The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1974, Volume 20, Number 1

Chicano: The Evolution of a People. Edited by Renato Rosaldo, Robert A. Calvert and Gustav L. Seligmann. Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1973. 461 pages. Softbound. No price listed.

Reviewed by David R. Maciel, Instructor of Chicano and Latin American History at the University of Houston. Mr. Maciel, who is completing his doctorate in history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is co-editor of the forthcoming El Proceso Historico del Pueblo Chicano, to be published in Mexico (Sep-Setenta).

Chicano: Evolution of a People is the latest anthology in the field of Chicano history. As stated by the editors, the purpose of their work was twofold: first, “to help explain to Chicanos and to scholars how and why change came;” and second, to serve as a teaching aid in two ways: “it gives students a look at the present state of Mexican-American historiography and… encourages others to initiate much needed research on the nation’s second largest minority (p. v).”

In an attempt to accomplish these goals, the editors have compiled one of the most comprehensive anthologies to date on the Chicano experience. The anthology is divided into six basic sections, which follow a thematic as well as a chronological sequence: Introduction; Beginnings of a People; Acquiescence and Adjustment; Trying to Crack the System; The Beginnings of Bronze Power; The Urban Experience; and Conclusion.

This anthology, however, only partially succeeds in meeting the ambitious goals formulated by the editors. On one hand, by collecting in one work a large sample of essays on diverse aspects of the Chicano experience, they have indeed provided a useful teaching tool. In addition, unlike earlier anthologies, which showed little criteria in selection and lacked unity, the editors of Chicano: The Evolution of a People have selected the essays in accordance with specific key themes, giving their work a unifying element and good overall structure. On the other hand, the anthology suffers from several weaknesses. There is very little new material. Most of the essays have been published elsewhere and can be easily obtained in known journals and books. One exception to this is the fine original essay by Robert Rosenbaum on Las Gorras Blancas. The general introductions which precede each section tend to be brief and superficial, failing to provide an adequate explanation of the complexities of each theme. There is a marked emphasis on the twentieth century at the expense of the nineteenth century, a period which is certainly much more crucial to an understanding of contemporary events than the volume indicates.

In summary, it is hoped that, as the editors stated, collections such as this will inspire the much needed original research on topics in Chicano history not covered in this or other anthologies. For at present the one aspect that is most apparent in reviewing anthologies on the Chicano is the constant repetition of the same essays by the same authors.