"I Am Joaquin (also known as Yo Soy Joaquin), by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, is a famous epic poem associated with the Chicano movement of the 1960's in the United States. In the poem, Joaquin (the narrative voice of the poem) speaks of the struggles that the Chicano people have faced in trying to achieve economic justice and equal rights in the U.S, as well as to find an identity of being part of a hybrid mestizo society. He promises that his culture will survive if all Chicano people stand proud and demand acceptance.
The Chicano movement inspired much new poetry. I Am Joaquin is one of the earliest and most widely read works associated with the movement. In its entirety, the poem describes the then modern dilemma of Chicanos in the 1960's trying to assimilate with American culture while trying to keep some semblance of their (own) culture intact for future generations, (the poem) then proceeds to outline 2000 years of Mexican and Mexican-American history, highlighting the different, often opposing strains that make up the Chicano heritage."
"In 1962, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta organized the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). Their motivating desire was to help farm workers receive higher pay and to improve their working conditions. A statement made by Chavez lends credibility to their desire. "If you're outraged at conditions, then you can't possibly be free or happy until you devote all your time to changing them and do nothing but that." From the beginning, the NFWA (later to become the United Farm Workers) adhered to the principals of non-violence. Chavez employed fasting and marches as a way of focusing attention on the cause.
His strong spiritual beliefs greatly influenced his dedication to peaceful reform. In 1968 he fasted for 25 days to show personal commitment, as well as the commitment of the farm labor movement, to non-violence. He fasted again in 1972 for another 25 days and in 1988, at the age of 61, he brought attention to the harmful effects of pesticides on farm workers and their families by fasting for 36 days.
The following statement shows his identification with the poor and suffering and his dedication to reform. ' This solution to this deadly crisis will not be found in the arrogance of the powerful, but in solidarity with the weak and helpless. I pray to God that this fast will be a preparation for a multitude of simple deeds for justice. Carried out by men and women whose hearts are focused on the suffering of the poor and who yearn, with us, for a better world. Together, all things are possible.'
On Mexican Independence Day in 1965, Cesar and the 1,200 members of NFWA voted to join a strike against the Delano grape growers.
The boycott gained widespread attention and millions of Americans rallied, thus making it highly successful. It also gained the support of prominent figures such as Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1970, twenty-six growers who feared financial ruin and a bad public image, acquiesced to Chavez’s demands, which included higher wages, improved living conditions and other concessions."
"Because we have suffered, and we are not afraid to suffer in order to survive, we are ready to give up everything- even our lives- in our struggle for justice." Cesar Chavez
"¡Si se puede!"
“We shall arm ourselves, and in America, the only weapon that counts is the vote. Be prepared to defeat those who humiliate us and defend those who stand with us.”
"Motivated and inspired by the success of the farm workers in their fight for equality, thousands of Mexican-American university students in California initiated their own grassroots movement for social equality that became known as the Chicano Movement. The term Chicano became associated with youthful assertiveness and a civil rights agenda. Although students and their supporters also used the term in reference to the entire Mexican-American population, it nevertheless had a more direct application to the politically active movement.
The Chicano Movement is diverse, multifaceted and compelling. It does not lend itself to a single definition or neat depiction. The Chicano initiative is composed of various goals. Many of them focus on education—the inception of bilingual/bicultural programs, development of Chicano centered curricula, increased number of Chicano educators and administrators, improved support services and many other educational issues. The movement also spearheaded cultural reform by creating politically motivated visual, literary and stage production art and addressing community concerns, employment issues and equality for women.
Throughout the 1970’s, students numbering in the thousands formed several activist organizations. Although the leaders and participants in the movement did not always agree on policy and direction and indeed often quarreled, they had a common purpose—to acquire the civil rights and privileges that the larger sector of society already had. Eventually, most of them merged under the umbrella of El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA).
The movement achieved great advancements in higher education, employment and business and also won major civil rights victories but perhaps the greatest impact was on the people themselves. They gained renewed strength and the realization of their ability to affect change."
"Together, all things are possible."
“No Statue of Liberty ever greeted our arrival in this country...we did not, in fact, come to the United States at all. The United States came to us.”
(Click title to read poem by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales)
The National Farm Workers Association
The Chicano Movement