Che in New Mexico: Third World Anticolonial Nationalism, Las Gorras Negras, and the Chicana/o Insurgency, 1969–74

Thursday, January 4, 2018: 4:10 PM
Columbia 7 (Washington Hilton)
Dennis Aguirre, University of Northern Colorado
This paper examines the Chicana/o movement in New Mexico by focusing on Las Gorras Negras (or the Black Berets as they were also known), a paramilitary self-help group founded in Albuquerque. Beginning in 1969 Las Gorras Negras captured media headlines as a result of confrontations with local, state, and federal authorities. Although militant organizations in the United States are often viewed in terms of opposition to dominant society, the direct-action tactics of the Black Berets demonstrates more than simply resistance to oppression. Instead, the example of Las Gorras Negras reveals the creative use of public spaces to perform political theater with the aim of socially constructing an alternative conception of leadership. In this light, the Chicana/o movement emerges as an attempt to channel individualized and localized identities into a larger collective community. While Las Gorras Negras struggled to forge a collective cultural identity for ethnic Mexicans in New Mexico, this paper also demonstrates that the Chicana/o insurgency should not be identified solely as a local articulation of nationalism. Rather, it should be viewed as part of a global dialogue between various exponents of a Third-World anticolonial network that rarely occurred in previous eras. This exploration thus illuminates a process of cultural remaking that called for a redefined identity that was local, national, and international in scope. In keeping with the theme of this conference, “"Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in Global Perspective," this paper highlights Third World anticolonial nationalism as a transnational force that linked colonized and racialized peoples around the globe.
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