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In this text, art historian and activist Victor Alejandro Sorell ponders on arguments for designating Chicano people a nation: the history of the twelfth-century Aztec homeland Aztlán, —located in the U.S. Southwest,— included; the seizure of much of this region from Mexico by the United States in 1848, and the mestizaje [intermingling] culture of this region. Sorell argues that, at the current moment (early 1980s), it is possible to see Chicanos in two ways: a minority within a greater group of Chicanos who embrace mestizaje, and a large Chicano population that is “ . . . by no means homogeneous nor wholly assimilated . . . .” Sorell weighs options regarding political action for Chicano nationalists, and this involves secession and reparation from the U.S. government due to stolen land. He emphasizes the strength and vibrancy of recent Chicano artists and poets, including Santos Martínez, who defined a Chicano as “a Mexican-American involved in a socio-political struggle to create a relevant, contemporary, and revolutionary consciousness as a means of accelerating social change and actualizing an autonomous cultural reality among other Americans of Mexican descent.” Sorell, however, concludes that Chicano artists remain peripheral to the Chicano nationalist struggle, and that they will continue to be peripheral unless the people adopt them. As he writes, “The pueblo must embrace the artist very much in the manner of a Chile embracing her nationalist poet, the late Pablo Neruda . . . .”


The Chicago-based art historian and activist Victor Alejandro Sorell wrote this text while on assignment from 1980 and 1983 with the Division of Public Programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C. Sorell gives a personal response—informed by his first-hand experiences in the Chicano movement as well as his readings in Chicana/o visual culture and history—to the discussion on Chicano nationalism to readers of Community Murals magazine, which was published by International Community Muralists. Appearing in the magazine in the spring of 1983, his text invokes a landmark exhibition, Dále Gas… organized in 1977, in Texas, by the artist Santos Martínez.

Victor Sorell; Harper Montgomery, collaborator
Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, USA
Courtesy of Community Murals, Spring 1983, Berkeley, CA