500 Years of Chicana Women’s History

By: Krista Lee

Names that I/we have been systematically not taught. Under the systems of racism and sexism (and specifically racism within the feminist movement) the names of the Chicana womyn, highlighted in this book, are now brought back to life. The names of womyn who have been fighting for liberation and freedom for hundreds of years have been systemically erased from mainstream knowledge. They have been eliminated from our textbooks and minds successfully (for most), but their powerful actions could not be completely erased from hystory and through extensive research Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez was able to make a collaborative (duel language) book to bring their names back to life and invite their names back into our consciousness.  While acknowledging how many names Chicana womyn who were part of resistance movements have not had their actions written down and haven’t been photographed…and although I do not know their names, this book invites the reader to remember and respect ALL Chicanas’ who have been a voice and force for equality. For as long as there have been inequality, there has been resistance from the oppressed, rising up and taking action against oppressive systems and structures.

What would it mean for young Chicana womyn to learn about this in public school? It would mean internal and external empowerment & learning culturally relevant information. This is why this book was BANNED in the Tucson Unified School District. Instead students are being forced to read hystory and learn all about the glorified hystory of the people that colonized their land, culture, and committed genocide on their ancestors. Students are forced to celebrate these racist rapists as elementary school children and continue learning about these horrible people up until senior year in high school. That is CRIMINAL. Yet the state of Arizona deemed learning culturally relevant information illegal. Revolutionary educators put together a curriculum to holistically teach and motivate students through critical race theory and other culturally relevant courses, with incredible success rates of high school graduation and college matriculation. Without this framework students are being exploited and incredible wounded by the racist education system that is currently in place. One Chicana student reflects, in a question regarding her educational experience as racially hostile and that her experience in school as a Chicana student had a deep and painful impact (Romero et al., 217). Tina writes, “the only word I guess is violated. I guess it could be like when women are raped, something is taken from them. In school they take our minds and our souls; they violated us with the way they try to give us school” (Romero 2008a, 163). “It is horrifying to think that young women would use rape to articulate her educational experiences. Moreover, this is even more egregious when one considers that this young woman who in the past has been physically raped, and now she unveils the psychological violence that she faced on daily basis in our schools at the hands of the administers, teachers, and staff members” (Romero et. al., 218). Progressive educators, before Mexican American Studies (MAS) was deemed illegal under Arizona Law, could implement text like “500 Years of Chicana Women’s History” as a hystory textbook instead of furthering forcing European-American HIStory onto students. Yet this book was banned as was the MAS program in Tucson.

In the book there are an incredible amount of names, each page could be its own book! I look forward to diving deeply into learning more about each womyn named in this beautiful book. And it makes me sick to think that I have access to this book, as a white womyn, and yet this book was robbed out of the hands of Chicana students…students that will be the future leaders of the revolution for equality and liberation. This book is incredible and it is so important to have these names and these stories at the forefront of our minds for a REAL understanding of feminism and revolution. 

Further Resources: 

Romero, Augustine et al. “A Barrio pedagogy: identity, intellectualism, activism, and academic achievement through the evolution of critically compassionate intellectualism.” Race         Ethnicity and Education. Vol. 12, No. 2, July 2009, 217-233. 

Banning of Mexican American Studies Curriculum: HB 2281



One thought on “500 Years of Chicana Women’s History

  1. This is shocking and shameful. Women have been oppressed and suppressed since ages. The customs followed throughout the world are mostly anti-women. Right from dowry, sati to feet binding, women have been tortured. And there have been other women who stood for these causes however, their contributions and achievements have been very cleverly omitted. It is shameful to live in such a society. I am very glad I came across this blog.


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