Del Castillo, Adelaida R. “Encuentro Femenil.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States. Oxford University Press, Oxford Reference. www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195156003.001.0001/acref-9780195156003-e-266

Imágenes de la Chicana, vol. 1, no. 2, Chicano Press at Stanford, 1972, p. 3.

Rays, Dolores. “Descubistre.” Imágenes de la Chicana, vol. 1, no. 1, Chicano Press at Stanford, 1971, pp. 8-9.

Reed, Debbie. “Recuerdos de mi Barrio.” Imágenes de la Chicana, vol. 1, no. 2, Chicano Press at Stanford, 1972, p. 27.

Sánchez, Rita. Imágenes de la Chicana, vol. 1, no. 1, Chicano Press at Stanford, 1971, pp. 2-3.

A New Solidarity: The Potential for Chicano/Chicana Coalitions

Starting in 1967, Quinto Sol, an independent publishing house at the heart of the Chicano movement, released prints of El Grito: A Journal of Contemporary Mexican-American Thought. The journal served as foundational text for educational initiatives geared toward expanding Chicano Studies programs and curriculums, yet its research noticeably lacked Chicana voices, as Chicana researcher Roberta Fernández highlights in her work “Abriendo Caminos in the Brotherland: Chicana Writers Respond to the Ideology of Literary Nationalism.” In fact, only one Chicana woman served on its editorial board, and a mere four Chicanas were published in the entirety of the journal (Fernández 31). Thus, despite the monumental advances of new forms of student activism and newspaper participation, there still remained corners of the Chicano press world which were largely resistant to the upward trajectory of Chicana authors and editors.

 It was not until El Grito released its final journal copy in 1973 that Chicana authors were featured to an appreciable extent. At this time, the periodical transitioned from a journal to a book series and first printed Chicanas en la Literatura y el Arte, featuring the work of notable Chicana figures, including Estela Portillo, Ramona González, Angélica Inda, Lorenza Calvillo Schmidt, Dorothy Rangel, Adaljiza Sosa-Riddell, and Isabel Flores, with art by Lydia Rede Madrid (Chicanas en la Literatura y el Arte). The collection grounds itself in the lived experiences of its Chicana authors. Feminism, as a clearly defined concept, takes a backseat to such ideas as the remembrance of cultural roots, heritage, and the role of the individual woman in Chicana/o society. An instructive example of this difference can be found in Adaljiza Sosa Riddell’s “Como Duele.” Sosa Riddell references the details of her chosen assimilation into the United States, including the changing of her name and her ability to move around unperceived given her paler complexion (77). She mourns the fact that her former lover, by taking a different direction, ends up being sentenced to time in jail, and she questions what this means for her own cultural identity or potentially her lack thereof (Sosa Riddell 77). This positioning of Sosa Riddell’s speaker’s experiences somewhere between Mexico and the United States creates a narrative that is recognized by its Chicana/o readers aware of the pain of such experiences. However, the tone of the piece is more introspective than revolutionary, serving as a quiet reminder of the need for solidarity in the Chicano movement and, by extension, the Chicana movement. The speaker observes “what keeps me from shattering / into a million fragments? It’s that sometimes, you are muy gringo, too,” or, in other words, that she is not alone in her struggle with a fragile identity (Sosa Riddell 77).

A visualization of Lorenza Calvillo Schmidt's "Fellow Traveler" poem. To its right is an image of an older woman resting in a seated position.

Lorenza Calvillo Schmidt’s “Fellow Traveler” poem (1973), as it appeared in the first publication of the El Grito book series. The knowing expression in the eyes of the older Chicana woman drawn here suggest that the Chicana/o struggles even transcend generations, alluding to a sense of solidarity.

This gesture of solidarity is repeated in Lorenza Calvillo Schmidt’s poem “Fellow Traveler,” in which two women address each other as sisters, or fellow travelers along a road marked by unavoidable pain and sorrow. As the road serves as a metaphor for the stretch of hardships endured in the lifetime of a Chicana woman, the fellow traveler is once again a sharer in the solace, another woman who understands the suffering. Calvillo Schmidt describes the intersection of the travelers’ pain as a “spiritual communion,” and as a consequence of that union, the speaker remarks, “filled with your pain / i cried / at the recognition of my own” (64). This realization is closely tied to the sort of consciousness raising exercises that were seen in the later edition of El Grito del Norte. However, the distinction between the two messages lies in the author’s tone, as Calvillo Schmidt’s use of the lowercase ‘i’ comes across as a realization of a power she lacks rather than the power she is determined to grasp. Ultimately, it is a sense of solidarity in past experience, rather than a forward-looking vision of feminism which defines Chicanas en la Literature y el Arte, and while the collection stops short of inspiring action, its calls for unity among Chicanos and Chicanas are nonetheless compelling.

Works Cited:

Calvillo Schmidt, Lorenza. “Fellow Traveler.” Chicanas en la Literatura y el Arte. El Grito, vol. 7, no. 1, 1973, p. 64.

Chicanas en la Literatura y el Arte. El Grito, vol. 7, no. 1, 1973, 83 pp.

Fernández, Roberta. “Abriendo Caminos in the Brotherland: Chicana Writers Respond to the Ideology of Literary Nationalism.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 14, no. 2, 1994, pp. 23-50.

Sosa Riddell, Adaljiza. “Como Duele.” Chicanas en la Literatura y el Arte. El Grito, vol. 7, no. 1, 1973, p. 77.

A New Xóchitl Rising: Regenerating Chicana Feminisms for the Future

In 1970, Francisca Flores founded the Los Angeles magazine Regeneración, which Chicana feminist scholar Maylei Blackwell describes as a source of “vital contributions through…singularly forthright analysis regarding women’s issues” (61). In that vein, the editors of Regeneración devoted two full issues (1971, 1973) to solely considering the Chicana women’s struggles (Blackwell 62). While a number of other publications, including Chicanas en la Literatura y el Arte, were printed from within traditional outlets first popularized by figures from the Chicano movement, Regeneración was an example of a publication that formed organically, as Chicana women sought to better understand their relationship with feminism, cultural forces, and each other. In the editorial statement of Regeneración’s special Chicana issue from 1971, Flores emphasizes, “The issue of equality, freedom, and self-determination of the Chicana — like the right of self-determination, equality, and liberation of the Mexican community — is not negotiable. Anyone opposing the right of women to organize into their own form of organization has no place in the leadership of the movement” (1). In no uncertain terms, Flores calls attention to the hypocrisy of those belonging to the Chicano movement who would actively oppose the project of extending the emerging rights of the Chicano man to the Chicana woman through feminist organization. Further, in the article “Conference of Mexican Women: Un Remolino” in that same issue, Flores responds to criticisms that Chicana women who reject the so-called traditional roles of mother or home-maker are in “betrayal of [Chicano] culture and heritage” (1). Her fierce and famous rebuttal, “Our culture hell,” demonstrates her commitment to her fellow Chicana woman above all, as it is the exploitation of the Chicana woman which must be recognized before any true progress can be achieved (Flores 1). It is with this guiding principle that Regeneración takes form.

An illustrated version of Rebecca Arellano's "Death of Xochitl" poem with both English and Spanish versions. The image itself is an overflowing collection of faces and mythological depictions, matching the content of the poem

A display of Rebecca Arellano’s “Death of Xochitl” poem, which bemoans colonizing forces and envisions a return of Chicana feminism in its most divine form, accompanied by a drawing of an intruding wall of faces and faceless entities.

Published in 1973, the second special Chicana issue of Regeneración embodies the pragmatic yet authoritative feminism practiced by the women on the front lines of the burgeoning movement, as they made strides toward claiming the natural rights of the Chicana woman. In particular, the approach taken by Flores and her co-editors was to caution that the additional strenuating conditions placed on the Chicana woman render her struggles not equal to that of the white woman and thus important to consider on their own to avoid forming an imbalance alliance. In recognition of this concern, the issue opens with Rebecca Arellano’s “Death of Xochitl,” a poem reflecting on the erasure of Chicano/a histories at the hands of white colonizers, printed fully in both English and Spanish (2). Its subject, Xóchitl, the flower goddess of Aztlan, which is the Aztec homeland, was “uprooted” from her people and “carried off with the storm of [Hernán] Cortés” (Arellano 2). In choosing to focus on the feminine form Xóchitl, Arellano points to the ways in which this repeated cycle of forced removal and assimilation has harmed indigenous and Chicana women, their rich mythology and their trust corrupted in principle by violence and violation. However, she concludes her poem with a nod to the Chicana’s growing sense of unrest with the status quo and the heightened fervor of Chicana political organization, made possible by the distribution of feminist ideas through presses, conferences, rallies, and universities. In the emergence of the Chicana feminist movement, Arellano sees a force greater than any human scale:

I see a new Xóchitl rising

It is a bud of new blood, whom I see

Xóchitl will grow to overcome

Xóchitl will rise again to

bloom into a patch of roses

who will thorn your enemies. (Arellano 2)

Arellano’s message of liberation via personal and collective insurgency carries the weight of the movement and is echoed in a line from Diane Drollinger’s poem “​​Soy Nada Más Que Una Chicana,” which reads as an exclamation of self-love:




LA CAUSA DE VIDA! (Drollinger 25)

Drollinger’s exclamation represents the fact that Chicana women are claiming both their race and their right to broaden the aims of La Causa, the Chicano movement.

Over the course of its publication, which extended until 1975, Regeneración transitioned from a news source to a collection of editorials, poetry, and art which articulated new and exciting expressions of Chicana feminism. The magazine evolved as both a feminist press and a nexus of Chicana self-interpretation and self-determination, linking readers to budding Chicana feminist voices, advertising Chicana journals that sprung up across the United States, and promoting grassroots organization, including Flores’ Chicana Service Center and her Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional political group. While Regeneración was not the only Chicana feminist periodical to lay out new ideas for the radical inclusion of Chicana women, its ability to retain a distinctly feminist identity against pressures to merge with collectives with different priorities or to dissolve completely was its characteristic achievement. Regeneración and the network of Chicana-run presses that emerged separately from white feminist presses during the early 1970s set a precedent of Chicana women publishing Chicana feminist texts and laid the groundwork for new Chicana voices to articulate their feminisms throughout the decades to follow.

Works Cited:

Arellano, Rebecca. “Death of Xochitl.” Regeneración, vol. 2, no. 3, 1973, p. 2. 

Blackwell, Maylei. “Contested Histories: Las Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, Chicana Feminisms, and Print Culture in the Chicano Movement, 1968–1973.” Chicana Power! : Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement. 1st ed. Austin: U of Texas, 2011. Chicana Matters Ser. pp. 59-84.

Drollinger, Diane. “Soy Nada Más Que Una Chicana.” Regeneración, vol. 2, no. 3, 1973, p. 25.

Flores, Francisca. “Conference of Mexican Women: Un Remolino.” Regeneración, vol. 1, no, 10, 1971, pp. 1-3.

Flores, Francisca. “El Mundo Femenil Mexicana Regeneración.” Regeneración, vol. 1, no. 10, 1971, p. 1.