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Chicanas of 18th Street

Narratives of a Movement from Latino Chicago

Leonard G, Ramirez

Publication Year: 2011

Overflowing with powerful testimonies of six female community activists who have lived and worked in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, Chicanas of 18th Street reveals the convictions and approaches of those organizing for social reform. In chronicling a pivotal moment in the history of community activism in Chicago, the women discuss how education, immigration, religion, identity, and acculturation affected the Chicano movement. Chicanas of 18th Street underscores the hierarchies of race, gender, and class while stressing the interplay of individual and collective values in the development of community reform._x000B__x000B_Highlighting the women's motivations, initiatives, and experiences in politics during the 1960s and 1970s, these rich personal accounts reveal the complexity of the Chicano movement, conflicts within the movement, and the importance of teatro and cultural expressions to the movement. Also detailed are vital interactions between members of the Chicano movement with leftist and nationalist community members and the influence of other activist groups such as African Americans and Marxists.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xv

At the end of the 1990s, a social gathering unexpectedly set me on a journey that was to last more than a decade. That night, a group of six women asked that I help them document the experiences that contributed to their activism and eventual involvement in a political network based in Chicago’s Pilsen community. The project was unique for several reasons. Little had...

List of Abbreviations, Organizations, and Programs

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pp. xvii-xx

Chicago Movement - Time Line

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pp. xxi-xxviii

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Introduction: Second City Mexicans

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pp. 1-16

At the 1969 National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver, Chicano poet Alurista was surprised to learn that Mexicans had arrived from such exotic places as Kansas City and Chicago (Alurista, conversation, April 29, 2009).1 From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, this narrowly focused vision on the Southwest may be difficult to comprehend...

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Homecoming, 1997

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pp. 17-28

I look down from my window hoping to see Isaura’s blue two-door sedan pull in front of the arched doorway of my six-flat. Only a faint seam of daylight remains at the edge of the clouds. The vehicles pass quickly through the glow of the streetlights. The car that had momentarily caught my attention moves down the avenue without pause. The one at the corner continues...

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A Legacy of Struggle

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pp. 29-53

Just north of Chicago’s downtown shopping area, elaborate floats, decorated automobiles, and dancers in ornate costumes attempt to form some semblance of order.1 Organizers scramble to take care of last-minute details. High school youths dressed in red uniforms with brass instruments at their sides search for fellow band members. Groups prepare to move in unison at the first sign of the parade...

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Living the Life I Was Meant to Lead

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pp. 54-75

Saturday is a busy day in Chicago’s downtown shopping district.1 Suburbanites come into the city in crowded buses and on trains. The more daring suffer through traffic jams in search of reasonably priced parking. On the streets, mothers push baby carriages and firmly grasp small, gloved hands that occasionally try to break free and run toward glittering holiday window displays. Mechanical toy figurines...

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Una Chicana en la lucha [Image Included]

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pp. 76-100

Warmer weather brings everyone in Pilsen out of their homes. College students join other young people who congregate in community centers, church basements, and parks.1 For some time, there has been talk of a new high school. However, the Chicago Board of Education and Pilsen Neighbors seem to be embroiled in a frustrating cycle of fruitless meetings. Many suspect that the board is using bureaucratic...

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A Woman of My Time

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pp. 101-117

It is almost eight a.m. on a Friday morning, and the meeting space at the back of the bookstore is a mess.1 The blackboard, metal folding chairs, and tables from the night before are scattered in an inexplicably, haphazard way as if children had upended things in the course of their play. The vestiges of last night’s class, a language workbook, candy wrappers, scraps of paper, and other debris, remain...

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Defending My People and My Culture

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pp. 118-136

I learned about Magdalena’s case on an ice-cold Saturday afternoon.1 Forty people were walking a picket line in front of the Daley Center. One sign read, “Magdalena, fired after seventeen years of service.” I had heard something about this in the community. However, meeting Magdalena face-to-face that day was how I really learned about her story. Magdalena and I walked the line together while she told...

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A Proud Daughter of a Mexican Worker

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pp. 137-165

Around 1969, Father Colleran invited me to a small gathering of workers, mostly parishioners from Saint Vitus in the Pilsen community.1 The pastor helped get the group together. Pablo Torres was the main organizer. He later became president. His wife attended, but most of the people in the circle were men. Father Colleran was always promoting me. He arranged for me to be the speaker at several Catholic high-school-commencement ceremonies because he thought...

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Social Action

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pp. 166-200

Why do people become involved in social movements? There are many dimensions to this question that do not lead to simple generalizations. The vast majority of Mexicans in the 1960s and 1970s did not join the Movimiento. They did not realign priorities, uproot their families, or change the balance of their personal, social, and professional existence to make change the driving...

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Women of 18th Street: Our Preliminary Assessment

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pp. 201-204

The Movimiento took steps to overcome some of the barriers that have traditionally divided Mexicans and deterred their formation into a strong political entity. Nationally, the Movement’s response to racism and political and economic disenfranchisement was community empowerment. In Chicago, the Comité used popular education and direct action to fight for reforms...


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pp. 205-212


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pp. 213-217


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pp. 219-224

Further Reading, Publication Information

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pp. 225-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093029
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036187

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Latinos in Chicago and the Midwest
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OCLC Number: 760411092
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Chicanas of 18th Street

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Subject Headings

  • Mexican American women -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Biography.
  • Community activists -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Biography.
  • Mexican Americans -- Illinois -- Chicago -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Chicano movement -- Illinois -- Chicago.
  • Pilsen (Chicago, Ill.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Chicago (Ill.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century
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