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  • The Vietnam War and Chicana/o Environmentalism in El Grito del Norte (1968–73)
  • Emily Cheng (bio)

This essay addresses El Grito del Norte (EGDN), a Chicana/o nationalist newspaper published in Española, a small working-class town in northern New Mexico, from 1968 to 1973. The paper was originally formed to support the politics of La Alianza Federal de Mercedes (Federal Alliance of Land Grants), the organization led by Reies López Tijerina that in the 1960s and 1970s sought the restoration of land grants established under the Spanish and Mexican governments. Written and run by women, the paper was founded and edited by Elizabeth "Betita" Martínez (known previously as Elizabeth Sutherland), whose socialist and third-world feminist politics shaped the paper's concern with the connections between rural Chicana women of New Mexico and other women of color in the US and abroad.1

Though the paper was committed to Chicana/o issues grounded in New Mexico, it soon moved away from its original role as a mouthpiece for the Alianza to include reports on indigenous issues in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. EGDN was, in Martínez's words, the "only one" of "about twenty Chicano newspapers … that was completely international."2 Of particular importance was the newspaper's reporting on Vietnam, which made it exceptional among a Chicano press in the 1960s that, George Mariscal notes, "was largely silent on the topic of the war in Southeast Asia."3 The paper's coverage included a special issue on North Vietnam by Martínez, a five-part series by Valentina Valdez explaining Vietnam and the war to readers, articles addressing Chicanos serving in the military by Enriqueta Vasquez that appeared in "El Soldado Razo Today" and her column, "Despierten! Hermanos," reports on the military events of the war, poetry by Ho Chi Minh, and a report on the Chicano Viêt Nam Project, a solidarity organization.4

While other scholars have written about the newspaper's concerns with land in New Mexico and, to a lesser extent, its third-world feminist politics, I examine how these aspects of the paper come together with its internationalism [End Page 55] to represent a distinctive and radical "environmental" politics. I do not mean to argue that the writers and activists who contributed to EGDN identified themselves as environmentalists or to attach this label to them. What I do want to argue is that, in contrast to the mainstream environmental movement that emerged in this period, these women writers possessed an environmental understanding that fundamentally engaged social justice, particularly around issues of race, gender, and imperialism.

The environmental epistemology in EGDN was shaped by, but moved beyond, the long-standing relationship between Mexican-origin people, land, and nature in the US Southwest that was central to Chicana/o nationalist politics, as I discuss through Vasquez's article "La Santa Tierra." In considering Vietnam as another site in which to explore and understand the violence the US empire inflicts on land and colonized people, EGDN made connections between the US Southwest and Vietnam that developed its alternative environmental lens. Approaching the North Vietnamese as fellow peasants, or "campesinos," whose harmonious relationship to the land was being attacked by US imperialism, the newspaper made womanhood central to forging this relationship between Chicana/o and North Vietnamese anticolonialism. The feminist politics of "global sisterhood" facilitated the writers' interest in Vietnam, and their access to direct encounters with Vietnamese women through the international women's peace movement. The women writers of the paper also deployed a gendered lens that highlighted the role of women in environmental resistance to masculine military violence and symbolically established similarities between the two communities through idealized portrayals of rural, domestic life.

With its attention to the lived human relationship to land, EGDN offered an alternative to notions of land that were central to mainstream American environmental thinking, which generally assumed the "separability of the human and natural realms … expressed through a melancholic attitude linking natural plenitude with human absence."5 In this mainstream tradition, land has been considered through the ideal of wilderness, and the human realm predominantly characterized by the individual relationship to the land through possession...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 55-73
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-28
Open Access
No
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