Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

October League (M-L)

Chicano Liberation

Resolution of OL’s Third Congress


The Chicana, as is true with minority women in general, is triply oppressed. The national question and the woman question are in essence class questions. What does the work with Chicanas mean in our strategy for revolution to overthrow imperialism? How do we apply these questions in our analysis and approach to work with Chicanas?


As Engels states, in primitive communal society, women’s position was equal to that of man.[1] So too, was the indigenous Indian Mexican woman in pre-slavery Mexico. With the rise of classes and slavery and finally colonialism and capitalism, women’s oppression began. The oppression of women is closely tied to the national oppression of the people of Mexico. The oppression of the Chicana is bound up with the subjugation of the Chicano national minority in the U.S.

The Aztec society, founded in the 14th century in the twin cities, Tenochtitlan and Tlaltelolco (now Mexico City), was a slave society. The Aztecs were a conquering people, enslaving and exploiting the people they conquered. Conquered women, besides being used as slaves, suffered particularly from use as prostitutes (or concubines) and breeders of the future slave generations. In their education, women were trained (depending on their place in society) to be ’good wives’ (the rich) or prostitutes, concubines or servants (toilers).

The end of the Aztec empire came (after 150 years) with the conquest of Spanish colonialism between 1519 and 1521. The oppression of the indigenous Indian woman under colonialism was very brutal. Religion (Catholicism) sharpened this oppression in general and the church worked hand in hand with the Spanish colonizers in keeping women down. There is a quote from Spanish writing of that time which states “women’s place is in the home–with a broken leg.” Women were told their responsibilities were “to serve god, the Catholic church, then men” (before marriage, the father, then husband, then sons and children). She was to be a breeder for church and empire. This ideology is similar to Confucian slave philosophy in early China where women were thought of as sub-human.

Catholicism was more closely linked with feudalism, while later developing Protestantism linked with developing capitalism. To the extent a woman was influenced by metaphysical ideology, she was oppressed not only materially, but ideologically as well.

In the early part of the colonial period, the Spanish did not bring their women with them. This is how the Mestizaje (joining of indigenous Indian and Spanish), the modern Mexican or Mestizo began. While women in this period were unequal and badly abused, their “impure” Mestizo children were also unequal and looked upon by the Spanish as future slaves. Infanticide was sometimes practiced by women who didn’t want their children to be subjected to lives as slaves.

The Spanish crown became alarmed by the alliance of Spanish men with Indian women (and the possible threat of its holdings in “New Spain” being inherited by Mestizo children), so it dispatched Spanish women to Mexico. Upon arrival of the Spanish women, the Indian “acting wives” were abandoned, many of them forced to live as best they could, including as prostitutes. A good example of the colonial racism was the policy that children had full rights only if conceived in a “legal,” Catholic marriage. So, most of the Mestizo children were abandoned along with their mothers at the whim of the colonizers.


Developing capitalism in Mexico (closely tied with its expansion in the U.S.) was particularly hard on the Mexicana, in that her family was split and often destroyed by forced migration to the mines or urban factories. During this time, approximately 18,000 miles of railroad track was built by the Mexican government to get the raw materials of mines to the industrial centers and to facilitate trade between the U.S. and Mexico. With the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 and the consequent mass migration of people back to Mexico, the Mexicana again had to try to keep her family intact Here began the Chicana, with the birth of children in the U.S. of Mexican ancestry.

The history books record even less regarding the Chicana in the U.S. With the capitalist needs for a cheap labor reserve, the migration of Mexicanos saw increases and decreases. After 1900, 8-10 percent of the Mexican population migrated to the U.S. Here again the Mexican woman had an especially hard time, as her family was split, sometimes leaving her and her children in Mexico. If she migrated to the U.S., she, like other minority women, could only find work in small, unorganized, low-paying jobs with the additional obstacle, if she is undocumented, of the threat of deportation hanging over her head should she try to revolt against her U.S. oppressors.


Women took part in many unsuccessful revolts during the Spanish rule and immediately following its overthrow. Much of this is unrecorded. Spanish colonialism ended with the 1810 Grito de Dolores of Guadalupe Hidalgo in which many women participated. Dona Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, for example, gave refuge in her home, at great personal risk, to the insurgents. Dona Dominguez is one of the first recorded Mexican revolutionaries.

There were continued uprisings during these years and women were a strong part of them. In 1837, women were among the leaders of revolts in Yucatan. Women were also part of the forces to liberate Mexico from French colonialism (1862-1867). Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of a major battle in the war, is one of the two main independence holidays celebrated in Mexico.

Women were a component part of the forces fighting against Diaz (1876-1910). This new stage in Mexican history marked the rise of the working class. People were brought from an agrarian life to the means of production under capitalism. “Soldadas” or “Adelitas” fought side-by-side with men at all levels, against Mexico’s federal troops. They bore arms, transported them, set up camps, cooked, served as medical corps and buried the dead. Whole families joined and stayed with the revolutionaries. Women fought throughout the revolution with Zapata, Villa, Madero and Obregon, and are recorded throughout historical writings of this period.

One such example is Adelita Valverde, who at the age of 13 volunteered to do medical work. When told she was too young, that she should be “playing with dolls,” she responded saying she knew there was important work to do, that it would not all be pleasant, but she was willing to do it and knew she had the ability. She went on to do work, not limited only to medicine, and fought in many famous battles, including the battle at Torreon. Later, she moved to Texas and in 1970, was struck with cancer. Asked what she thought of the Chicano liberation movement, she said, first women must unite with men to fight their common enemy and that the movement was one for people’s rights.

Teresa de Cabora, a Mexican curandera (folk medical healer), practiced in Mexico and spoke out to her rapidly increasing followers against the influence of the church. Her work and following grew to such a large extent, the Diaz regime became threatened by her activities and sent federal troops to arrest her. There was such outrage at this intended arrest, that the local people, among them Yaqui Indians, organized and ambushed the federal troops. This incident is recorded as the Yaqui revolt. Teresa’s harrassment continued to where she was forced to move to Clifton, Arizona in 1897, where she continued her work. After successfully treating the daughter of a local capitalist, a national and European tour were arranged for her. In 1904, she returned to Arizona, where she died in 1906.

There were many such women revolutionary fighters, recorded in cultural songs, such as La Adelita (Adela Valverde), La Chinita Maderista (women who fought with Madero), La Valentina (another woman revolutionary), La Jesusita (recording women in the battles of Chihuahua) and La Joaquinista (Joaquin Murietta).

Margarita Ortega and her daughter Rosauro were also among the revolutionary fighters. Rosauro was imprisoned, tortured, then killed in November, 1913.

Among the few recorded Chicana activists in early U.S. movement history, Lucia Gonzales de Parsons, was the wife of labor organizer, Albert Parsons, who was hung after the Haymarket Square Massacre. Following his arrest and subsequent execution, she went on to organize garment workers, agitate nationally, and was also among the key speakers at the 1905 Continental Congress of the Working Class. At the Congress, 200 delegates representing over 150,000 workers, founded the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

In 1970, thousands of women marched together with men at the Chicano Moratorium demanding Chicano rights and an end to U.S. aggression in Vietnam.


Chicanas have played a leading role in the labor struggles of the people, from the Farmworkers movement and the Farah strike, to the famous “Salt of the Earth” strike in 1951. Today, Chicanas are taking the lead in the fight-back against the economic crisis, especially in the movement to unionize unorganized sweatshops in the Southwest and in the fight against deportations.

The Chicana, like all minority women and men, is used as a cheap labor reserve. Working women earned approximately 60 percent of the wages of men while unemployment among women was 40 percent. Minority women make up 44 percent of minority workers and earn 71 percent the wages of white women. At the same time, minority women are only protected by minimum wage policies in four states and have been, by and large, abandoned by the labor unions making them the largest group of unorganized workers. These are from the 1970 U.S. Department of Labor and show the triple oppression of minority and Chicano women.

In 1970 in California, 40 percent Chicanas were employed. Chicana employment was 2 percent higher than women in general there. Over 53 percent of Chicanas are in low-paying service and factory jobs. 42.1 percent Chicano families headed by women are living at or below poverty level.

Two-thirds of all working women are single, divorced, widowed or separated. One of nine families are headed by women. Two of five poor families are headed by women and one of five Black families were headed by women. 17 percent of families of Spanish origin and 12 percent of Mexican families are headed by women. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates nine million people of Spanish origin. The breakdown is: 59.5 per cent Mexican; 14.6 per cent Puerto Rican; 6.9 per cent Cuban; 5.6 per cent Central or South American and 13.3 per cent other Spanish-speaking peoples.


The Chicana (and Mexicana) women are pointed out for attack by this system by being the very last hired, the first fired in service or unorganized sweatshops. The Chicana is forced onto welfare rolls, where the capitalist state tries to coerce her, cutting financial aid if an adult male is present, raising food stamp prices, abusing and humiliating particularly the Spanish-speaking women and families. The forced work welfare program demands that women work but does not provide child care. The Department of Labor’s 1970 report states that 10 percent of minority children are left to take care of themselves, because their mothers cannot afford or find adequate child care. Contrast this concrete condition of minority women to Ethel Kennedy saying she thinks it’s just terrible how working mothers don’t spend time with their children during their “formative years.” The bourgeois and proletarian families under capitalism are very far apart.

We must also point to the position of thousands of women forced by the conditions of the crisis into prostitution.

These statistics and information should be looked at, not as isolated facts, but as representative of a whole system of class, national and sex oppression which falls squarely on the shoulders of the Chicana. This oppression is great¬ly intensified under the conditions of the present crisis.

The racist, genocidal sterilizations being carried out by imperialism under the guise of so-called ”population and planned parenthood” programs funded by HEW (as well as private foundations such as Rockefeller’s) are especially aimed at minorities. In the Southwest, where the largest concentration of Mexicanas and Chicanas exists, this policy is being systematically carried out in large numbers.

For example, HEW, the bourgeois state’s bureaucratic arm responsible for disbursing the masses’ tax money to public health facilities, is where mainly the poor minorities are forced to go.

HEW’s budget in 1969 was 51 million and in 1974 has climbed to 250 million. The December 9th L.A. Times quoted HEW’s statement saying it will pay 90 percent of the costs of sterilizations while only paying a small percentage of abortions. The Chicana, Black or Mexicana woman does not have adequate medical care, is forced to go to terrible public health facilities. As the imperialist crisis sharpens, the fascist threat also takes form. As Dimitrov says,

Fascism, posing as a benefactor, throws the starving family a few beggarly scraps trying in this way to stifle the bitterness aroused, particularly among the toiling women, by the unprecedented slavery which fascism brings them. It drives the working women out of industry, forcibly ships needy girls to the country, reducing them to the position of unpaid servants of rich farmers and landlords. While promising women a happy home and family life, it drives women to prostitution like no other capitalist regime.[2]


In Los Angeles, the site of the largest concentration of Mexican people, next to Mexico City, HEW-funded agencies are the L.A. County General Hospital, Martin Luther King Hospital, John Wesley, the Regional Planning agencies. Recently 12 women filed suit against the Los Angeles Country Hospital where they were sterilized without their consent under deceptive and fraudulent conditions. Many Spanish-speaking women sign forms in English, without understanding what sterilization means, or during labor, under sedation, or threatened with deportations and cuts in welfare assistance. We know that the public agencies funded by HEW are “teaching hospitals” where Chicanas, particularly only Spanish-speaking, are experimented on.

Deportations are a blatant, fascist attack on Chicanas and Mexicanas. Particularly in the Southwest or high concentration areas, the Chicana’s family is attacked directly. Here we can see the close alliance and political collusion between the various state agencies. In Los Angeles, the LAPD is doing the work of the Immigration and Naturalization Service by stopping “Mexican or Latino-looking” people, at bus stops, churches, shopping centers and places of work.

The U.S. imperialists are trying to divert the attention of the masses from the real enemy. Saxbe bragged that he would “deport one million” undocumented workers, saying they are the cause of mass unemployment. At the same time, he is trying to tell the Mexicana and Chicana, being viciously attacked with forced sterilizations, in the labor force, on welfare, that she or her family are her oppressors.

Police brutality in the Chicano communities and its attacks on the family, Particularly women, is evidenced by unusually high arrests made per capita population. In East Los Angeles, there are 13 police per square mile, compared to the exact opposite ratio for a comparable geographic area with the same population as that of a non-minority community. Thousands of Chicanos in jail result in tremendous added burden on the women. Drugs pushed into Chicano communities are another attack on the family and on the Chicana.

Finally, Chicanas and Mexicanas often don’t speak English. This increases the likelihood that they will be subjected to many forms of oppression from forced sterilizations to loss of job opportunities and benefits from welfare, unemployment, etc.


In keeping with its plan to push women back into the dark ages, the CPUSA in their program for Chicanas, which is covered in “Towards Chicano Liberation” devotes a meager few paragraphs to the Chicana. The revisionists say nothing of women being part of the strategy for revolution. They say nothing of the national question and the Chicana. No mention is made of the winning of democratic rights and the Chicana is offered no concrete program. The revisionist program culminates in a slap in the face to Chicanos with the racist statement that Chicano cultural tradition is male chauvinist, more than the bourgeoisie. This is nothing but a trick to divide men from women and weaken the Chicano struggle.

Ultra-leftists also liquidate the woman question by not recognizing the specific oppression of Chicanas and putting off the fight against male supremacy until “after socialism.” The struggle for women’s rights is a struggle closely bound up with Chicano liberation and must be a component part of our program.

We have tried to show how the triple oppression of the Chicana manifests itself in the U.S., with some historical information to better understand how we as communists should begin to view the Chicana. A general call is not enough. In Lenin on the Woman Question, Clara Zetkin quoted Lenin as saying:

The women of the working class will not feel irresistably driven into sharing our struggles for state power if we only and always put forward that one demand though it were the trumpets of Jericho. The women must be made conscious of the political connection between our demands and their own suffering needs and wishes.[3]

When analyzing work with Mexicanas or Chicanas, we have to take into account the reasons for their uneven development, whether this be in mass work or internal, between comrades. White chauvinism and male chauvinism are not automatically eradicated, but remnants often remain, holding back the work.

We must do more than just make a general call to “pay special attention” to the needs of minority women.

Paying attention to these special needs first of all requires an ideological basis to approach the work, then its application. Whether it be with Chicanas taking the initiative in an ML study class or developing special Marxist-Leninist material-we must do everything possible to remove obstacles which make it more difficult for women to fully participate in the struggle.

Not to do this is a manifestation of male chauvinism. Male chauvinism, an ideology actively promoted by the bourgeoisie, preaches that women are inferior, weak, and not fully capable of joining the political struggle. It holds back the development of women, thus holding back a great force for revolution. It serves only to promote the bourgeoisie, undercutting the unity of the working class and Chicano people by driving a wedge between men and women. Male chauvinism can only be combatted through an all-out assault on the institutions that spawn male chauvinism-the system of imperialism.

The imperialists’ attack on women is a two-pronged attack. On the one hand, they blame women for “overpopulating” the world and forcibly sterilize them. On the other hand, they use reactionary institutions like the Catholic church to deny birth control and the right to divorce in every case.

We must combat the national chauvinist idea that Latin men are “super-chauvinists”. The myth of “machismo” has been spread by the U.S. ruling class to make it appear that Latin culture is especially chauvinist and that Latin men are “more chauvinist” than men in imperialist countries. In fact, it is the imperialists and especially the two superpowers, who have raised male chauvinism to its most barbaric level–sterilizing one-fourth of the Puerto Rican women, torturing and murdering thousands of Vietnamese women, to name only a few examples. At the recent International Women’s Conference in Mexico City it was the Third World delegates who played the leading role in exposing imperialism as the source of women’s oppression.

The road to liberation for Chicanas is through close unity with men in a common struggle against national and class oppression. We only have to look at the historical role of women to see how, in spite of their oppression, they have been part of each successful movement. The Chicana has proven her ability when she united with the working class, as the United Farmworkers, Farah, Sloane, and the High Tide strikes have shown. She holds a strategic position in the revolution. Male chauvinism can only be combatted through an all-out assault on the institutions that spawn male chauvinism–the system of imperialism.


[1] Engels, Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State

[2] G. Dimitrov, The United Front Against War and Fascism

[3] C. Zetkin, Lenin on the Woman Question