(10 of 11)
The new Mexican-American militancy has turned up a mixed pinata of leaders, some of them significantly more strident than Chavez. In Los Angeles, 20-year-old David Sanchez is "prime minister" of the well-disciplined Brown Berets, who help keep intramural peace in the barrio and are setting up a free medical clinic. Some of them also carry machetes and talk tough about the Anglo. Reies Lopez Tijerina, 45, is trying to establish a "Free City State of San Joaquin" for Chicanos on historic Spanish land grants in New Mexico; at the moment, while his appeal on an assault conviction is being adjudicated, he is in jail for burning a sign in the Carson National Forest. Denver's Rudolfo ("Corky") Gonzales, 40, an ex-prizefighter, has started a "Crusade for Justice" to make the city's 85,000 Mexican Americans la causa-conscious.
As with the blacks, the question for those who lead the Chicanos is whether progress means separatism or assimilation. Cal State Professor Rafael
Guzman, who helped carry out a four-year Ford Foundation study of Mexican Americans, warns that the barrio is potentially as explosive as the black ghetto. He argues for a new pluralism in the U.S. that means something other than forcing minorities into the established Anglo-Saxon mold; each group should be free to develop its own culture while contributing to the whole.
Yet there is no real consensus in the barrio. The forces for assimilation are powerful. A young Tucson militant, Salomon Baldenegro, contends: "Our values are just like any Manhattan executive's, but we have a ceiling on our social mobility." While federal programs for bilingual instruction in Mexican-American areas are still inadequate, that kind of approach—if made readily available to all who want it—leaves the choice between separatism and assimilation ultimately to the individual Chicano himself. He learns in his father's tongue, but he also learns in English well enough so that language is no longer a barrier; he retains his own culture, but he also knows enough of the majority's rules and ways to compete successfully if he chooses to.
Cesar Chavez has made the Chicano's cause well enough known to make that goal possible. While la huelga is in some respects a limited battle, it is also symbolic of the Mexican-American's quest for a full role in U.S. society. What happens to Chavez's farm workers will be an omen, for good or ill, of the Mexican-American's future. For the short term, Chavez's most tangible aspiration is to win the fight with the grape growers. If he can succeed in that difficult and uncertain battle, he will doubtless try to expand the movement beyond the vineyards into the entire Mexican-American community.
* Rerum Novarum, published by Leo XIII in 1891, contended that the rich had in effect enslaved the poor, and that every man has a right to a decent wage and reasonable comfort. Pius XI, in Quadragesima Anno (1931), criticized the economic despotism that results from