Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Beyond FINA: La Bloga: A Celebration of Chicano Literature and Culture

Daniel Olivas, who recently interviewed Lisa See for The Elegant Variation blog, kindly stopped by BEYOND Understanding, allowing me to follow his link to his main gig, La Bloga. I bookmarked La Bloga last year when I realized 1) some of its bloggers are based in Denver and 2) it’s an award-winning blog for good reason: Since late 2004, La Bloga has featured many, many books, authors, Colorado and California events, and resources in order to highlight contemporary developments of the Chicano cultural boom in the U.S.

And yes, I had to look up exactly what Chicano means. Like many kids who grew up way up north in suburbia, I had very little exposure to families of Latino descent. So here’s a run-down for readers like me, courtesy of the nifty site WiseGeek.com:


The most straightforward of the three cultural identifiers may be the word Chicano. “Chicano” refers specifically to Mexican-Americans, or anyone else of Mexican heritage. When Mexican workers and their families first moved into America, they were often referred to as “Mexicanos,” which became shortened over time to “Xicanos” or “Chicanos.” At first, “Chicano” was considered to be derogatory. Eventually, however, many in the Mexican-American community embraced the term, at least informally. There are still older Mexican-Americans who view “Chicano” as something less than respectful. It should only be used to describe those of Mexican descent.

The word “Hispanic” is a bit more universal than “Chicano.” Historically, areas conquered by the Spaniards were considered part of a region originally called Hispania. Modern countries which can trace their history to Spain are now considered to be Hispanic, and include Mexico, Central America, and most of South America where Spanish is the primary language. The only exception to this Hispanic designation is Brazil, which was settled by Portugal, not Spain. Any citizen of those countries originally colonized by Spain can be considered Hispanic. People from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and other areas south of the American border would all be considered Hispanic.

“Latino” is very close in meaning to Hispanic, but it also includes other countries such as Brazil. Although the Spaniards are often credited with colonizing Central and South America, the Romans (also known as the Latins) also had a significant influence over the region for hundreds of years. The regional description “Latin America” is derived from this period of history. To be described as a Latino is not considered derogatory, although it can be construed as a generic for all Hispanic cultures, much like referring to a Korean or Japanese-American as “Asian.” While “Latino” may be politically and socially correct, it may more culturally sensitive to learn a person’s specific heritage and refer to him or her as “Nicaraguan” or “Guatemalan” rather than the broader “Latino.”


Love it. Thanks to WiseGeek.com for the concise explanation, and thanks to Daniel Olivas and the folks at La Bloga for spreading the word about the wealth of Chicano culture and literature that exists just around the corner, if and when we’re willing to take a few steps outside our comfort zones. Simply check out the links to writers to the left of La Bloga’s main page to see what I’m talking about. Then read Daniel’s recent review of author Aaron Abeyta’s Rise, Do Not Be Afraid, and you’ll get a taste of what I mean. Then, as Daniel says: “¡Lea un libro!” You’ll be glad you did, especially if it’s a book Daniel recommends.

7 Comments:

Blogger Daniel Olivas said...

Gracias for the very, very kind mention. The world gets small via the Web.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

De nada, Daniel! And feel free to correct my attempts at Spanish at any time. Your children's book is a gem, btw! I plan to feature that before heading off on vacation later this week.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Sherry said...

I love it when I learn new things...things I didn't realize that I didn't already know (!) and things I didn't realize I wanted to know!! Thanks for providing me with new knowledge..and I'm amazed at how Mexicano was shortened to Chicano!

10:08 AM  
Blogger Ello said...

This was wonderful and I immediately clicked over to Daniel's blog and it looks terrific. I'm going back to look around.

Thanks for posting this!

12:23 PM  
Blogger Daniel Olivas said...

Thanks, Ello. By the way, I'm a lawyer, too. Heading off soon for a business trip. Hasta.

12:26 PM  
Blogger steve said...

I spent seven elementary and junior-high years in Albuquerque, and learned that the old families of New Mexico called themselves Spanish, and would be insulted by the term Mexican or Chicano. Part of the reason was that New Mexico was a part of Mexico for such a short time that people never really though of themselves as Mexican.

When Kathleen and I were in married student housing at the University of Iowa, we becme good friends with David and Lydia Ramirez, who were from Denver. We've lost contact, but the last I knew, David was a judge, and Lydia was in banking.

6:48 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Steve, thanks for the note about the families in New Mexico. Hmmmm....!

5:53 PM  

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