Staking Family Claims
The family is the place where, for better or worse, we learn how
to love.
Cherríe Moraga, Loving in the War Years: Lo que nunca pasó por
sus labios (1983)
n her “Introduction” to the collection Chicana Feminist Thought: The
Basic Historical Writings, sociologist Alma M. García notes how in-
discourses of nationalism, family, and machismo provoked
Chicana feminism in the late 1960s and 1970s, the historical moment that
gave way to organized struggles for Mexican American civil rights and
cultural empowerment known as the Chicano movement.
Although many issues contributed to the development of Chicana feminist
thought, the ideological critique of sexism or machismo, the term most fre-
quently used within a Chicano context, contributed significantly to the for-
mation of Chicana feminism. Chicana feminists, as active participants in the
Chicano movement, experienced the immediate constraints of male domina-
tion in their daily lives. Their writings express their concern with traditional
gender roles within Chicano families that relegated women into secondary
roles. Chicana feminists challenged the portrait of the so-called “Ideal Chi-
cana” drawn by Chicano cultural nationalists. (A. García 1997, 5)
Furthermore, within various movement contexts, strands of Chicano cul-
tural nationalism tethered to machismo promoted a family ideal that, ex-
trapolating from Christopher Lasch, García identifies as a “safe ‘haven in
a heartless world’. In this romanticized haven—a “nation” defined within
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