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Chicano Studies Name Changing at UNM

By Olivier Uyttebrouck
Journal Staff Writer
    Chicano, Hispanic, Latino, Mexicano: What's in a name?
    Cultural identity for starters, says Enrique Lamadrid, director of the 33-year-old Chicano Studies program at the University of New Mexico, who plans to change the program's name next year.
    Lamadrid said the 33-year-old Chicano Studies program will be renamed Southwest Hispanic Studies when UNM's college catalog rolls off the presses by next fall.
    "It's a pragmatic move to open the door wider," Lamadrid said Friday. "Southwest Hispanic is a term people recognize, and you don't have to explain it to anybody."
    The name Southwest Hispanic Studies recognizes that most New Mexicans of Spanish descent identify themselves as Hispanic rather than as Chicanos, Lamadrid said.
    Fewer than 10 percent of Hispanic students at UNM identify themselves as Chicano, he said.
    He called the name Chicano a "college term" that holds a pejorative meaning outside academic circles.
    Chicano Studies, an undergraduate minor at UNM, began in 1971 and grew out of the activist Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
    The name change will not affect the program's mission, which is to teach the language, literature, history and culture of Spanish-speaking people and their descendants in the United States, he said.
    "Chicano literature will always be taught and the Chicano movement will always be taught," he said.
    One former UNM student called the move a "marketing gimmick" that slights the gains of the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
    "Being Chicano is taking back our identity, taking back our history," Arturo Sandoval said Friday. "It's a declaration of self-determination and pride."
    Sandoval said UNM launched Chicano Studies only after he and other activists agitated for the program in the late 1960s.
    The Daily Lobo, UNM's student newspaper, published a letter from Sandoval on Thursday urging students to oppose the name change.
    F. Chris Garcia, a UNM professor who specializes in Hispanic politics, said the term "Chicano" is packed with political and emotional meaning.
    "There is a lot of emotional baggage tied to that word Chicano," Garcia said.
    "Chicano" long referred to poor people, typically of mixed Spanish and Indian descent, he said. "It was a bit of a pejorative term."
    But the name became a rallying cry for activists like César Chávez during the Civil Rights era, he said.
    "It has continued to imply activism and pride in culture," Garcia said. "Pride in a mixed culture. Pride in being brown."
    Garcia offered no opinion about the wisdom of the name change. But he agreed with Lamadrid that the term "Chicano" has declined in use since the 1970s.
    "Hispanic is by far the preferred term nationally but especially in New Mexico," Garcia said.