I was lucky enough to attend Dr. Mel Hidalgo’s recent talk on Feminist Chicana Literature here at University College Cork. The talk was engrossing and interesting, particularly because I went into it completely unaware of Chicana literature and the movements associated with it.
Dr. Hidalgo began by contextualizing Cherrí Moraga (the author who formed the bedrock of Dr. Hidalgo’s talk) within the larger history of Chicana/o culture. Specifically, she gave a nice introduction to Movimiento Chicana Feminism, a movement that began in the early 1970s and was, in many ways akin to other minority Civil Rights and Nationalistic movements like the Black Panthers. Movimiento’s Feminism was partly inspired by machismo of the larger Chicano movement and was an attempt to balance the problematically patriarchal tone of that movement. For me, this brought to mind the relationship between a writer like Sonia Sanchez and the kind of militant masculinity seen in other major Black Arts Movement writers like Amiri Baraka. In continuation with that line of thought I was also left wondering where the strong dissenting female voices of early Irish Nationalism might be found. I’ve often pondered the fact that, despite some overwhelming differences, there are some resonances between Pádraig Pearse and Baraka’s attempts to root a minorities identity in its masculinity. I can’t help wondering if an Irish Movimiento might be lost to history (or, of course, maybe I just need to do more research).
Continuing in her talk, Dr. Hidalgo compared post-movimiento Feminism (the movement that Moraga was part of) to Movimiento Feminism by comparing Yolanda Lopez and Alma Lopez’s approaches to representing the Virgin of Guadalupe. Yolanda’s work was typical of Movimiento Feminism as it focused on a woman in action. Alma’s, however, allows her subject to just be. In particular, it allows embraces the body and sexuality of the subject in a way that early Movimiento Feminism did not. In particular, this acceptance of sexuality allows Post-movimiento Feminism to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ community, which, according to Dr. Hidalgo, prefigures the concept of intersectionality popularized in more contemporary versions of Feminism that emphasize the relationship between the struggles of women, the
LGBTQ community, and even CIS men and ethnic
minorities as a result of patriarchy and the power dynamics of hegemonic masculinity.
Ultimately, Dr. Hidalgo forwarded Cherrí Moraga, in particular her writing in “Queer Aztlán”, as a reappraisal of the relationship between individual sexuality and patriarchy as well as the relationship between Chicana/o people and the very land where they live. Moraga draws on the idea of Aztlán, the original lands of Mexico that included much of the American Southwest before the Mexican-American War, to explain a sense of belonging among Mexican-Americans that manages to overpower the White American narrative that deals with them so exclusively in terms like “alien” and “illegal.” More importantly, Moraga uses Aztlán to explain a sense of loss in Chicana/o literature, as much of the original lands of Mexico have been lost to the U.S.
Naturally, Dr. Hidalgo mentioned the relevance of Moraga and Post-movimiento Feminism to America’s current political climate. In fact, it was in her concluding remarks about Post-movimiento writing as a search for a kind of “decolonizing Nationalism” that the real importance and potential of Post-movimiento writing became apparent to me. America, and many other nations, are clearly facing the demons of their latent Nationalism. In many ways I don’t think that Nationalism is inherently bad, at least as far as it exists as a pride in one’s community, but I do think, in its current form, it is diseased. If the conversations sparked by things like Post-movimiento writing can help mold a identities that don’t draw strength from oppression and abuse, then I hope that those conversations continue.
Hidalgo, Melissa. “Moraga’s “Queer Aztlán” and the Urgency of Chicana (Lesbian) Feminist Critique.”31 January 2017, University College Cork School of English, University College Cork. Lecture.