Movements in Chicano music : performing culture, performing politics, 1965-1979



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More than a confined account of the musical activity of the Chicano Movement, my research considers Chicana/o music of the period as a critical part of the protest music genres of Latin America (eg. Nueva canción, canto nuevo) and the Unites States (eg. labor/union and civil rights songs). Consequently, although situated squarely within the context of the Chicano Movement, this project necessarily examines the musical yet political links between Chicano musicians and their counterparts in the American labor movement, Civil Rights Movement, and Latin American social movements of the period. Coupled with the mobilization of their own Mexican musical and cultural traditions, Chicano musicians engaged these other repertoires of struggle to form the nexus of Chicana/o musical expression during the Movement. By viewing Chicana/o music within this broader lens, my research demonstrates that the complexities of the movimiento and Chicana/o political struggle cannot be adequately understood without thinking about how Chicano cultural producers engage a diversity of other race, ethnic, and regional struggles. Rather than assume a homologous relationship between music and identity, my research historicizes musical practices in the context of their struggle for political, social, and cultural rights and resources and the strategies employed by diverse communities working together to overcome the failures of governmental and institutional programs. The creative dialogues and musical exchanges that occurred among Chicano musicians suggest not only forms of ethnic solidarity but also the culturally “hybrid” expressions that shape even nationalist movements. Key to this approach is recognizing the simultaneously global and local character of Chicana/o musical production, where the flows of transnationalism circulated not only ideas, peoples, and sounds, but also political struggles. This project thus raises a number of critical questions about Chicano Movement music and its political import. Ultimately, I suggest that it was the ability to perform authoritatively within the bi-cultural and increasingly transnational space of the Chicano experience that empowered movimiento music to express the feelings of autonomy engendered by the Movement.