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The Evolution of Chicano Poetry Part 1, Ricardo LaFore


Chicano writing, both poetry and literature has been deeply influenced by the political struggles of the Chicano people and the struggle for full citizenship without having to sacrifice one iota of our history or culture. Born out of the frustration inherent in our marginalized existence in the United States, it is the expression of our cultural, economic, and political struggle for self-determination and recognition in our country. It is an affirmation of our rediscovered identity and brought to the fore in the 1960’s by a small group of Chicano activists and artists who recognized the obligation to merge our art with our politics. What Chicano art has done is to give us back the identity lost or stolen in the rape of Mexico, and the loss of our ancestral land. It is transformative in that it has created a new art form that traces our beginnings and history that has been shaped from our experiences in this country which we recognize as our true birthplace and our birth right. Of all the art forms to emerge poetry stands out as the most prolific. Perhaps that’s because you didn’t need a college degree in English literature, all you really needed was a pen, pencil and piece of paper and a desire to say something. So, people began to write. Common themes, shared experiences with police; social workers; politicians; schoolteachers; and the plethora of villains that existed in our shared experiences. There was no real attempt of adhere to grammar, form, style, or poem construction. It was more of a primal scream and an outpouring of all the angst, pain and anger that had been pent up in ourselves and our schizophrenic existence in the U.S.

My own motivation to write stemmed from the fact that my Chicano brothers and sisters were bound by a shared oppression. In what I have written was the belief in the possibility of social justice and I have acted on that belief, not always successfully but always consciously and willingly.

Languages and modes of communication are constantly evolving. Thus, I guess it could be argued that as the Movement evolved and the daily confrontations, marches and demonstrations gave way to more peaceful and acceptable methods of fighting; the symbols and artistic mores of the Chicano arts movement would likewise subside and give way to more original or abstract means of expression such as the stuff we are seeing now, spoken word, slam poetry Latin X. etc.etc.

Some people reject the new terminology, but I have no problem with any of this, to wit some people had the same reaction to CHICANO! The beat may be different, we life in different times, but as longs as the message remains the same, the song remains the same.

As long as the new poetry is there to denounce racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty and to speak out against injustice it will continue to thrive as our preferred artistic form of grievance and expression because poetry is and will always be the eternal enemy of tyranny.

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