The PBS documentary “Chicano! History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement” examines the struggles of Mexican Americans in securing their rights. It mostly focuses on demonstrations and the struggles that Mexican Americans went through in the sixties. It examines different topics such as the land issues in New Mexico, the mistreatment and discrimination that Mexican Americans faced in their quest for the realization of equal treatment, and the challenges facing Mexican Americans as they demonstrated in various parts across the country.
When America went to war with Mexico, it ended taking up a substantial share of land belonging to Mexico. Many Mexicans in these regions found themselves foreigners and tenants in the land that had belonged to them for many generations. Some leaders emerged who were courageous enough to face the federal government, and to unite the people towards fighting for their land. The problems that faced Mexican Americans in the rural areas might have been different from those facing the Mexican Americans in the urban areas, but the people united towards fighting for a common purpose that was to be treated as equal citizens, and to realize an end to discrimination.
Throughout the documentary, Mexican Americans demonstrate their willingness to regain what belongs to them. They did not abandon their culture, and this is clear in the role that music, dance, and poetry played in the civil rights movement
I have learnt several things from the documentary. Many Mexican Americans were poor, and this denied them the opportunities that the white Americans had in terms of education, jobs, and housing.
Many Mexican Americans fought in the Vietnam War, where many ended up losing their lives. The efforts of the soldiers fighting in the war were never recognized, for the soldiers came home and they could not find any jobs. Mexican Americans were willing to work together with African Americans during the sixties, with the aim of addressing the needs for the poor. However, the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr. ended this relationship, and the two communities started having disagreements. Mexican American women were not passive during the civil rights movement. They wanted to join the men as they fought for equality, and they took an active role in the movement. Many Mexican Americans had faced different forms of discrimination. To some extent, this made them ashamed of their identity.
Mexican Americans wanted to be in a nation where they would have their own political party, schools, and other social systems. This was similar to the segregation rule that was present in the African American community though not to the same extent. African Americans had their own schools. These schools were not well equipped, and this denied the African American the same opportunities in education as the white Americans. The idea of segregating the community from the rest of American society would not have benefited Mexican Americans. It would have denied them the chance to learn from other people as they worked and learned together. Moreover, it would have advanced the discrimination that they already faced.
Many people do not realize the struggles that the Mexican American community faced over the years. They do not realize what the people had to endure so that they could secure their rights and the rights of their children. The leaders and organizers who led the people are rarely mentioned in history. They are not celebrated as much as other civil rights leaders. The Chicano movement was significant in ensuring equality in America. The people never gave up their quest although they were not successful in realizing all their goals. Their tenacity and willingness to end discrimination and prejudice has contributing to making America what it is today; a land that recognizes the rights of the minority and is willing to give all people the same opportunities.
Chicano! History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. NLCC Educational Media, 1996. Documentary