The study of Chicano literature raises many questions about its origins and makeup. Some critics, for example Juan Bruce-Novoa in the Introduction to Chicano Authors: Inquiry by Interview, treat it as a recent literary phenomenon while acknowledging that there has been a steady literary activity carried on by Mexicans living in the United States throughout history. According to this critical view, Chicano literature is coeval with the Chicano movement, the civil rights struggle that began in the mid-1960s.
In this book, however, Chicano literature is more broadly defined. It is regarded as the literary output of Mexican Americans since 1848, with backgrounds and traditions as far back as the sixteenth century.
While we agree that the term “Chicano” has been used to refer to dissatisfied Americans of Mexican descent whose ideas about the socioeconomic conditions in the United States are often contracultural or radical, and while agreeing that much of contemporary Chicano literature has justifiably echoed these ideas, our meaning, for purposes of this book, is closer to the word’s etymology. The term “Chicano” derives from the term “Mexicano,” pronounced in the sixteenth century as “Meshicano” or “Mechicano.” Chicano literature, then, is the literature written since 1848 by Americans of Mexican descent or by Mexicans in the United States who write about the Mexican-American experience.
-from the book’s introduction (p. xi)
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