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This excerpt from Jacinto Quirarte’s book, Mexican American Artists, includes the introduction, chapters 4 through 8, and a short conclusion. In the introduction, the author explores Chicano identity and the unifying elements of Chicano art. While Chicano artists employ many European artistic conventions, Quirarte believes the ideas and symbols portrayed reflect the mix of cultures that comprise the Chicano identity: indigenous (Aztec, Toltec, Olmec, and others), Spanish, and American. Chapters 4 through 7 discuss in depth many Chicano artists born and/or raised in the United States between 1901 and 1946. The artists discussed include Antonio García, Chelo González Amézcua, Octavio Medellín, Margaret Herrera Chávez, Porfirio Salinas, Edward Chávez, Michael Ponce de León, Rubén González, Pedro Cervántez, Joel Tito Ramírez, Peter Rodríguez, Eugenio Quesada, Emilio Aguirre, Melesio Casas, Manuel Neri, Louis Gutiérrez, Ernesto Palomino, Ralph Ortiz, Eduardo Carrillo, Ray Chávez, Joseph A Chávez, Michael López, Luis Jiménez, Glynn Gómez, Amado Peña, Rudy Treviño, and Alex Sánchez. In the last chapter, Quirarte presents two characteristic responses by the artists interviewed for the book about their backgrounds and their artistic development. Some of them identify first as artists and as Americans, while others ascribe to “Chicano art” as being fundamental in establishing and representing their ethnic identity. Quirarte concludes that the one underlying theme tying all Chicano artists is a connection with Mexico, whether direct or indirect.


Jacinto Quirarte is one of the foremost Chicano art historians and one of the earliest to write about Chicano art history, including the groundbreaking book Mexican American Artists published in 1973. The first of its kind, Mexican American Artists prompted a traveling exhibition featuring artworks by the artists in the book and the extensive media coverage received helped form a national network of Chicano artists. In his introduction to the book, Quirarte discusses the complexities of the Chicano experience and its impact on Chicano art. He includes a representative sample of living artists and traces Mexican American art of 1930s through Chicano art in the early1970s. Though predominantly focused on artists from his native Texas and from New Mexico, he does include some important artists from California and Arizona. Quirarte has been criticized for overstating the influence of Mexican muralists on Chicano art, but the book remains an invaluable resource especially for Mexican American artists before 1965.

Tere Romo
Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
Courtesy of Jacinto Quirarte, Helotes, TX
From MEXICAN AMERICAN ARTISTS by Jacinto Quirarte, Copyright © 1973. Courtesy of the University of Texas Press