The Chicano Civil Rights Movement was a gathering of people fighting for equal rights for Chicanos, Hispanics, and Latinx throughout the 1960s. This group included not only Hispanics and Latinos, but also people of all races. Chicano, which was originally a term used to insult Mexican-Americans, is now used by some Latinos who have embraced the word. They have changed its definition to “a person who fights against social injustice.” The people involved with the Chicano Civil Rights Movement felt that Mexican-Americans were being treated unfairly in their society. Their goal was to help Chicanos fight discrimination and get equal treatment, so that is exactly what they did.
The movement inspired Chicanos to be more politically active, fight for better educational opportunities, and ensure there was no discrimination against them. They managed to pass three bills: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a civil rights and labor law in the United States that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a law in the United States that prohibited racial discrimination in voting. Finally the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, or gender.
The energy of the civil rights movement presented ethnic-inspired plays, books, songs, paintings, and even sculptures that celebrated Latino culture and history. The most famous play, Zoot Suit, was written by Luis Valdez, a son of migrant farmworkers. This play would go on to appear on Broadway and even be made into a movie. By the time the civil rights movement ended, not only was America more diverse, but also Latino culture had become more diverse. More refugees also started coming from Central America and the Caribbean instead of just immigrating from Mexico. Unfortunately, even after all these works of art and new laws, Chicanos were still discriminated against and still are to this day.
The play Zoot Suit was an example of artistic reinterpretation of the riots. Many people in the 1960s and 1970s had started retelling the stories of the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon Murder and the Zoot Suit Riots with Pachucos as heroic figures. Zoot Suit retold the story of both of these events in its own way. What made this play so distinct were its musical numbers that, while occasionally upbeat and cheerful, also displayed moments of racial injustice and discrimination that resonated with other minority races. Using Henry Reyna instead Henry “Hank” Leyvas and a character called El Pachuco, the play tells the story of a boy and his friends who were wrongfully convicted of murder. They are arrested and forced through a highly racist trial. As Henry considers his fate, he converses with El Pachuco, who forces him to choose between his Mexican heritage and his home country of America.