Identity’s role in the Chicano Movement Through Art (by Stephanie Ramirez)


This short lesson plan is intended to show students how identity was key to the Chicano Movement. After they have completed this lesson they should be able to realize that many people involved in the movements in the 1960’s were students, both in high school and in college. It should allow students to see how injustices and oppression set up by our government were institutionalized to keep many minorities silent. Hopefully this lesson should open their eyes to the fact the inequalities continue to exist and that they as students have the power to make a difference. It should also allow the students to see how art played a major role in connecting everyone and allowed for the expression of their feelings of that time.


This lesson will ask students to look deeply at who they are. Not just as students but as being part of a greater group of people. It will have them begin to develop questions of self-discovery. It will entail students to understand how identity not only plays a key role in the present time but has played key roles all throughout history. They will have to learn a bit about the Chicano movement and from this be able to understand why the Chicano movement was created. Hopefully they should be able to connect this movement with those of the Blacks Civil Rights Movement, Asian American Movement, or Native American Movement. They should be able to gain a sense of understanding about the many movements surrounding the topic of identity. That many cultures were trying to be wiped out into the melting pot and that identity allowed them to retain a sense of self and unite these different groups of people.

Essential Understanding:

This lesson plan should enable a bridge to be formed between current youth and youth from the 1960’s in that they continue to struggle with the same issue of identity and injustices of our government.

Essential Questions:

1) Why was the movement primarily made up of students and not their parents or older people of the time that might have been more equipped with better strategies?

2) Why was identity such an important part of the movement?

3) How were these students oppressed?

4) What did the movement use to connect people (types of media or art)?

5) Why was art important in the movement?

6) What was the motive for the movement?

7) What where the attitudes of this time?


The purpose of this lesson plan is to allow you to see connections between youth of the 1960’s and yourself. You should find some similarities between them whether it should be through school or through who you define yourself to be. In order to be able to engage in this activity it is important for you to have some background knowledge of the civil rights movement and, if you could, some information about the Chicano Movement. However it is not necessary to know much about the Chicano Movement since this lesson will focus on this topic to help you to understand why the movement occurred and why it was important. The civil rights movement alone should allow you to understand this lesson plan.

You will also be asked to think about topics that may be sensitive. It is important for you to hold any comments that might be hurtful and if you do not have anything positive to say, do not say anything at all. It is important to create a safe atmosphere as prejudice and racism towards ethnicity continues to be a problem. This racism will play a huge role in our topic of the Chicano Movement. You will be able to see how racism played detrimental effects in education. This racism is seen in the Brown v. Board of education case and the Mendez v. Westminster case.

Chicano was once used as a derogatory term for Mexicans who were born in America. It was perceived to be a negative ethnic stereotype. The Chicano Movement instead used it in a way to show pride and unity amongst Mexican Americans. It was this profound sense of identity that united them. Many Mexicans were and continue not be united on a common identity. This is due to the fact of Spanish colonization where castes were created depending on skin color and the amount of Spanish blood that flowed through a person. The threat of “Americanization” is what caused this unity. This term also helped explain the identity of 1st and 2nd generation Mexican Americans who were caught between their culture and their birthplace. This term, Chicano, allowed them to feel a sense of belonging in both cultures. It is because of this new sense of identity that they fought endlessly to save and maintain it for future generations.


List of Demands (East LA Walkouts) (East LA Walkouts)

East LA Walkouts Video


No Saco Nada De La Escuela Play part1 part2




These activities would be perfect to perform in the afternoon. It will be the last thing students do and allow them to go home and ask more about their culture. This lesson plan should take up two afternoon days.

Education: In order to get people to the same starting point begin with an icebreaker about school. Begin by asking what they don’t like about school and what improvements they would make. Have one person write the answers on half the board.

After ask them what they think school was like during the civil rights era? If people are stuck ask if they have heard about Brown v. Board of Education then ask if they have also heard of Mendez v. Westminster. Ask them what they think they wouldn’t like about school if they were there in that era? If you need to be the facilitator ask them:

• Would you have like to be segregated?
• How do you think your classroom conditions would be like?
• Would the teacher be understanding to cultural differences or oppressive?
• Would you have nice schoolbooks or materials?

After this has been completed hand out the List of Demands to the La Board of Education in March 19681 . Link to this document is in the materials section.

You could go over the list with them or have them read it on their own. If they read it on their own give them 3-5 min. After they have read the list of demands ask them if anything surprising stood out.

On the other half of the board, write out the responses to things they would not have like about going to this school.

Ask them to compare things that they feel have changed since then and things that they feel have not changed. This should allow them to see how education in the 1960’s was really oppressive and not respectful of cultural differences.

1 McCurdy, Jack. “Demands Made by East Side High School Students Listed.” Los Angeles Times, , sec. pg.1,4-5, March 17, 1968. This is presented on the link Tomas Summers Sandoval, “Walkout,” Latino Like Me (blog), March 1, 2012,

After completing the activity above it would be nice to show at 10 min video on the Chicano Walkouts2 . (Link is provided in the materials section) It is one thing to talk about it and another to actually see how these students where treated. It is not necessary to watch the full video 5 min will suffice. The purpose of the video is for students to be able to visually see what was occurring rather than just reading about it. The video should hopefully prompt their curiosity in the movement. After the movie the students should quickly discuss what stood out the most. This should not take more than 5 min since the following activity is important.

2 Chicano! History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement,” PBS Documentary , 08/30/2011, Web,

After the video have students volunteer to act out a play. This is a play written by Luis Valdez that shows how oppressive schools were in the 1960’s3 . It will be somewhat time consuming but the outcome is a great one. In the ending sections of the play the characters grow in their sense of identity. This is very empowering to students who might be afraid to speak up or are currently debating what group they belong to. Identity continues to be a major issue in minority communities. Many are unsure as to what group they fit. Many psychologists have discovered that being bicultural is the best thing for a student who comes from a minority group. It allows them to be able to cross between home and society. This will also show how art was a major contributor to the movement. It should allow students to be able to see how art brought people together and was able to connect the younger and older generations. After the play has been completed at the end of the day have students share what they have learned about the play. Then continue on to ask what they have learned in general about the movement. Ask them what they think was the most interesting thing. Afterwards encourage them to learn more about the movement and to go home and ask relatives about their stories of that time. Inform them that the following day they will be asked to share anything they have learned at home.

3Luis Valdez, Early Works, (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1990), 66-90.

Second Day:

Today is the final day. The activities presented today should allow students to get to the main idea and sum up all they have learned.

Begin by asking the students if they learned anything new at home or expanded on what they have learned at home. If they have, allow them to share. This should only take 10 min.

Afterwards continue with the following activity. The activity is listed on the link provided herehere.

This activity will allow the students to engage in what they believe their identity is4. It will also allow a discussion on stereotypes surrounding each ethnic group. It should allow them to feel a sense of connection to others in their group. They will see that stereotypes affect everyone and that it has negative effects.

4 Gorski, Paul. EdChange Project, “Circles of My Multicultural Self.” Last modified 2010. Accessed April 28, 2012.

After this activity hand out the excerpt of I am Joaquin where it discusses how mainstream society has destroyed his identity5. The excerpt is located at the end of this paragraph. After reading this ask the students how they feel about this excerpt from the poem. It should allow students to make connections to mainstream society now. If it doesn’t ask them if they still think mainstream society is doing this. If you need to be the facilitator begin by asking about the media, celebrities, models, athletes, movies, and music. This should allow them to see parallels.

Yo soy Joaquín,

perdido en un mundo de confusión:

I am Joaquín, lost in a world of confusion,

caught up in the whirl of a gringo society,

confused by the rules, scorned by attitudes,

suppressed by manipulation, and destroyed by modern society .

5 Rodolfo Gonzalez, I am Joaquin Yo Soy Joaquin, (New York: Bantam Book Inc, 1972), 4-100.

After, hand out the second excerpt of I am Joaquin where he discusses how identity unites the people6. This excerpt should allow the students to see that no matter what ethnicity they were, they were united for the same cause. It will show the strength of the movement and their passion for identity to be kept alive. The excerpt is located at the end of this paragraph. It will show how the movement relied heavily on identity.

La raza!





Or whatever I call myself,

I look the same

I feel the same

I cry


Sing the same.

I am the masses of my people and

I refuse to be absorbed.

I am Joaquín.

The odds are great

But my spirit is strong,

My faith unbreakable,

My blood is pure.

I am Aztec prince and Christian Christ.



6 Rodolfo Gonzalez, I am Joaquin Yo Soy Joaquin, (New York: Bantam Book Inc, 1972), 4-100.

We will end with an excerpt from Luis Valdes Early Works in which he states what it means to be Chicano7. The excerpt is included at the end of this paragraph. This excerpt should allow students to see what students of the 1960’s thought it meant to be Chicano. They should analyze it to see if they see any connections or agree with any of the statements.

To be CHICANO is not (NOT) to hate the gabacho or the gachupin or even the pobre vendido…To be CHICANO is to love yourself your culture, your skin, your language and once you become CHICANO that way you begin to love other people otras razas del mundo los vietnamitas los argentines los colombianos and, yes, even los europeos because they need us more than we need them…

Y cuando el Chicano puede decirle a todo el mundo: Raza, te comprendo y te quiero because I know where you’re coming from and where you’re going desde Borneo al Congo desde Moscow a Mercedes, todos son mi Raza Humana- ENTONCES EL CHICANO SE SALE DE SUS HUESOS, SE SALE DE LA PINTA DE SU CARNE y ya no es el “minority group” ya no es un hyphenated Spanish-speaking person es un HOMBRE, un SER HUMANO, un hijo de Dios.

7 Luis Valdez, Early Works, (Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1990), 175 and 189.

The lesson should be ended with questions about what it means to be Chicano, Asian American, Native American, African American, etc.… Inform the students that just because it states Chicanos they should also relate it to their own ethnicity whether Asian, African American, or Native American. The only reason it states Chicano is because we are focusing only on the Chicano Movement. However, inform them that the Asian American movement and Native American Movement were two other groups in which identity played a huge role. Also inform them that this is very important due to what is occurring in Arizona. Have them think about the connections that happened in the 1960’s and those events occurring now.

Additional Sources:

Standards Met:

1) Explains how demands of Chicanos helped create a the Chicano Movement.

2) We examined art through poems and teatro.

3) We compared the past with the present in terms of school and identity.

4) Students analyzed change. The changes in education and in pronounced racism.

5) Students identified prejudice in historical

6) Cited specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary sources.

7) Students discussed identity and injustices in education.

8) Students examined the roles of art in the Chicano Movement. dents examined the roles of art in the Chicano Movement.

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