Chicano as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary , is “a Mexican-American”. Nationalism, as defined by the same publication, is “devotion to the interests or particular culture of a particular nation”. So by definition, we can infer that Chicano Nationalism is an interest in either the Mexican or American culture by a Mexican American, which is not a very concise definition. Before we can begin to define Chicano Nationalism, we must first define what is it to be a Chicano. In it’s simplest form, the American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of a Chicano is correct, but there is much more to it than being a Mexican-American. It is a realization of one’s past, present and future; realizing how far the culture has come, and how far it has yet to go. It is not only living the duality of both being a Mexican and an American, but also the multiplicity of being a descendant from any number of tribes and nationalities of people that have peppered the landscape of North and Central America over hundreds of years. There is no one distinct definition of being a Chicano, but an ever-evolving sense of being that at once combines heritage, personal beliefs, culture, politics and nationality.
Defining nationalism, although not as simple as American Heritage Dictionary’s definition, is an easier definition to ascertain. As it refers to the Chicano, nationalism has to do with a strong belief in one’s heritage, their homeland, the oppression felt be their people, the belief in the self as a nation, the sense of community, equal rights, and the right to exist and follow one’s roots. The concept of Chicano nationalism is one that Chicano writers have expressed their views upon in many ways. With analysis’ of Lorna Dee Cervantes’ “Poem For The Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, An Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe In The War Between The Races” and Corky Gonzales’ “I Am Joaquin” the reader will be exposed to two examples from each poem of the key elements of Chicano nationalism. These key elements will provide the reader with a greater understanding of how writers in this period exemplified Chicano nationalism.
Cervantes begins her poem with the lines, “In my land, there are no distinctions. The barbed wire politics of oppression have been torn down long ago. The only reminder of past battles, lost or won, is a slight rutting in the fertile lands.” This first stanza sets the tone for the poem as Cervantes chooses to take a stand by trumpeting the virtues of her own homeland, rather than downplay the misgivings present in our society. The line “In my land, there are no distinctions” is an obvious reference to the class structure that is prevalent in our (United States) society. It is this class structure, or modernized caste system, that divides people and puts them in a position to oppress or be oppressed. Hence we have an example of Chicano nationalism in that invariably the Anglos have always risen to power and...