El Chicano Newspaper with it’s roots dating back to 1968 has been selected as a Hispanic Lifestyle 2018 Survived and Thrived Business Honoree. El Chicano Newspaper along with their follow honorees will participate in Hispanic Lifestyle’s BizCon 2018 taking place on June 7, 2018 at the Ontario Airport Hotel and Conference Center.
The assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam war, the struggle for civil rights and racial equality underscored the social tumult that would distinguish the 60s. This was a period when violence, riots and protests were a means to address social injustices. It was also a time when the Mexican-American population was steeped in negative social stigma such as lazy, uneducated and criminal.
In 1968 a young group of activists from San Bernardino and Riverside, inspired and influenced by the likes of Octavio Paz and José Vasconcelos Calderón who penned La Raza Cósmica (“Cosmic Race”), were determined to reinvent public perception, provide a voice to and tell the stories of the underserved and underrepresented Mexican-American community. It was determined the most effective method would be through the power of the pen.
Coincidentally that same year the University of California Riverside had received a grant through the Ford Foundation that had a surplus of $1,500 after allocations. It was with this money that the El Chicano was funded in its first year.
The name “El Chicano” was chosen purposely. There was a divide among Mexican-Americans over whether they should be identified as Mexican or Mexican-American. The activists proudly identified themselves simply as Americans, who were equally proud of their heritage.
“Chicano” is derived from an indigenous Mexican/Native word coming from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word for “native.” It aptly describes the nature of the Mexican national identity that is 60% Mestizo, 30% indigenous, with the remaining 10% being of European or other descent.
When the El Chicano was first introduced it provoked some outrage among older community members who claimed the name implied “chico” or “chicannery,” both of which were derogatory impressions. But the name prevailed.
The publication was solely based on editorials and opinions. The main issues El Chicano addressed were lack of educational opportunities for minority students, integration in the schools, farm workers’ rights, racial and social inequality, anti-war (Vietnam) expressions, and civil rights.
Funding was lost after the first year due to a political cartoon the El Chicano printed. It was found to be offensive since it targeted a sitting elected official and the University maintained that the grant was for non-political purposes. It was then, in 1969 that the publication began operations as an independent press, run by married couples Gloria and Bill Harrison, and Marta Macias Brown and former husband Sam McQueen.
In one of the earliest editions of the publication, the article “What is ‘El Chicano?'” read in part:
“We have the lowest number of professional people. We are very poorly represented in any policy or decision making body, whether it’s local, state or federal. We have one of the lowest average incomes; and most of our people make a living in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs. It is this serious and perplexing dichotomy that has brought us together. It is this miserable imbalance between the good and the bad among our people, that has brought us together.”
Writers for El Chicano received no compensation, rather, they were driven by a shared passion to improve the quality of life for the Mexican-American community. Many of the early issues were composed from a living room floor.
The organizational structure at the outset was as follows:
- Editor in Chief – Marta McQueen
- Managing Editor – Gloria Harrison
- News Editor – William (Bill) Harrison
- Feature Editor – Peter Hernandez
- Graphic Arts Editor – Armando Mena
- Business Manager – Bob Holcomb
- Social and Campus Editor – Carol Hernandez
- Copy Editor – Carolee Barrett
- Reporters at Large – Maggie Arratia, Richard Gonzales, Bill Culver, Esther Mata, Aurora Hernandez, Guillermo Gutierrez, Joe Amador, Jesse Ibarra, Ana Torres, Petra Silva and Lydia Perez.
In addition to addressing high rates of juvenile delinquency and high school dropouts Mexican-American youth, editors emphasized the need for reform in high school curriculum and the need for a robust vocational training model to serve a population that will not pursue higher education.
“Educators have lost their perspective when it comes to dealing with educational goals. In their desire to have everyone obtain a college degree, they have forgotten or do not care to remember that a great part of our youth is just not being included in their plans. They have overlooked the youths that are simply never going to set foot in a college. Quite often these youths are the first to admit to themselves and to others, that they do not have the potential to go to college and they also do not have the money to waste while giving it a try.
“This is by no means reason enough to call them failures or regard them as degenerates of society. On the contrary, more power to them for having the ability and sense to assess their capabilities and limitations and making a realistic decision. However, high schools being what they are today – they do not prepare very many students in such a way that it is possible for them to obtain respectable jobs upon graduation.”
50 years later the Mexican-American is better represented in government and educational opportunities have increased, but social tensions and racial inequality still persist.
Today the El Chicano, owned and operated by Gloria and Bill Harrison, has grown to become one segment of the Inland Empire Community News Group that includes the Colton Courier and the Rialto Record weekly publications. What began as a small editorial publication has burgeoned to become a well respected and well recognized agent of communication, highlighting achievements, local news, cultural features and educational issues of the Chicano/Hispanic community.
Submitted by the staff at Inland Empire Community News Group