“We Are Aztlán”: Aztlán and Chicano Liberation

By Saxon

February 26, 2020

Origin of Aztlán

The birthplace of the seven tribes was by some accounts Chicomoztoc: A series of caves in what we call Aztlán (The Land of White Sands) that housed seven closely related tribes. Moving out of the caves, they populated Aztlán, our ancestral homeland. The Mexica and the other tribes were ruled by a tyrannical Elite known as the “Azteca Chicomoztoca”. Huitzilopochtli, Patron God of the Mexica, ordered the tribe to leave Aztlán and search for a new homeland which later was known as Tenochtitlan in the Valley of Mexico. He forbade them to call themselves Aztecs and gave them the name Mexica. The six other tribes moved throughout Cemanahuac (The Nahuatl word for the Continents known as North, Central, and South America) as well, which is one of the reasons why we believe that many Uto-Aztecan tribal origin stories are similar. Historians have speculated about the possible location of Aztlán, and tend to place it either in northwestern Mexico or the southwestern United States.

Aztlán in the Chicano Movement, 1960’s – Today

For those of us in the Chicano Movement, Aztlán refers to the Mexican territories annexed by the United States as a result of the Mexican–American War of 1846-1848. Charles Truxillo, a Professor at the University of New Mexico, envisioned it as El República del Norte: a sovereign nation of “Indio-Hispanos” or Indians colonized by the Spaniards. The idea of Aztlán was a rallying cry to go back to our roots; to realize that we were and are Indigenous to this continent just as much as our First Nations relations to the North. It was for Aztlán that the Brown Berets and many other Chicano, Hispanic, and Indigenous organizers fought and died. 

This is why we don’t believe in narrow nationalism, and though not all tribes on Cemanahuac share the story of Aztlán, we all still share the same struggle to decolonize, and sacred connection to the land as our other indigenous relations, such as those in AIM Indian Territory.

What is Aztlán to Me?

My family were migrant workers, going from Mexico into Texas and throughout the United States looking for any work. My Abuela Juanita Flores Barajas raised all of her siblings from her two fathers and our lovely Great Grandma Nava. Eventually Abuela raised enough money with only a 6th grade education to buy our first family home in Eagle Pass, TX, across the border from Piedras Negras in Mexico. They loved Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) as well as the Brown Berets for their fight for our people’s rights. They were proud to be Chicanos. During Vietnam, my Uncle Luis was known to have been stationed in Pleiku, Vietnam. And when he got home he was never the same.

They always felt a connection to the land; our family members fought, died, and raised families here in Aztlán. It was sacred… sacrosanct. It was through their stories of how they lived and how we were colonized that helped give me my own impression of what Aztlán is. 

We were colonized by the Spaniards. Our Tribes and our ways nearly completely destroyed. We fought the Spaniards for independence and finally won back Mexico. I learned how our new found country was plagued by constant revolutions and differences in opinion about how we should run this country ourselves. The European-borrowed model of government did not and still doesn’t do our people any favors. Yet we persisted. Eventually the Anglos from the u.s. came into Texas with the understanding that they would follow our laws. They broke that right away by bringing slaves, which we had banned. We fought two major wars, first with the Texian Rebels and then with the u.s. They stole half of our “territory”. They took what we knew as Aztlán. They subjugated our people and broke their treaty. They tried to bury us… but they didn’t know we were seeds. We began to rise up in the 1960s, and though the u.s. government tried to extinguish us we are still here. 

So to me Aztlán isn’t just a place. It isn’t a territory that needs to be reconquered. Aztlán is her people. We are Aztlán. And wherever our people stand, that is Aztlán. Aztlán is in our hearts and minds. And soon we will liberate it. 

The Question of Aztlán and Chicano Liberation

Throughout the Southwest many Chicano people have heard tales of Aztlán and how the Southwest was ours as Mexicans. That is incorrect. Mexico as a Nation State was, and continues to be, a Colonial entity. Forming a Nation of Aztlán along those original borders of what was taken is not only reactionary, but semi-colonial at best, and imperialism at its worst. Aztlán, or the land of white sands, was in itself a legend based on a series of seven caves which have yet to even be discovered or found. So the claim that the entire Southwest is ours as it stands is illegitimate. The only significant claim Chicanos as a whole have, many who cannot or won’t trace back their Indigenous line, resorting to calling themselves “Mexica” which in and of itself is also inaccurate, is the blood of our ancestors spilled in the Southwest. That being said, many of our relatives in the First Nations already have verifiable claims to these lands. It’s only right that they get their rights and lands back first. The destinies of the Chicano and First Nations must be connected. 

The right of the Chicano people to self-determination is supported entirely, in word and deed, by the MCP-OC (Maoist Communist Party-Organizing Committee). Only we can save ourselves. Nobody can save us. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism must be applied to the concrete conditions of the Chicano nation. This is the position of the MCP-OC. The right of Chicanos and First Nations and their right to migrate freely on their continent is also supported by the MCP-OC. We are familiar with many “Communist Parties” who are in reality no different than the old style colonizers and missionaries, seeking to impose their colonial views of “socialism” on our people. This is simply fascism and neo-colonialism in red dressing. Any Communism which rejects the possibility of the people developing, through practice, and taking Maoism as their guide, their own revolutionary path, is not Communism. It’s settler-colonial fraud.

When the U.S. empire has fallen, if the Chicano People and the First Nations inside the Colonial Borders of the U.S. form a United People’s State, or multiple States, with the consent and blessing of the rightful caretakers of the lands the States are formed on, it should be supported by all who claim to be revolutionary. Whether or not one of those places is called Aztlán is a discussion that needs to be carried out between Chicanos and First Nations Peoples as well as the New Afrikans who are our Comrades in the struggle against the empire. Anything else is meddling and unjust imposition on the people’s rights to self-determination.