- We are Aztlán!: Chicanx Histories in the Northern Borderlands ed. by Jerry García
We are Aztlán!: Chicanx Histories in the Northern Borderlands, edited by Jerry García, is a compilation of articles focusing on Chicanas/os in Michigan, Washington, and Oregon. The edited volume is divided in three sections: Empire and Borders, El Movimiento in the Northern Borderlands, and Community, Labor and Immigration. García argues that he and the contributors are moving away from the traditional narrative that has over emphasized the Chicana/o experience in the Southwest. This argument is outdated as a string of studies and publications ranging from Zaragosa Vargas, to Dionicio Valdés, to Rubén Martinez at the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University among others have examined and encapsulated the Chicana/o experience in the Midwest. Several authors in this volume do however touch upon a rapidly growing area for Chicanas/os, the Pacific Northwest.
Carrying from the connection to Aztlán that gave Chicanas/os a claim to belonging in the United States during the late 1960s and 1970s, this volume attempts to expand the concept of Aztlán to the northern borderlands. The strength in this edited volume lies in the inclusion of interdisciplinary perspectives from a wide range of scholars in various fields focusing on the lived experiences of Chicanas/os. One of the stronger pieces included is by Dionicio Valdés who revisits and re-evaluates the internal colony theory that focuses on the lasting impacts caused by the American colonization of Mexican Americans and Native Americans. The study addresses the imperialist efforts of the United States along with its treatment of Mexico, Mexicans, and Chicanos alike. Valdés concludes that an imperialist mentality has been pervasive in the U.S. since its founding and has culminated in today's rise of neoliberal globalization that continues to exploit Mexico and Latin America for the benefits of an elite minority at the costs of working people across countries.
Another strength of the volume is the concentration on the Chicana/o struggle in the Pacific Northwest. Josué Estrada insightfully examines the suppression of the Latina/o vote in Yakima County in Washington State and Oscar Rosales Castañeda sheds light on the movimiento in the Yakima Valley. Chicanos and Puget Sound are rarely mentioned in the same sentence, much less discussed. Yet, the issues plaguing these communities are the same [End Page 1482] confronted by earlier generations of Chicanos, and these same issues continue to plague them currently as extreme right-wing forces attempt to curb voting rights throughout the country.
The chapter by Norma Cárdenas is also a worthy contribution. Using oral histories, she gives voice to a Chicana activist who made improvements and contributions to the lives of Chicanas/os in Oregon. Cárdenas shows the existence of vibrant Mexican culture in a state not often identified with a growing Chicano population. Carlos Saldivar Maldonado and Rachel Maldonado also demonstrate the Mexicanization of a community in Oregon. Again, their work provides evidence of what many people see in communities from coast to coast: the Browning of America.
The struggle for Chicana/o liberation is real and goes beyond the individual while addressing the collective whole. The piece on the creation of Chicano/Latino Studies at Michigan State University is too triumphalist, as the author who was a student at the time places himself at the center of the struggle. The program continues to face significant challenges and barriers, which either questions the achievements the author insinuates or reaffirms the contentious environment he explores.
Today, the problems virtually remain the same as Chicanas/os continue fighting for political, educational, and institutional inclusion. The authors also indirectly raise an ongoing issue amongst Chicanas/os and Latinos: a lack of a unified identity. Throughout the volume, the authors use a range of terminology ranging from Chicana/o, Chicanx, Latinx, Xichana/o, Latina/o, Mexicana/o, amongst others which demonstrates not only the agency and diversity...