In Chicano history, the women who formed a vital part of social justice movements have often been swept aside; forgotten or ignored as their male counterparts receive the bulk of the praise for their collective work. Their visibility is imperative as Chicanas continue to work in social justice, fighting the good fights within various movements.
“Chicana Tributes: Activist Women of the Civil Rights Movement” aims to share those untold stories of the women who formed an important part of the movement.
CREDIT: Chicana Tributes/San Diego State University Chicano Archive
The book documents the experiences of 61 Chicanas from the ’60s to the present who have paved the way in the fight for human rights as educators, attorneys, activists, artists and more. Some of the women featured have passed, while others remain active. Each of their stories were written by an author of their or their loved ones’ choosing, creating beautiful pieces that bring together women for the purpose of honoring women.
The project came about by the Chicano Archive Committee at San Diego State University, which works to document the people and historical events that have occurred around the Chicano movement. Committee members and co-editors Sonia Lopez and Rita Sanchez selected the women featured in “Chicana Tributes” to document what they believe is missing from the history books.
“These stories need to be told so people can know that some of the things they take for granted, a lot of people fought for,” says Lopez. “Most of the time, the men are the ones who are recognized. Any advancement in the Chicano community, the credit is mostly given to the men.”
CREDIT: Notes from Aztlán
Lopez, a longtime activist and educator, was the first person to teach a Chicana history class at San Diego State back in 1972. Back then, she found a need to address Chicana issues, and still sees the need today.
“There’s still not enough information on Chicanas that have contributed to history, society and the community,” she says. “They need to be recognized.”
Among the women featured are ACLU leader Norma Chavez, Laura Rodriguez, matriarch of the National Historic Landmark Chicano Park, Charlotte Hernandez Terry, the first woman to paint a mural at Chicano Park, and Delia Moreno, who along with her daughters form Trio Moreno, which played protest trio music during important events in the Chicano movement.
In telling the stories of these trailblazers, Lopez says young women will have one more book they can see themselves in, which is necessary as there are few books that offer that. Especially as the women featured have overcome many struggles in their life and come out on top.
“It’s amazing that these women still had the courage and resilience in spite of all their hardships,” Lopez says. “We’re trying to teach people this is life. Life is a struggle. Part of becoming who you are is a struggle. And for us, especially, as Mexicanas on this side of the border. We chose the word ‘chicana’ to define our own identity, tell our history, tell our story and tell our roots. By reading this story people will learn, people will appreciate and feel inspired.”
“I think young women today are looking for role models,” she adds. “I don’t feel that we have enough role models out there of people that are doing things or have done things to inspire, to motivate. With this book, young women can see that it’s possible to do. The groundwork has been laid by the women featured in this book.”