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