From the day we enter school, we begin learning about history. Yet when we are young and innocent, we don’t stop to consider whose version of history we are being taught. The fact is; the version of history we are taught in the schools is not the version of history as seen through the eyes of the Chicano. In the eyes of the Chicano, America was not discovered, it was stolen. In the eyes of the Chicano, history is colored in hues of defiance and rising above the struggles. In the eyes of the Chicano, we celebrate our resistance to exploitation and discrimination through beautiful expressions of our culture. From our posole and green chile chicken enchiladas, to our paños, our altars, and especially our Lowriders-people from around the world admire the richness of how we celebrate our traditions. But deep down, we know that our version of history does not match the version taught to our children in school. Now more than ever, we recognize the need to discover our roots and take pride in our history- as told through the eyes of the Chicano.
The seminal book, 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, allows readers to discover a completely different version of history of the last 500 years. Through the pages of this book, the Battle of the Alamo is no longer the triumph of the Texans over the Mexican tyrants. Instead, the heroic Texans are unmasked as slave-traders and owners. Davey Crockett is unveiled as a power-hungry businessman, who boasted that he ate potatoes fried in the fat from the Indian bodies he killed. You learn that one reason the gringos fought so hard in this battle was because Mexico had just announced it was going to free all of the slaves in Texas.
I remember the first time I read this book. It was so powerful to discover that history was not what I thought it was; I realized that what I was being tested on in school was not the history my Grandpa lived through. It was a white version of history. This book, and the powerful images it contains, showed me for the first time the power of my ancestors. It planted a seed of pride in my heart, and pride in the resistance that Chicanos and Chicanas have demonstrated over the centuries.
In the book, we discover countless stories of Chicanos around the Southwest rising up to defend their land and culture-like the 1988-89 uprising in a small town in Northern New Mexico: Tierra Amarilla. Residents of this town took up arms, built bunkers and raised their flag against the encroachment of rich developers trying to take over their land. Community members organized The Consejo de La Tierra Amarilla and successfully defended their land, history, and culture against those set out to destroy it.
In uncovering these stories, we begin to see the power of the Chicano. More importantly, we discover the most important question when it comes to learning and growing from history: whose version of history do I want to learn?
Marisol Enyart is a Chicana born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has spent her life working towards social and economic justice in her community. She has a deep love for where she is from and intends to continue using her passion for justice to educate people in New Mexico and beyond.
500 Years of Chicano History is published by the SouthWest Organizing Project, a local non-profit based in New Mexico with the mission to empower our communities in the SouthWest to realize racial and gender equality and social and economic justice. You can purchase your copy of 500 Years of Chicano History by going to www.swop.net/store, or calling 505-247-8832.