The Chicano social justice movements of the 1960s would evolve into two critical contributions to the conversation about Chicano life, politics, and culture: the Chicano Movement proper and the concept of Aztlan, which emerged in 1969. Aztlan was the notion that the entire Southwestern region of the United States was the spiritual homeland to a Chicano nation, this based on on ancient Aztec historical references to the region, as well as the long, historical presence of Mexican-Americans in the region dating back to before the time of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.
El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan, drafted at the Denver Youth Conference of 1969, was perhaps the single most important philosophical document informing early, nationalist Chicano activism. Among the goals of the plan was the implementation of a revolutionary and popular art movement as a means of strengthening the cultural identity of the Chicano community. While this imperative would take on a variety of forms, in the visual arts the two most significant incarnations were the emergence of cultural art centers and public murals. The Chicano Movement and its social justice agenda were in the air, and it was only natural that its energy would influence the arts and vice versa.
Above, art critic and writer Sybil Venegas outlines the Plan de Aztlan Manifesto; artist John Valadez describes the conflicting forces within the Chicano Movement.
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