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The Museum Portrayal of Chicano Movement

Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.

On Wednesday November 20, 2019 I went to go visit the exhibit “LA Starts Here” located in LA Plaza de Culture y Artes. My really close friend from high school who is currently my roommate came along to visit the museum with me. She was in shock by the exhibit. This was because didn’t expect to learn so much in just a few hours at this museum. After visiting the museum, she was able to gain a better understanding about the Chicano movement. The interactive videos, the speakers that you were able to put your ear to and able listen to the stories of individuals, she enjoyed the most. This is a museum exhibit that you were able to explore and educate yourself about the influence on Mexican and Mexican American cultures in Los Angeles. During the amount of time I was there I was able to learn and examine the information that was provided to us. However, I felt as if the exhibit lacked a lot of what was being taught throughout the 16 weeks of the course. Instead I found out new information that was not discussed in the course for instance, the gold rush, the founding of the missions, etc. Although, it is important to our culture, these topics were taught to us in our early years of school. When I was in the museum, I was not so sure if this was what I was supposed to be looking at exactly. On the other hand, there had been topics that were discussed about in class; information of the Pachucos, the illustration of the Zoot Suit Riots. Overall however, I felt like the museum had a basic illustration of the Chicano/a movement and experience. I feel like this just goes to prove how here were parts of the exhibit were very familiar. Some people may know about these events’ wen asked and it is nothing new to them because they have heard about them. Furthermore, I did enjoy the exhibit mainly on the parts that I was able to connect the class to.

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Immigration was a topic in the exhibit. During week six of the course, we read about the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and discussed about how a part of the United States was once Mexico. The land was acquired by the United States and now, many Mexicans who had been living there for generations were illegals. It was just only the beginning. Under the idea and promise of American citizenship, there were many individuals who looked forward to a hopeful future. The people who stayed in those areas and continued to live their lives there were eventually being thrown out of the country. Not only were adults being thrown out of their country but as well, young kids who had never ever been to Mexico, who had been born in the United States and who had citizenship were being thrown out of their lives along with their families. During the course of week 7 we watched an episode from Empire of Dreams and there were violations of laws and the rights of citizenship connected back to Mae Ngai’s. However, this connected back to her article because in the video the man had spoken about how there were many people who headed to the United States in search of opportunities and jobs. They were used for labor and even if they were born in America they were forced back to go back to México during the revolution. This goes back to an individual named Emilia Castaneda, who was a born American Citizen, who had lived in Los Angeles her entire life alongside her family. During the 1930’s when the United States had paid off the fare of millions so that they can leave to Mexico. Emilia and her family were forced out to leave, with nothing on them. They left with nothing since they were forced. A sign in the exhibit we were able to read “She was teased by local children for being deported and not knowing how to speak Spanish very well.”. It goes to show that the reality of a young 9-10-year-old girl had to go through thought her life. Aside from her being pushed out of her home, she had to undergo the cruelty of many kids who had no idea on what she had been going through.

As mentioned in the website of the exhibit and after visiting, the main point of this exhibit is to examine Mexican and Mexican American history and identity in Los Angeles. It is important to be able to understand the role of women during the time of the Chicano movement. It is a time when the word Chicano/a has a negative overtone and a woman’s life is nothing but sexism, poverty and racism. It was a negative experience that not only came from other races and other people, but it was mainly focused from one’s own community. The whole purpose of this movement was to make a change. It was to change the all the negatives into positives and hope for better things in life. To start with, the first thing that had to be changed were the labels. Being Chicano, during that time, it meant that you acknowledged a dominance of males in all forms. From the beginning there is a female that is displayed. The quote read “How can we have true independence for la Raza when 51% of us are expected to stay home to cook, clean, and have children? You say we’re anti-men, anti-family, but we’re your mothers, your wives, your sisters and your daughters!”. I recall being really intrigued during the first few weeks because this is when I learned that the term “Chicano” was unknown to many. Having been a self-identifying Latina. However, outside of the United Stated the word Chicano/Latino was not a used term. The exhibit portrays the idea of “Latino this” and “Chicano that” and I personally believe that it was a wonderful thing to see, having been educated about the origin of the term. This somehow connects back to week 11 when we discussed about the Chicana Movement when Mexicans faced obstacles with their education.

In exhibit there was a board with stories of Ignacio Pina, Ramona Espinoza and Ruben Jimenez. All of these people had something that were very common to each other they had been forced out of their lives and they had no control over it. Ignacio was only 6 when his life had been changed. He was detained and held in jail before he got deported. Ramona had been separated from her father after a horrific car crash and Ruben had been deported, he only came back and served in World War II. At the same time all these individuals; Ramona Espinoza, Ruben Jimenez, and Ignacio Pina were harshly and cruelly being forced out. They escaped from all the harshness that was going on in their hometowns and they all looked for a better opportunity. A large board at the exhibit it explained how many people left Mexico due to the revolution and families started coming as wholes. They started to come to escaped from all the cruelty that was going on in Mexico. As more people started coming, the discrimination was getting bad in employment, school, the public and housing. One thing I was able to gain from the exhibit was that housing discrimination was something that many individuals had faced during that time. It’s unbelievable to think about it because of segregation and discrimination, people now able places as “bad areas” and “ghettos” neighborhood. The exhibit had a lot of information about the Latino/Chicano history in the United States. It had information about colonization, independence, deportation, etc. I think it’s important l to understand and educate ourselves on the history of our people. Our people meaning the meaning that went through hardships.

In conclusion, I do believe the museum does a good job on portraying the crucial part of history. However, after learning about the history the past 16 weeks I personally feel that the museum was not as to someone who has been exposed to all the information that I have been in the past 16 weeks, I feel that maybe the museum wasn’t as reflective. However, I do wish that I would’ve seen more about the recent history. For instance, about NietoGomez, the struggles and influence in the Chicano movement. I feel that history like this is taught to younger children. I feel like it would have a strong influence in many individuals and educate many more. In my perspective I feel that the Chicano movement has been achieved. Although there are students who are not being told to get educated. However instead they are being pushed in order to achieve more. In the United States there is plenty of opportunities that are offered to Chicano students where they are able to go to get the extra support. I feel that now after taking this course and had the opportunity to visit exhibit, I am able to expand my perspective on the history. 

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