Austin Revealed: Chicano Civil Rights “Role of Chicano Identity in Arts”
Austin Revealed: Chicano Civil Rights “Role of Chicano Identity in Arts”

(quiet music) (melancholy music) – We had certain
experiences that were not necessarily meant to make
us proud of our heritage ’cause they tried to make
us ashamed of ourselves by not letting us, for
example, speak Spanish. – My mother raised
us speaking English as she wanted us to be
competitive in school and even though we were
exposed to Spanish, people that were
primarily Spanish speakers kind of looked
down on us because we couldn’t speak the language. Of course, in school, we
got it from the white kids because we were Mexican, so it just raised havoc
with our psychology and that kind of a thing, so we grew up pretty confused. – You know, tacos,
another thing. People sometimes
would pack tacos and take them to school
for lunch, you know, and they actually made
you ashamed of that. – Even at that
level, they’re trying to erase our culture and
say assimilate, acculturate. And Spanish, even much less
the indigenous languages which we, in a lot
of ways, lost, right? But they don’t teach us a good, a true history of who we are. – We weren’t allowed
to listen to our music, so, you know, some
people, it was fine. They thought, ah,
so that’s life, but for some reason or other, for me, it wasn’t all right. It wasn’t. I didn’t like the
feeling that I couldn’t be proud of who I was, my
language, and my music. Culturally, nada aqui
pa’ nosotros, nothing. – Culture and the
school society made me feel ashamed of
playing the accordion, that it was inferior music. – By the time the Chicano
movement came around, I was beginning
to have some idea of what our heritage was. (exciting music) – The name Chicano was a
way to identify ourselves because we weren’t
Mexican citizens, we weren’t Spaniards. We were Chicanos,
Mexican-Americans, and we gave ourselves the name. The word Chicano was
a name of resistance, a name of defiance, a
name of self-identity. This is who we became. This is what we
were establishing during the late ’60s
and the early ’70s, was self-identity,
self-determination. – The term Chicano
is used primarily by the group of
people that become very socially conscious
and make socially conscious decisions to
join the social movement for the betterment
of the community and I think that’s one of
the reasons why we have a new Mexican-American
cultural type. Yes, we’ve Americanized,
but to a great extent, we’ve Americanized
on our own terms, not only in ethnic terms,
but in broad cultural terms. – The Chicano cultural
renaissance of that time, the ’60s into the ’70s, all of that was happening,
man, at that time, you know? Poetry readings, music,
festivals, murals, you know, it was exciting times. The Chicanos that were
there in Austin, man, at university and the barrio,
we were turned on, man, and we formed CASA, Chicano
Art Students Association, and we began doing sort of
events, collaborative events there at the university
and started hooking up with the barrio. – Here, one might
mention, for example, Cynthia and Lydia Perez, who were in the student movement here on the campus, and decided to make
Austin their home, started Las Manitas Restaurant, La Pena, the arts
complex downtown. They became a very
important locus, and still are, of the
arts particularly. (folklorico music) – Maria Salinas was the director of the Ballet Folklorico
Aztlan de Tejas. – She was the one that
really got us involved with the sort of danza Azteca, and we met Andres Segura, who is a Capitan General
de la Danza in Mexico City, and connected with him and did our first
ceremonies in Mexico. The arts were exploding
all across the nation and I brought back my
accordion, you know, that I hadn’t played
since I was young, and then formed the
Conjunto Aztlan, a conjunto del
movimiento Chicano playing protest music,
incorporating poetry, and we were danzantes there Traditional Mexica Azteca
conchero Aztec this whole move going back
to our indigenous roots and our indigenous spirituality. And then, Conjunto with
accordion bajo sexto but protest music, man. We usually played music in
the marchas too, and sang. – We were marching down the
street, and I was playing the guitar, and we were
singing some of the songs from movimiento as we were walking
down the street, there were a garage sale right
in front of us and we were walking right by it… and he noticed there
was an accordion there, a black accordion,
and he went over there and picked it up, and I
didn’t even know he played. He messed with a little bit
and bought it, you know, and came back in the
march, and we kept going, and we played guitar and
accordion from then on. – A lot of the
Conjuntos and orchestras that were forming
up at that time, a lot of those activities
were also in East Austin. Little Joe, particularly,
was very important in that, and others as well. La luna grande y redonda
como un circulo hermetico – We organized Floricanto 2,
poetry and arts festival. Floricanto comes from xochitl
in cuicatl, nahuatl flower and song, Floricanto. Mainly a literary festival,
but all of the arts were represented
one way or another. – The Floricanto activity
begins in California, of course, but eventually we did
have one here in Austin. A number of poets and writers
from across the country came to Austin, some
of them came to Austin for the very first
time in their lives. – My next poems have
to do with my family… and coming out, being gay,
that was not an easy thing for my family to accept,
in fact, it’s been a… it’s been a struggle
ever since I came out. – That was another very
important facet of the student activity here, that it
integrated UT and Austin and the Greater Austin community
with the National network of artists and intellectuals
and filmmakers as well. – But we started Mujeres de Arts
del Suroestain ’79. We decided that
what we wanted to do in order to give direction to
where we wanted the arts to go that we needed to have
an intercambio (exciting music) – I remember we had
La Plastica Chicana, that was an interesting thing. We brought people from
all over the place, it was an encuentro or a gatherg of a lot of artists from
Mexico, from Mexico City. And then we brought
people from California, from… Chicago, El Paso,
all over Texas. There were filmmakers
and photographers. Painters, of course,
muralists, art historians. – And we have about
30 sessions on, the different
artists would give. We had the teatro at the Pan America
Recreation Center. We had a Conjunto
Aztlan, they played the panchanga
at the Zaragoza Park. – It was groundbreaking
to have people come in and get to know Austin as well as us
getting to know them. – I was very, very glad
that we had this conference. I think the significance
of this, for us, meant that we needed to… bring this together to give
us the power that we needed, to give us a sense of
direction, to give us a sense of aqui esta nuestra cultura
y no nos vamos – Pues representa muchas cosas
para diferentes gentes You know, it represents
different things. – One of the things that we
did during that period of time was to paint murals around
the East Austin community. Well, we needed an artist
to be able to do that. Raul Valdez, who was our
community artist, a celeb, was the one that
spearheaded and lead a group that started painting one
mural at a time in the eastside and one of the most renowned
murals that Raul Valdez did was at the Pan-Am
Recreation Center. (playful music) – Had a center at the
Juarez-Lincoln University, which to make cultural, political
statements and I wanted to take art to the public and I had
the and I had the idea that, why do you want to hide
your art in a gallery? Take it to the streets. I wanted to do real public
art and I wanted to do art that people were a part of,
that belonged to the people. So, the first thing I did was make a list and get
everybody to sign their names and give me the subject matter
that they were interested in seeing produced
in this mural, and then I got people from
the communities, kids mostly, and some other volunteers
came by and helped out. So, I kinda like that model
and I continued it on. – His art was barrio art. His art made a statement
about our community, about resistance,
about defiance, about history, about culture, all of these things that
we probably would have had taken too many words
to convey, where art made it much easier for
us to do, and that’s what Raul Valdez represented for us. (serene music) – I had a center at the
Juarez-Lincoln University, which is right there on Cesar Chavez
Boulevard, there, and 35. I knew people that taught
there, including Jose Flores who played Conjunto
Aztlan, who’s a jefe, he used to teach there,
he started there. – [Raul] It was sold and of
course the first thing they do is they’re gonna destroy it. – I think the whole
significance of it is that the community has accepted
it being part of, you know, part of the community
and belonging to them, which was the intention
in the first place. – Raul Valdez painted
a mural there that then they tore down. After that, we protested that. – They knocked the mural
first and they hit the lady right in the face. They weren’t going for
architectural integrity or the destruction thereof, they were hittin’
the lady in the face. They were hittin’ the
mural, they were thinking about the mural and
so were the people. And somebody almost got
seriously hurt tryin’ to keep it from falling when
they knocked it down. (lighthearted music) Alurista, Amado Pena, and Inez Hernandez Tovar, this guy named JP, and myself
got together for a meeting and talked about doing
a multi-disciplinary cultural group, an organization, and work as one entity. Alurista came up with the name, League of United
Chicano Artists. – Throughout the
years, we would just… showcase the art of different
artists from the neighborhood. These were artists that may
not have gotten an opportunity to do so anywhere else in the, in the at-large cultural
arts organizations. We used to offer classes
and Jose Flores taught literatura Chicana and poetry. – Pedazo de movimiento
sercaes de conciencia forma
en to cuatro Lunas y estrellas tu formacion
Espiritu te conose mi alma
te recoje – Raul Salinas would also do
poesia and literatura – LUChA was established
to give voice to the need for a cultural arts
center like the MACC. – And so, this was a dream. This was the seed and it
started with Emma and I, and Mrs. Limon,
and Mrs. Salinas, all these mothers
that wanted a place for our culture, our
poems, our music, our art could be enjoyed. – For me, it is so
important to include a lot of the artists who spearheaded
to have a space like this, who fought for this,
for these rights. – It’s impossible to be proud when you don’t know who you are. We have a center here that
we can continue to promote that culture. Poco a poco Raza, poco a poco.
Poco a poco, se va muy lejos “Poco a Poco” by Conjunto Aztlan

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