Chapter 11: The Chicana and the Arts
6. How did women’s political participation influence the arts?
Women were central in the formation of Chicana Studies at San Diego State University. It developed when "
Chicanas became more politically aware," writes Sonia Lopez. Women had begun to question assigned gender roles. "
As early as spring of 1969 at the Chicano Youth Conference held in Denver Colorado, a few vocal Chicana activists raised the issue of the traditional role of the Chicana in the Movement." With time "
a lack of Chicana leadership became more obvious in student organizations" at SDSU. By 1970 Chicanas began to form groups on campuses all over the southwest to address problems in what became a political movement.
Chicanas knew that to legitimize their concerns meant addressing them publicly. Many attended The First National Conference in Houston, Texas in May 1971. Chicanas organized responding to liberation rhetoric versus movement reality. Part of the reality was that Chicanas became aware that they were "
not visible and given little credit for [their] efforts." It soon became clear that their organizational efforts at conferences, symposiums, and meetings were as "
cooks, secretaries, and janitors," noted Sonia Lopez. Often times, it was noted, "
a Chicana’s recognition was established by being the wife, girlfriend, or party-mate of a ‘heavy.’" In the end, a split resulted. Sonia Lopez recalls activists were labeled "
women's libbers and lesbians" while others who did not agree with the Chicana activism dropped out of student groups like MEChA altogether. Those efforts by Chicanas at San Diego State set the stage for a developing consciousness around women’s issues, a standard which continued to spread.
There was not a separation between student activism and the arts, and so what was occurring at Chicano Park, the Centro Cultural, and at SDSU became a kind of cultural revolution, as the two elements intertwined. Chicanas were becoming politically aware. They were very conscious of class poverty, struggles in the fields, discrimination of their culture, and sexism in the colleges and in the family as the basis for making statements in the arts.