Rebranding Chicanismo into collective thought and a cultural paradigm
By Armando Arias If it is the task of the scholar to truly make an original contribution to the existing scientific knowledge in one’s respective field, Ernesto Mireles has done so in a most eloquent way in his book, Insurgent Aztlán, an elusive quality for most academic writers, but which we can clearly recognize through his own insurgent writing and analyses of selected anti-colonial works. He sheds new light on the other side of American society today, the side we call “Aztlán.”
You may even call what he does a “rebranding” of the Chicano discourse into a new vernacular that causes one literally to think differently. As a metaphor for heaven on earth, Insurgent Aztlán as suggested by Mireles is almost too directive a heavenly place to be for change agents. In short, his book recasts the value of real knowledge through a confident insurgence of its very own.
His forging of ideas only makes for newer ideas thought of before but never quite so articulated. This is what is so essential about this work; perhaps it should have been titled “Essential Writing for an Insurgent Aztlán.”
Mireles’s writings should not be taken lightly as it causes a cognitive shift not only in the manner in which we translate words into new emotions and feelings, but also how it is that we come to new cultural interpretations of what we already know. His work has the capability of causing a revolution, a scientific literary revolution, because his ideas, whether you agree with him or not, are inarguably accurate. During an era in which the truth is attacked as “fake news,” there is nothing fake about his presentation. Mireles’ work, coupled with current efforts to draft a Blueprint for social action for the next 50 years, has already begun to generate progressive thoughts: We want to build a think tank, virtual in nature (for now) to enable a population to organize its cultural and intellectual needs to survive into the next half century—the first cycle of a long dynasty. It is important for this population to survive and flourish, because it holds the future of western civilization, however we define it, in its DNA, that is, as a mestizo people, in it is embedded the necessary genetic elements necessary for survival of the human race and it is also a cultural resource unlike any other (more vibrant than already decaying cultural and genetic populations).
From a social psychological perspective, what Mireles’s work does is cause a fundamentally different consciousness for everyone, not just those with a proclivity for social change. He is a restless thinker that will make you restless, too. Xicano resistance writing is as powerful an idea as the might of the pen; be aware, however, that you run the risk of becoming fixated and lose your objectivity the way newly created knowledge causes us to do. He clearly knows that within a historical context, the different spelling of politically charged words like “Chicano Power” alter reality, and are “…indicative of distinct past and present politico-cultural periods for Meso-Americans in the United States.”
Simply stated, his words will raise the self-esteem and consciousness of those who engage them and may very well also contribute to forming and affirming a national identity that is sorely needed at this time and cause a collective search for Latinos everywhere. We should consciously intend to change the consciousness of Mexicamerica from being virtually frozen in time intellectually to a nation focused on the future as the motivation for change today. One way to interpret the 52 year Azteca cycle of life is that it was intended to compress time for those in that time zone, you might say, and force introspection, creativity, united effort and action. In much the same way, looking forward 50 years impels collective thought; as it may in fact provoke collective action and necessarily, collective searches for identity, as the very nature of the collaboration is itself a means continually to alter the paradigm, to take action with intent, concientizados.
As an insurgent himself, Mireles is asking “How do we preserve a way of life and an outlook on life with those odds facing us?” He refers, of course, to our own culture and history. Another 50 year anniversary celebration was the one commemorating the Chicano Moratorium, which first took place August 29, 1970. Ruben Salazar died that day. Events like these should be held with the future in mind, redirecting our energy and our purpose to prepare for the next 50 years. It’s important to remember people and events after some years have passed—Ruben would have been 90 years old were he still alive, and I truly believe he would be championing the Blueprint intent and writing in its behalf as well.
In this book, Mireles reminds us of the importance to document how we managed to make it this far, but I truly believe that right now we are called to remember the future, that which lies ahead of us and that which only we can engage. Unless we do, whatever it was that the past 50 years accomplished or whatever events marked a turning point in Chicanan consciousness, the impulse—like surges of power which can cause a blackout or sudden spurts of action—must be understood as impelling us forward, not standing still.
Mireles clearly understands as does Paolo Freire that in order to create a pedagogy of the oppressed one must speak the same language as the oppressed, and, he adds, change it by making it stronger. He recognizes the weak form of oppression as weak language and the stronger much more effective form to transform oppression is by improving upon the sparkling interchange of new ideas. He is never lost in time, but he does well in reaching a new theoretical dimension—this is what is essential about his paradigm for looking virtually to the past and future simultaneously.
How do you write such a treatise unless you call it more than a stroke of genius? It is a companion book not only to the Chicano bible by Armando Rendón, Chicano Manifesto, it is more so the combination to unlocking the potency of Rendón’s Blueprint for the Next 50 Years, and beyond into future 50-year cycles. Even idle millennials will get excited about learning new truths in Mireles’s voice; he is one of them, but with a conscious connection to a soul born of social change.
Where did he come from? How did he come to know to design such a tool in this work so as to uplift the under-educated by drawing on their deprivations? It seems we are all under-educated, because we have to learn to think and speak within the new paradigm that Mireles has fashioned. This can lead to a core curriculum for training organizers and organizing trainers, that both provides a new language and new ideas as a product of collective effort, even of thought born from the pain of past Latino/Chicano generations. Through it people are trained as distributors of the new thought; they’re organizers really and will be spread around to create other centers of training of organizers.
That’s kind of the notion embedded in the think-tank being proposed in the Blueprint, a university for creating organizers that can bring people together to infuse them with a sensitivity, even passion, for fashioning the future of the Americas, at the very least. We are envisioning a core which we call organizing (pedagogically) as the stem along which concerns are assigned for mobilizing. Instead of “teachers” we are training (mobilizing) organizers who would use the training to "organize" more people as trainers, and so on. Get it? The paradigm is structured around the re-definition of organizing and mobilizing.
This work will spark new transformative cultural interpretations and will act as a manual for turning all that we thought we knew on its head – by design. We look forward to new incarnations of past Western written works in the form of Tomas Sawyer, Brave New Mundo, Alicia in Wonderland, or a series of Aztlán based books like: The Wizard of Aztlán, Democracy in Aztlán, Ideology and Utopia in Aztlán, Occupied Aztlán. Aztlán may live in people’s heads, but with Mireles’ work we can move it to the center ring and guarantee that the center will hold well into the future, for instance, contributing to new versions of the #MeToo movement.
Let this be a corrective pathway for us all to learn from and apply at all levels of American society today. In this Aztlán we will respect all ideas; we will fall into alignment, that is, Guillermo Bonfil-Batalla’s concept of permanent confrontation, now that is “heaven on earth.” Mireles says “Aztlán has always been an articulation of cultural reinforcement that – by establishing indigenous origins – allows Xicano/as to press colonial oppressors for civil rights and equal treatment under the prevailing laws.”
We must make this book available to all to a point where no one can graduate from high school without full knowledge of this work and its author. It is clear from Mireles’ writing that anti-colonial insurgencies are also capable of organizing, have charismatic characters and can lead a vast and major charge in a symbolic crusade. Lastly, we have to think beyond the present; we have to break the box down, not just think outside it. The sense that many others around the country also feel the impulse to look to the future is shared by the small cohort of Chicanans who have begun meeting regularly to build on the Blueprint concept and evolve a core of ideas and strategies on the organization and mobilization of our gente forward. Yes, let’s celebrate looking ahead 50 years. This is part of our mission, to spread the concept and make Mexican Americans as a people and a nation commit to creating new memories and achievements moving forward.
Armando Arias, Ph.D., is a professor and founding faculty member in the division of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Global Studies at CSU Monterey Bay. He often writes for Somos en escrito Magazine in his column, Chicano Confidential.