Elizabeth Martínez (December 12, 1925 - June 29, 2021) was an w:Chicana feminist and a community organizer, activist, author, and educator.
- … I had my own personal experiences with prejudice. I was the only child of color in primary school, junior high and high school. I went through all those years feeling like a freak in one all-white school after the other. The family next door wouldn't let their daughter play with me because I was Mexican. I got on a bus once in D.C. with my father, who was very dark, and they told us to go to the back of the bus, where black people had to sit in those years. All this created in me a feeling of empathy and solidarity with people of color and formed the roots of my commitment to fighting for social justice and against racism.
- On becoming a political activist in "Unite and Overcome!" in Teaching Tolerance (Spring 1997)
- … I don't use "Hispanic" because it is Eurocentric and denies the fact that the people being labeled are not just of Spanish origin. Nor do they all speak Spanish. "Hispanic" denies our indigenous or Indian roots. It also denies our African roots, from the thousands of slaves that were brought to Latin America. "Hispanics" are a unique people made up of at least three different populations. For many of us the term "Latino/Latina" is better than "Hispanic." It has a connection with Latin America, not with Spain. But "Latino" is by no means ideal because it has a European connotation, also. The term comes from "Latin," which was, of course, a European language.
- On what she prefers to be called ethnically in "Unite and Overcome!" in Teaching Tolerance (Spring 1997)
- Thinking about racism in terms of just black and white is a further "invisibilization." We have to recognize the commonality of experience of racism among people of color. Sometimes racism is based on skin color or other physical features; it can have added components of culture, language and legal status -- as in the case of people of Mexican descent.…
- On racism in "Unite and Overcome!" in Teaching Tolerance (Spring 1997)
- ours is an age of intensified empire-building in which no war is unthinkable.
- 2003 preface to Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean edited by Jennifer Browdy
- …it’s just another front in the battle against racism. And that’s what it was, because New Mexico was much more colonial than any other area, but it was all the same damn racism. And so I never felt like I was breaking any life pattern; I was just shifting to another front.…
- On how she joined the Chicano Movement in “ELIZABETH (BETITA) MARTINEZ” (Voices of Feminism Oral History Project; 2006)
"Viva La Chicana and All Brave Women of La Causa" (1971)Edit
El Grito del Norte, Vol. 4, No. 4-5, June 5, 1971: a-b. Anthologized in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings
- All over the country today, La Raza is in motion. A spirit of awakening runs through the big city barrios, small towns, colleges and universities, the countryside. Our people are refusing to be filled with shame any longer, they are refusing to be oppressed, they are demanding liberation and a decent life...They are working on problems like working conditions and pay, education, welfare rights, housing, child care, police brutality. They are forming groups of women with names like Las Chicanas and Las Adelitas.
- we know that more Chicanas must become involved. It is our job as Chicanas to wake them up, encourage them to see that they have a responsibility larger than their immediate families-a responsibility to the whole familia of La Raza, the whole family of oppressed peoples. And a responsibility to their own un-used talents, brain, energy.
- The fact is, nothing could be more truly Chicana than the Chicana who wants to be more than a wife, mother, housekeeper. That limited concept of women did not exist under our Indian ancestors for whom the woman was a creative person in the broadest sense and central to the cultural life of the tribe. Later in Mexican history, we find that the woman has played every possible role-including that of fighter on the front lines.
- That is the true Raza tradition, a communal tradition
- Revolutionary Chicanas want the liberation of our people and of all oppressed peoples. We do not want to become page-girls in President Richard Nixon's Congress the most recent bone tossed to "women's liberation."
- We do not want a few Chicanas to get better jobs, higher salaries, while everyone else continues to be exploited.
- revolution means turning things upside down and taking another look at what is taken for granted. So revolution means new ideas about relations between men and women, too.
"La Chicana" (1972)Edit
From Ideal, September 5-20, 1972: pp. 1-2. Anthologized in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings
- The history and problems of La Chicana are similar to those of Latin-American women. Although the native Indian women of the Americas was, before the Spanish conquest, far from being completely free, she often participated more fully in the life of the society than did her sister under Spanish rule. The coming of the European, with his Catholic Church and feudal social system, was a turning point. Our roots lie in the act of rape: the rape of women, the rape of an entire continent and its people.
- Today we can say that the Chicana suffers from a triple oppression. She is oppressed by the forces of racism, imperialism and sexism.
The Chicana of working class origin, like her Third World sisters in the United States, is born into a life pattern that we see again and again. If she finishes her secondary education, she is lucky. The Chicana who does agricultural work is almost never able to accomplish this; she must go to work in the fields at an early age, along with other members of the family, and move with them around the country as they search for work.
- The Chicana may be working 16 hours a day to support for her children, but she will still be viewed as a sexual object rather than a human being. Unless she is over the age of 35 or 40, she will be seen more as a face and body than as a fellow worker and fellow victim of oppression.
- We will not win our liberation struggle unless the women move together with the men rather than against them. We must work to convince the men that our struggle will become stronger if women are not limited to a few, special roles. We also have the right to expect that our most enlightened men will join in the fight against sexism; it should not be our battle alone.
- They perceive how our oppressor uses "machismo" against us-for example, by appealing to a Chicano's sense of supposed manhood in order to get him to kill Vietnamese. Sexism is a useful tool to the colonizer; the men are oppressed but they can beat and mistreat women, who thus serve as targets for a frustration that might otherwise become revolutionary. Some men understand very well that the full participation of women is needed if our people are to win the liberation struggle.
- The truth is that we need to reexamine and redefine our culture. Some of us do not believe that in our culture, femininity has always meant: weak, passive delicate looking... in other words, qualities that inflate the male ego. The women of La Raza is traditionally a fighter and revolutionary.
- The revolutionary Chicana does not identify with the so-called women's liberation movement in the United States because up to now that movement has been dominated by white women of middle class background.
- the women's liberation movement has rejected traditional family. For us, the family has been a source of unity and our major defense against the oppressor.
- Up to now, the U.S. women's liberation movement has been mainly concerned with sexism and ignored or denied the importance of racism. For the Chicana, the three types of oppression cannot be separated. They are all a part of the same system, they are three faces of the same enemy.
With Angela Davis
- We have to fight together because there is a common enemy. Especially if you are up against an administration being divisive, I think everybody has to come together and form an alliance or a set of goals together. There are various forms of working together. A coalition is one, a network is another, an alliance is yet another. And they are not the same; some of them are short-term, and some are long-term.
- No “Oppression Olympics”!
- Cornel West, the African American philosopher and writer, spoke recently in San Francisco talking about the importance of linkages. For example, he said gay and lesbian rights are an issue in the African American community. They aren’t separate, outside of the community. Just because the issue is not welfare, or racism, or gangs, that doesn’t mean it’s not a Black community issue. I think that’s a very useful and important way to look at things. I know a lot of Latinos wouldn’t agree that gay and lesbian rights are a Latino issue. But we need to work for this understanding and make it clear that the issue is not a problem for a bunch of people outside the Latino community who happen to be gay or lesbian. It’s inside our community. Taking that kind of position is the only way that in fact makes sense.
- One handy distinction is to think of coalitions being built around issues, and ideology being a worldview. An ideology is a set of ideas that explains what makes society tick and what its values are. You don’t have to agree on that with other people in order to fight for health care, housing, affirmative action, or whatever. You do have to agree with somebody’s ideology, I think, if you’re going to join certain kinds of organizations that demand ideological unity, from the Boy Scouts to the Communist Party. But coalitions, networks, and alliances should never make the mistake of demanding ideological unity. They can expect unity around an issue.
- The seven African American students who sat down at that Woolworth’s lunch counter at the first sit-in, April 1, 1960, had no idea they were going to start a huge movement, a nationwide movement. No idea. They just did it. They got ketchup thrown on them and were beaten, arrested. But they took a chance There has to be some of that spirit today. Let’s experiment, we don’t have to have all the answers; we certainly don’t have to have the ideology down, you know, the whole package. But let’s see some things that are wrong and try to change them, and take risks.
Letters from Mississippi: Reports from Civil Rights Volunteers and Freedom School Poetry of the 1964 Freedom Summer (2007 edition)Edit
- Let us all remember: history makes us and we the people make history
- In the Black civil rights movement, as in the Chicano, Asian/Pacific American, Puerto Rican, and Native American movements of those years, youth led the way in fighting oppression. Before that, the Black struggle in this century had usually centered on professionals or community leaders and middle-class or working class adults, often profoundly brave, persistent and self-sacrificing people. Young activists were everywhere but not the base of rebellion and not the recognized leadership. All that changed in the 1960s. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which initiated the Mississippi Summer Project, had all the hallmarks of youth. Its young black field secretaries and other staff set a tone and style of work that celebrated boldness, energy, untraditional creativity, informality, democratic procedure, and sometimes breathtaking courage. Another reason for today's youthful interest in that era probably rises from the idea of "black and white together, we shall overcome." No matter how complicated or flawed, that goal resonated powerfully through the southern freedom struggle. As an ideal, black/white unity inspired thousands of people from north to south who dreamed of equal rights and opportunity won by joint struggle. The Mississippi Summer Project thereby continued a historic tradition of white anti-racist activism that stands as an alternative to the tradition of white racist activism. Such an alternative does exist and whites can choose to join an honorable tradition or a hateful one. Such a choice demands to be made yesterday, today, and at all times every day.
- After the mid-1960s, the alternative tradition faded along with "black and white together." As racist whites nationwide resisted yielding anything more than the vote and not always that - many activists of color became focused on their own history, culture and liberation work with a nationalist analysis indifferent to white support. During those later years, SNCC advised its white members "Go organize in your own communities against racism," and a few did. They and other anti-racist white activists continue that alternative tradition today in various forms, with activist/educator Anne Braden of Kentucky a tireless example. This book raises their banner and asks: What, then, will you do?
- For them as for so many others, the anti-racist struggle in Mississippi has its steps forward together with its steps back-like any other struggle. So much has changed and yet remains unchanged. As of 1998, Mississippi had 10 black sheriffs (more than any other state) but chose in 2001 to retain the Confederate symbol of flags and bars in its flag. Racism lives, and not only in Mississippi. From the criminal injustice system to attacks on affirmative action, from environmental racism to intensifying poverty and the prison system, today's struggles often seem not so different from four decades ago. Denial of Black voting rights, a crucial southern issue in 1964, turned out to be very crucial nationwide in 2000, when it may well have decided the presidency, as Florida's voting records confirm. The role of racism in U.S. foreign policy and its domestic consequences became unmistakable with the government's response to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Many people see more clearly today than before that ending racism is central and essential to any transformation of the human condition. The only fatal mistake in this long, hard struggle is cynicism.
- A last gift of the letters should be mentioned. They show how vital is the need, especially though not only, for young whites to take the initiative in changing their consciousness about racism. To seek out a different perspective from the one they have always known. To listen to what Black, Latino, and other oppressed peoples say in one way or another. For a new consciousness does not come automatically but with persistent effort.
500 Years of Chicana Women's History/500 Años de la Mujer Chicana (2008)Edit
- [Without a book like this] you would not hear about our tradition of female resistance to oppression, going back to Aztec women who took to the rooftops in what later became Mexico City and ‘rained down darts and stones’ on the invading Spaniards. Or the woman who filed suit in Oaxaca against her husband for abuse and had her case heard in court-in 1630! Or the Maya women who locked up the local Spanish priest in his church for not having Maya victims of a typhus epidemic buried in church ground. And the massive ‘Corn Riots’ of 1692 by women who refused to starve.
- Ask almost anyone outside of academia to name famous US women of Mexican origin and you will probably hear ‘Dolores Huerta.’ If the person knows our contemporary writers, maybe ‘Sandra Cisneros’ and ‘Ana Castillo.’ If you ask for a name from earlier times, you might get ‘Sor Juana’-the rebel nun of the 1600’s. When you try to dig deeper, your companion may whimper, ‘I give up! Well…there’s the Virgin of Guadalupe, she’s on a lot of T-shirts. It was inevitable, then, that the need for a book like this would be recognized.
- When the Chicano movement began, we saw Chicanas and others in New Mexico working to get back land lost with the 1846-48 US war, thousands walking out of high schools to protest the racism, and many putting on Brown Berets to defend their communities. We joined the United Farm Workers as campesinas and boycott supporters. Thousands of us marched against the Vietnam war on August 29, 1970, only to be chased and struck down by tear-gassing police who also killed three Chicanos that day
- The problem of locating photos often confirms the indifference to women’s presence in history, as reflected in the media, books, historical records, museums, university libraries.
- Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz left behind many writings and, above all, inspiration for all women, for all time.
- Lucy Parsons never stopped working for the revolution to end the oppressive capitalist system. It could come only through a well-organized workers' movement, she said, which would take over the factories, all the means of production. Repeatedly imprisoned for her work, she saw free speech as crucial…Lucy was a warrior woman of unlimited courage and commitment.
- The life of Dolores Huerta reveals a woman who is not only a fearless and committed organizer for farmworker rights but also takes a stand for justice wherever needed.
- Francisca Flores had fabulous orga nizing energy despite a long struggle with tuberculosis that left her with only one lung...She was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and once said "we must march with him"
- Enriqueta Vasquez's column "Despierten! Hermanos" became known for its eloquent efforts to combat sexism within the movimiento while also working for an anti-colonial liberation to benefit all Raza.
- Anna Nieto-Gómez is a pioneer in today's Chicana feminism.
- "To survive the borderlands/you must live sin fronteras/be a crossroads." Those words convey Gloria E. Anzaldúa's essence as she wrote so powerfully about the many kinds of borderlands we confront in life...Her death from diabetes marks the loss of a great feminist philosopher whose ideas live on.
- I didn’t want to be ahead, I wanted to be with the people in the moment. But, you end up being ahead because you’re different. That’s the irony of it.
- Occupy is a real place for people to talk, to blossom. How beautiful, how exciting!...I’m excited some people of color are participating, but we should be the majority. Occupy should be led by people of color. We’re the ones suffering from unemployment, from the recession, and from banks being bailed out.
- Women do both, raise a family and participate in the struggle, we have to make them connect.
De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century (2017)Edit
- Every society has an origin narrative that explains that society to itself and the world with a set of stories and symbols. The origin myth, as scholar-activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has termed it, defines how a society understands its place in the world and its history. The myth provides the basis for a nation's self-defined identity. Most origin narratives can be called myths because they usually present only the most flattering view of a nation's history; they are not distinguished by honesty. Ours begins with Columbus "discovering" a hemisphere where some 80 million people already lived but didn't really count
- The oppression and exploitation of Latinos (like Asians) have historical roots unknown to most Americans. People who learn at least a little about Black slavery remain totally ignorant about how the United States seized half of Mexico or how it has colonized Puerto Rico.
- It seems nostalgia runs rampant among many Euro-Americans: a nostalgia for the days of unchallenged White Supremacy-both moral and material-when life was 'simple.'
- The collective memory of every Latino people includes direct or indirect (neo-)colonialism, primarily by Spain or Portugal and later by the United States. Among Latinos, Mexicans in what we now call the Southwest have experienced US colonialism the longest and most directly, with Puerto Ricans not far behind
- The real concern of anti-diversity warriors is not with the introduction of politics but with the wrong kind of politics. They want literature to serve a very political function indeed: to sustain, not criticize, the status quo.
- The war on multiculturalism can also confuse liberals because, unlike conservatives, they usually do not perceive or accept the connection between racism and domination. They fail to see that racism has never been just a matter of negative attitudes but rather an institutionalized set of power relations.
- When I worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee SNCC from 1961 to 1968, first as a volunteer and then as full-time staff, it seemed perfectly natural. If a person wanted to spend her life tearing down the prison called White Supremacy, what better place to go than the Black movement? And proudly, too. It took a few years to wonder, how does a person who isn't white-but not Black either-fit into the color scheme of this color-obsessed society? After a while, some unexplored Mexican spirit inside, and the changing times outside, drew me to the Southwest, where I had never been. It had its own prison of White Supremacy. But the two prisons were really one, and the fight was really one, and a perfectly natural voice said: Let us tear down all prisons together. Amen.
- Manifest Destiny saw Yankee conquest as the inevitable result of a confrontation between enterprise and progress (white) versus passivity and backwardness (Indian, Mexican).
- Linking the national identity with race is not unique to the United States. National identity always requires an "other" to define it. But this country has linked its identity with race to an extraordinary degree, matched only by two other settler states: South Africa and Israel.
- The concept of Manifest Destiny, with its assertion of racial superiority sustained by military power, has defined U.S. identity for 150 years. Only the Vietnam War brought a serious challenge to that concept of almightiness. Bitter debate, moral anguish, images of My Lai and the prospect of military defeat for the first time in U.S. history all suggested that the long-standing marriage of virtue and violence might soon be on the rocks.
- A new origin narrative and national identity could help pave the way to a more livable society for us all. A society based on cooperation rather than competition, on the idea that all living creatures are interdependent and that humanity's goal should be balance. Such were the values of many original Americans, deemed "savages." Similar gifts are waiting from other despised peoples and traditions. We might well start by recognizing that "America" is the name of an entire hemisphere, rich in a stunning variety of histories, cultures and peoples-not just one country.
- The origin myth's omissions are grotesque. It ignores three major pillars of our nationhood: genocide, enslavement and imperialist expansion. The massive extermination of indigenous peoples provided our land base; the enslavement of African labor made our economic growth possible; and the seizure of half of Mexico by war (or threat of renewed war) extended this nation's boundaries north to the Pacific and south to the Rio Grande. Such are the foundation stones of the United States, within an economic system that made this country the first in world history to be born capitalist.
- The anti-diversity war rages not only in academia but in the whole society. Like the anti-affirmative action campaign, it is profoundly racist and sexist. Both represent much more than a backlash: they are tactics for solidifying a rightist ideology to sustain the Right's political hegemony, to guarantee that a racist, sexist and capitalist agenda holds the center of U.S. political culture. This in turn calls for demonizing progressive ideas and people that might impede right-wing domination over ideological space. It calls for blocking the study of U.S. history as a history of racism, sexism and imperialism at work. The U.S. political culture must be kept ahistorical, even anti-historical. The war on multiculturalism parallels the way in which reactionaries sought to use the Gulf War to regenerate patriotism and thereby annul the Vietnam War syndrome with its national self-doubt.
- A term originally created by leftists in humorous self-mockery, "PC" is now used to evoke Stalinist demands for conformity. Thus PC-baiting has become a post-Cold War substitute for anti-communism, and a dangerously reactionary political expression.
- The answer to hate words is not speech codes but strong protest and educational efforts when we hear them. Don't ban bigoted language, but let those who use it know what to expect-severe public criticism, spontaneous demonstrations and why. This may be the liberal American Civil Liberties Union position; so be it, for history shows that limits on one person's freedom of speech make it a non-freedom for others. In failing to take this stand, progressives and leftists also aid the PC-baiters by giving them the moral high ground of being "anti-censorship."
- One of the most serious obstacles to genuine diversification is that on most campuses the faculty remains lily-white and male
- But the ferocious attempt to block any non-Eurocentric, non-traditional educational effort has shown the need to expose the attack on multiculturalism, while insisting that it be defined as anti-racism. Interpreted that way, and not simply as additive, it is truly subversive, for it defies the centrality of a Euro-dominated nationhood. Let us define multiculturalism, then, as a united front against White Supremacy. Anglo teachers, students and activists should recognize that today's reactionary opposition to a genuine multiculturalism signifies a chilling repression of independent thinking in general. It signifies a readiness to curb any systemic critique of U.S. society. Yet even those apparently concerned about social justice seem indifferent to such threats as compared to the perceived threat of diminished race-power. One wants to holler: "Yo, gringitos-wake up! They'll be coming for you in the morning, if you don't stand with the rest of us tonight."
- They are living examples of Xicanisma ("Chicanisma"), a Chicana womanism that bridges anti-racist and anti-sexist struggle. Xicanisma allows us to begin imagining a liberation without boundaries or hierarchies. It encourages Raza to confront our contradictions as a people more openly than we did in the past. Too often incidents of sexism or homophobia remain chisme, "gossip"; too often social crimes are reduced to private griping; too often we are intimidated out of criticism. Let us confront the contradictions con valor, courageously, and remember that feminism is no alien creature but a deep-rooted tradition for Latinas. Let the moon rise on a new century for new women. The opposition mounts new attacks to halt our liberation, but it's not a time for despair-just a time for sharp eyes a and open minds.
- The voices of the grassroots, of people like Fannie Lou Hamer, must always be heard if we are to understand the past and move effectively toward the future
- Another sign of positive change: one young African-American woman, daughter of two SNCC veterans, announced without hesitation: "I'm a lesbian. That doesn't mean I'm not a Black woman." Rejecting the frequent demand for a single identity, she explained, "I want to deal with sexism and homophobia, not just racism." Perhaps a quarter or a third of the room clapped for her comments, but it is impossible to imagine any such openness 30 years ago. We can also be cheered by the fact that Rep. John Lewis, from Georgia, former SNCC chair, spoke against homophobia strongly and unasked.
- The Civil Rights Movement was not an event; it is a process and it goes on. Process says one should learn the language of youth, respect them without glorifying them, take a long look at what we could have done better and pass the lessons along.
- the contradiction of encountering male-supremacist practices within a movement supposedly fighting for social justice spurred many Chicanas to new consciousness.
- The most striking change during the past 20 years can be seen in attitudes toward homophobia. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an almost total silence hung over gay and lesbian advocacy. No openly gay person could be a movement leader. Today homophobia persists; most progressive, straight Chicanos as well as Chicanas still fail to see gay and lesbian rights as another struggle of other oppressed people. Too many still fail to see homophobia as a sometimes murderous force of discrimination. But the situation has improved, especially in some major cities, in academia and among youth.
- The articulation of concerns common to almost all women, such as health, child care, domestic violence, rape and reproductive rights, is much more frequent than it was two decades ago.
- Looking over the past two decades, we see close ties between gender-related attitudes and political ideology. A law seems to exist that sexism and heterosexism almost always travel alongside reactionary types of nationalism.
- In the provocation and shaping of that consciousness, Chicana artists and writers have had great influence. We would not be as far along as we are today without the heretical work of painters Yolanda López and Ester Hernández, whose militant transformations of the Virgin of Guadalupe offer a liberation never before available. We would not be this far along without painter Juana Alicia's images of Latina women as strong survivors. We would not be this far along without some biting poems from Sandra Cisneros, the multifaceted work of feminist writer Ana Castillo, the beautifully bold writing of lesbian authors Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa mentioned above. Not to mention the performance art of lesbian comedians like Marga Gómez and Monica Palacios. So many more names could be set down; all have nurtured the feminist impulse of young Chicanas, especially those in their upper teens and early twenties.
- Plagued by Western habits of either-or, dualistic thinking, we all may fail to understand that race, class and gender interconnect to sustain a corporate ruling class. In the language of African-American essayist bell hooks, they are interlocking systems of oppression. Neither Latina nor Anglo women should yield to the temptation of making a hierarchy of oppressions where battles are fought over whether racism is "worse" than sexism, or class oppression is "deeper" than racism, etc. Instead of hierarchies we need bridges.
- In the early 1900s, while colonization continued, the original Mexican population of the Southwest was greatly increased by an immigration the continues today. This combination of centuries-old roots and relatively new ones gives the Mexican-American people a rich and varied cultural heritage.
- an obsession with self-definition can become a trap if that is all we think about, all we debate. If liberation terminology becomes an end in itself and our only end, it ceases to be a tool of liberation. Terms can be useful, even vital tools, but the house of La Raza that is waiting to be built needs many kinds.
- Many young Raza activists today are adopting a vision that embraces the strengths of nationalism while shunning its divisiveness. They call it "native spirituality," or "the natural way," or "indigenismo," and see it as that revolutionary worldview we urgently need.
- indigenismo can subvert the colonized mentality found among mestizo peoples that elevates the European and denigrates the Indian. For Chicano/a youth, discovering they have roots in indigenous, often advanced, pre-Columbian cultures can help develop a sense of potential empowerment. "My ancestors invented rubber? Wow!" exclaimed one incredulous Los Angeles gang member to a youth counselor telling him about ancient Mexico and the Olmecas (who didn't exactly invent rubber, since Nature was the inventor, but who surely did develop it). Such discoveries can be a first step toward understanding and respecting the worldview of indigenous peoples.
- Sometimes we also find a tendency to view everything that's indigenous as good and anything "European"-such as Spain-as evil. That view overlooks such historical realities as the Aztec empire's oppressive domination of other indigenous societies and its class system, which privileged priests and the military. That view also forgets Spain was not a typically European nation after 600 years of rule by the Moors, an Arab/Berber people from Africa.
- it's vital to avoid a longtime error of leftist politics, starting with Marxism: failure to understand the powerful role in human society of subjective forces such as spirituality. That failure has opened the door wide to right-wing manipulation of spiritual hunger. That failure undermines the possibility of mobilizing masses of Latinos/as for whom faith has been an affirmation of heart in a heartless world. The bottom line in any organizing for social justice needs to be respect for others' needs, including spiritual needs.
- We can look to Mexico, where a vision for social change has been powerfully affirmed by the Maya people of Chiapas. They named their vision "Zapatismo," in memory of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, and startled the world with an armed uprising on January 1, 1994. That day, and ever since, the Zapatistas have posed the basic problem: how to establish both identity and democracy? How to achieve a new life of dignity for indigenous people while also creating a Mexico of justice for everyone? Always the Zapatistas have said they do not want one without the other. At a 1996 meeting of Chicanas/os with some of the Zapatista leadership, Comandante Tacho began his presentation by saying: "We don't want power. What we want is decent homes, enough to eat, health care for our children, schools." At first I thought to myself: how can you gain those things without power? Then I realized that by power he meant domination. The Zapatista vision does not find the answer to injustice in the replacement of one domination by another, but in a vast change of the political culture from the bottom up that will create a revolutionary democracy.
- The era called the sixties can be said to run from 1955 (the Montgomery bus boycott) to 1975 (when the mass movements had died down and most activists were moving on to new forms of struggle or non-political priorities). But many of the authors of those two dozen books end the era in 1970, not because the decade formally ended then but largely because that was when male-led, white student protest sharply declined. This dating negates high points of struggle by peoples of color (such as the Native American armed occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973) and by the women's movement, which reached its heights after 1970. By their dating of the era, our authors impose an overwhelmingly white male definition on it.
- From those two books, and others that examine student activism at length, you would never know that during a single week of 1968 at least 10,000 Chicano high school students in Los Angeles walked out of school to protest racist policies. You would never know there was a "Yellow Identity Movement" of Chinese and other Asian students at universities in California and New York City. You will learn nothing of the potent Third World student strikes of 1968-69 in San Francisco. Gitlin's book does not even mention any movement of color except the Black civil rights movement until page 433. There he speaks of "an amalgam of reform efforts, especially for civil rights (ultimately for Hispanics, Native Americans, and other minorities as well as blacks)." Six words, and in parentheses at that, for the thousands of Asian, Latino and Native American people who lived and sometimes died for liberation and social justice in those years.
- In two books about the cultural flowering of the 1960s, the many volumes of Chicano poetry, short stories, songs, and skits go unmentioned. In two books on the underground press, Robert Glessing's The Underground Press in America and Abe Peck's Uncovering the Sixties, you will find no mention of Chicano movement newspapers in the first (except for two listings in its appendix) and two references in the second. Yet there was a Chicano Press Association comprising 60 newspapers and magazines in those years.
- We should also recall the exclusively Black-white model of race relations, which makes all other peoples invisible. It is not surprising that two dozen white writers who have been conditioned to see the struggles of Asian/Pacific Island Americans, Latinos and Native Americans as minor would write their books accordingly.
- It does not help that former Latino activists themselves have written so little. At least four leaders of white student protest (Richard Flacks, Todd Gitlin, Tom Hayden and Paul Potter) have published books of history and analysis about the 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, activists from SNCC, the Black Panther Party and other Black groups have done so. But relatively few such works have come from Chicanos/as thus far. More movement participants at all levels should move to shine some light on our histories of activism.
- In actuality, the 1960s was an era of interconnection across lines of sex and race, time and space. But with rare exceptions, these authors are guilty of fragmenting the movement.
- White radicals of the 1960s-many of them called "the New Left"-learned tactics from African Americans, who had learned some of theirs from Asians (Gandhi) and who also adopted tactics from white workers of an earlier era. Native Americans took tactics from Blacks. Asian-American youths were inspired by young Puerto Rican activists. Chicano organizations copied from the Black Panther Party, as in their breakfast program. Yet the "New Left" is usually staked out with Eurocentric boundaries in our books on the 1960s. Even many people of color define the New Left as white, and would deny that their activism had anything to do with a new, old or any other kind of Left. The New Left was indeed born primarily white. But its vision of a society in which the exploited and oppressed become an empowered collectivity did inspire people across racial and national lines. That vision generated an international political culture that stirred youth from Paris to Mexico to Tokyo and lives on today. Who cannot be reminded of that New Left ideal, "participatory democracy" (a phrase used by Students for a Democratic Society), when hearing of how 3,000 Chinese students voted on every major decision in Tiananmen Square in May 1989?
- Perhaps the obvious needs to be repeated: what frightens U.S. ruling-class circles is the linking of issues, strategies and, above all, people in struggle. What frightens them most is the prospect of grassroots alliances across national or racial lines. Progressives have no business falling prey to the dominant society's common view that the problem of racism is minorities feeling dissatisfied, rather than a lethal poison in the spirit and the body of our entire society. The cure is a whole new world that only a sense of our global linkage, of interdependence, can breathe into life.
- César Chávez (pronounced "CHA-vez") died long after the height of the farmworker cause, like the entire Chicano movement, had been forced to spend much energy defending its small gains of the 1960s.
- The march reminded us that at one time 17 million Americans boycotted grapes not picked by unionized farmworkers.
- As we marched on April 29 through flat, dusty farmland and past almond orchards, we were walking with Chávez' strengths. We walked with someone who fought for 40 years to gain labor rights and human rights for the most disenfranchised and impoverished workers in the United States. Under his leadership, they ceased to be faceless immigrants whom the dominant society dismissed as subhuman, disposable. Never again would the public be so unaware of farmworker poverty and exploitation.
- To build unity requires recognizing the central role of young activists. They are vigorously fighting the attack on this century's Reconstruction. Their anger at today's ugly society often translates into a passionate drive for unity across color lines.
- We need to see how dance, music, theater, art, poetry, are major arenas for alliance-building, especially among youth. Culture can usher in new visions
- above all to listen to young activists, whose fiery demands for social justice light up a new path today. They weave for all of us a garment of brightness. We surely need that light. For we live in an era of counter-revolution, when the gains made against racism during the 1960s-which I fought for alongside millions of other people-face constant assault.
- In this era of counter-revolution and its deadly effects, we can be discouraged into silence or reduced to caring only about our immediate, personal world. Or we can, as I heard poet June Jordan say at a conference in Arizona, fight back against "those pistol-packing gatekeepers of a house that never belonged to them in the first place." That sounds better! And let's remember: there would be no counter-attack today if we hadn't made some significant changes yesterday.
- Here is a call, a most urgent call, for Rainbow Warriors: something ancient, something new.
- Transformation will elude us until we envision our society in very new ways. This requires ending the inequality-based system called capitalism, a monstrous task when we recall that our nation was born capitalist-without passing through primitive communalism, feudalism, and so forth so most people here identify as such. It was also born racist, thanks to unbridled genocide. We need a vision, then, in which we abolish the prevailing definition of the United States as a nation with a single, Euro-American culture and identity. Then we must re-imagine it as a community of communities that recognize their inter-dependence and relate on the basis of mutual respect. The nation's very boundaries may have to change; after all, they're only two centuries old and they were drawn through conquest and genocide. Think sin fronteras-without borders. Think what may seem unthinkable, and envision revolution.
- We are all inseparable from our times, whether we realize it or not.
Quotes about Elizabeth MartinezEdit
- From her involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coorditing Committee during the 1960s to her current leadership of the Institute for Multi-Racial Justice, Elizabeth (Betita) Martinez' work comprises one of the most important living histories of progressive activism in the contemporary era. Furthermore, her writings recording countless struggles for social justice-some won, some lost, some still raging with varying degrees of intensity, and many having international implications-offer us an invaluable reader in the rich history of radical activism in the Americas...Martínez' words are always powerful, never mournful as she addresses the role of U.S. people of color in forging the past, present and future of leftist activism... Her voice is of wisdom gained through a wide range of experiences across a broad spectrum of social movements...Her approach is no-nonsense, yet it reflects the sharp sense of humor that so effectively keeps the weightiness of her subjects from overwhelming...Betita Martinez' life and work stand as a living monument to the possibilities for success that reside in our collective knowledge, commitment, persistence and plain old hard work... the inimitable, the irrepressible, the indefatigable Betita Martínez.
- Angela Y. Davis, Forward to De Colores Means All of Us
- Thanks to the inspiration of Elizabeth Martinez, who founded and published El Grito del Norte in Española, New Mexico, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, I decided to write my doctoral dissertation on the history of land tenure in northern New Mexico. Only through understanding history and land, I believed, could the present be understood.
- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Interview (2008)
- She was an example of what it means to not just speak your truth but to live your truth and to be prepared to commit your life to that truth.
- Elena Featherston, in article (2021)
- She was an elegant presence and a dynamic soul who wore red and purple together like no one else.
- Janis Lewin, in article (2021)
- I thought I knew my history, but 500 Years taught me more than I could imagine. In these pages, La Chicana emerges from historical erasure as spirit-warrior, artist, and revolucionaria. This book won't rest quietly on a coffee table, but belongs on the kitchen table, in the factory lunch-room, the school library, the clinic waiting room, the painter's studio. It is a book to be used, to remember and record Chicanas struggling to make home in our Native América.
- Cherríe Moraga in 500 Years of Chicana Women's History
- picking up the pen for Chicanas became a "political act." ...Women also founded and edited newspapers-El Grito (Betita Martinez); Encuentro Feminil (Adelaida del Castillo and Ana Nieto Gómez); Regeneracion (Francisca Flores); and El Chicano (Gloria Macias Harrison). Through their writings, Chicanas problematized and challenged prescribed gender roles at home (familial oligarchy); at school (the home economics track); and at meetings (the clean-up committee),
- Vicki L. Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America
- "We have practiced a different kind of leadership, a leadership that empowers others, not a hierarchical kind of leadership." Elizabeth (Betita) Martínez echoed, "The leadership that empowers others is the leadership we need." Over fifty years ago, Luisa Moreno and Josefina Fierro de Bright provided this type of leadership.
- Vicki L. Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America
- She was an innovative type of organizer. In all projects, she had a posse of young people working with her. She loved being around young people and they loved being around her.
- Olga Talamante, in article (2021)
- In this extraordinary volume, Elizabeth Martínez reveals what has thus far been hidden from our view, the rich and inspiring history of Chicana women, from the early days of the Spanish conquest to the contemporary struggles for immigrant rights. The book is a treasure trove of exciting information and striking images. It should become an indispensable part of everyone's library, and a special gift to future generations of the young, on whom we depend to change the world.
- Howard Zinn in 500 Years of Chicana Women's History