Grounding Gender and Race Self-Determination in Global Anticolonialism: Tejanas and the Third World in the 1970s

Thursday, January 4, 2018: 3:50 PM
Columbia 7 (Washington Hilton)
Samantha Rodriguez, University of Houston
In 1971, Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) activists Yolanda Garza Birdwell and Gloria Gurardiola produced La Mujer, Destruccion de Mitos: Formacion y Practica del Pensamento Libre (The Woman, Destruction of Myths: Formation and Practice of Free Thinking), a bilingual booklet that tackled oppressive institutional and cultural attitudes and advocated for the for the mental and physical freedom of Tejanas. Agitating for gender and racial liberation, Garza Birdwell and Guardiola contended that the Tejanas’ militant roots reached across time and borders to the insurgencies of ethnic Mexican and Cuban women. Indeed, Tejanas in the Chicana/o Movement tapped into the anti-colonial spirit of ethnic Mexican and Cuban women when combating sexism and struggling towards self-determination in the segregated South. Identifying with broad resistance to social, economic, and political dominance, Tejanas were also informed by Black Third World movements. While Ethnic and Gender scholars have documented linkages among Third World decolonial campaigns and U.S. protest movements, such works have largely obscured the role of global nationalism in the Chicana/o Movement. Drawing on oral histories, booklets, newspaper articles, conferences, and organizational records, this paper argues that anticolonial nationalist figures and movements fundamentally shaped Tejana feminist and activist expressions in the Jim and Juan Crow South. This investigation seeks to expand our understandings of self-determination in the Chicana/o Movement era.