Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Chicano/Latino Movements History and Geography

Mexican Americans have fought for rights, dignity, and cultural freedom since 1846. In the 20th century the fight took new forms. Founded in 1929 and modeled after the NAACP, LULAC and later the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and the American GI Forum operated as classic civil rights organizations, using persuasion and legal action to defend Mexican Americans. New organizations emerged in the 1960s changing goals as well as tactics, identifying with the label "Chicano" instead of "Mexican American," embracing cultural pride and sometimes militant agendas. [read more]

Here we explore the historical geography of many different organizations in 32 maps and charts, including United Farm Workers 1965-1975, MEChA and Chicano Student organizations 1967-2012; Spring 2006 Immigrant Rights protests; Raza Unida Party 1970-1974; Brown Berets 1967-1972; Chicano Newspapers 1966-1979. Other maps track the activism of earlier generations: LULAC 1929-1977; American GI Forum 1948-1974. This section has been researched and written by Josue Estrada and supported by the Digital History Initiative, History Department, University of Washington.

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League of United Latin American Citizens 1929-1977

LULAC has represented Mexican Americans since 1929, making it the nation's oldest surviving Latino civil rights organization. Founded in Corpus Christi in 1929, LULAC expanded first in Texas. Victory in a precedent-setting 1945 lawsuit challenging segregation of Mexican American students in Orange County, California, helped the organization grow. By 1977, LULAC had chapters in 21 states.

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UFW strikes, boycotts, campaigns

When ethnic Mexican farm workers led by Cesar Chavez joined with Filipino American workers led by Larry Itliong in 1965 to strike grape growers in Delano, California, the modern farm workers' movement was born. Here we map more than 1000 strike actions, boycotts, and other UFW related events showing the movement's support across the United States and Canada.

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MEChA and Chicano Student Organizations 1967-2012

Chicano students began to organize on college campuses in the late 1960s, forming organizations with various names. In 1969 most of these organizations merged forming El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan (MEChA). MEChA spread in stages and as of 2012 claimed more than 500 chapters.

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2006 Immigrant Rights Protests

Between February 14 and May 1, 2006, some four hundred protest actions in defense of immigrant rights took place in more than two hundred U.S. cities and towns, involving an estimated six million participants. These events were part of a mass mobilization in response to a draconian immigration bill, the "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act" (HR 4437) that passed the House of Representatives in December 2015. Catching journalists by surprise, demonstrations rolled across the country.

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Chicano Newspapers and Periodicals 1966-1979

Here are more than 300 newspapers and newsletters associated with the surge in Chicano activism in the 1960s and 1970s. Some were published by movement organizations, others served local communities.

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Raza Unida Party 1970-1974

Following the so-called “Chicano takeover” of Crystal City’s school board and city council in 1970, activists launched Raza Unida Party, running candidates in local and state elections in Texas and several other states. These maps show the growth and decline of RUP chapters and electoral campaigns.

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Brown Berets 1967-1972

In the barrios of Los Angeles, Chicano youth founded the Brown Berets in 1967, modeled after the Black Panther Party. The organization was dedicated to combatting police brutality and racism but some chapters also demanded education, job, and housing equality. By 1969, there were 29 chapters mostly in California but units developed in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Washington.         


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Chicano Movements: A Geographic History

By Josue Estrada

Scholars have paid some attention to the geography of Chicano activism but not in the detail that now becomes possible with the maps this project provides. This essay offers important observations while introducing the key organizations of the Chicano movement.