- Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975
George Mariscal's book adds to a growing number of works that emphasize complexity in the movement among Mexican Americans in the 1960s and 1970s. Brown Eyed Children of the Sun is not chronological history, but a "map" of "the complex ideological field" of the Chicano movement designed to provide lessons for a new generation of activists (p. 21). Those lessons center on the need for coalitions among the oppressed and for an international approach to justice and politics, and Mariscal chronicles what he considers positive models of these approaches. To do so he differentiates between "narrow nationalism"—bad because it is limited and tends toward separatism—-and "cultural nationalism" and "internationalism"—good because they allow for cooperation with other groups. His goal is to show that narrow nationalism did not dominate the movement, but rather coexisted in tension with the other forms. For Mariscal, the best of the Chicano movement was driven by cultural nationalism, at times impeded by narrow nationalism, but on the whole more positive than negative.
After laying this groundwork, Mariscal provides five topical chapters to "glean important insights" and "adjust them for current conditions" (p. 50). The first of these reinterprets the Chicano Movement as essentially internationalist by analyzing the rhetoric of movement narratives, including those of less-studied figures and anonymous activists as well as famous leaders such as Gutiérrez, Gonzales, and Tijerina. Mariscal then examines ways that Chicano artists, writers, and others used the Cuban Revolution and the image of Che Guevara in their internationalist efforts. A similar chapter does the same for César Chávez, illuminating the complex reactions to him within the movement and drawing interesting comparisons with the reactions to Che. An examination of cooperation between Chicano and African American organizations focuses heavily on Reies López Tijerina. A final chapter explores the attempts by a multi-ethnic coalition to create Lumumba-Zapata College at the University of California at San Diego (the author's institution), an effort Mariscal explains as a negotiation between narrow nationalism and internationalism, reinforcing his argument that the two existed in tension throughout the era.
Mariscal's narrative is stimulating, and his account of the existence of alternative nationalisms within the movement is a significant contribution. Ultimately, Brown Eyed Children of the Sun is best understood by its subtitle—as lessons from, rather than a history of, the Chicano movement. It is not tied to chronology, archival evidence (privileging archival sources, we are told, is a "naïve empiricist notion" [p. 141],or cause-and-effect, and while these chapters may provide inspiration for future [End Page 434] activists, they may not convince all readers that cultural nationalism was as prominent as the author implies. Mariscal's polemical asides may frustrate others. He repeatedly dismisses all scholars with whom he disagrees as products of the neoconservatism and neoliberalism of the "Reagan-Bush Years" (which include Bill Clinton), and as professionals placing class-interest above culture. Those with whom he agrees are simply labeled the more "astute" or "perceptive" observers of the movement.
While Mariscal often pulls back from claiming that cultural nationalism was dominant, the thrust of his argument does suggest its centrality, for example when he notes that it "served as the social glue that held the collective subject in place" (p. 30). To show cultural nationalism's existence, however, is not to show its influence, and it will take further study to determine whether cultural nationalism is the most appropriate way to interpret the driving force of the Chicano movement. But regardless of how typical this alternative nationalism was, Mariscal succeeds in challenging us to understand the complexity of the Chicano movement, and provides much for scholars and activists alike to consider.