Martha Cotera, author of The Chicana Feminist and Profile on the Mexican American Woman, sat down for an interview with us on October 27, 2005. She was an active memeber of the La Raza Unida Party in Crystal City, Texas and one of the prominent Chicana Feminist authors to date. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Women Within the La Raza Unida Party and the Rights They Fought For:

"We found out very early on, as is usually the case in life with women, that we ended up doing all of the logistical work, getting everything together, doing organizing and the nut and bolts kinds of things. The guys did a lot of talking and fun stuff."

" We [Chicanas] were very interested in issues of domestic violence and rape. We were very interested in reproductive issues, the availability of choice in abortions because a lot of us had been raised on the border where women were getting abortions. We don't think about that. Because of the work that we did, abortion became legalized. That was a big issue with us. These were not big issues for the guys because these were issues that primarily impacted women. And even today I think the most dangerous things that I see are the way some of the policies are implemented. These are issues that don't really affect men that don't care. "

" We were working against the war and that was a very big issue that involved women as well as men because we were losing a lot of people in the war. We were working on educational reform. It took a lot of our time and that involved men and women as well. We were working on alternative colleges. My husband and I were actually part of a group that set up a college in south Texas ... It was actually the artists that first came to us as women to complain that they were being excluded from participating. Not excluded from participation, but that the guys didn't want to put the [women] artists in the agenda and then my husband wanted to present affordable housing issues because he's an architect and they didn't want to do that either. Others and I were interested in choice issues. That was a big issue for us and they didn't want to do that either. We thought, “Wait a minute, whose movement is this, anyways?” So it did take a while to get to that point. "

" Women had a type parallel movement for women's right and were able to incorporate all of these issues successfully into La Raza Party platform. So its one of the few platforms, now that I think about it, that has a reproductive rights choice issue."


" We had a lot of young people, but those were the Brown Berets. But the Brown Berets amazingly so tended to be more sexist than the rest of the movement that included a lot of older people like ourselves...

...A lot of these kids were in colleges and universities and have picked up a lot of socialization by U.S. sociologists who study our communities from the outside looking. That didn't have any clear insight that we were not a “machista” community as they interpreted the community to be. They've always said that the Mexican American community has a lot of machismo in it, but they don't understand the definition of machismo. There are two definitions: A man that is very sexist and the real definition which is a man of strength and responsibility and who is nurturing. There is a nurturing side of machismo that the sociologists don't talk about. These kids just believed a lot of the sociology and jargon although the reality was very different. Their mothers and sisters didn't pass it onto them. They got it out of textbooks."

Current Issues:

" We have lot of sexism in our communities still and although we have a lot of women who are activists and a lot of women that get involved, we do not have what I would call an active feminist movement right now. We have one at the University level and to some degree with writers and the cultural arts, but not in the community and I think that is something that is a challenge for people like myself. I work at the university level with archives. I do archive research on a very part time basis at the university, but I primarily work at the grassroots level. Its my job and it should be my job to make sure to continue that work. We continue to develop women to be activists, but we haven't really developed a feminist consciousness or feminist theoretical approach to community based activism with today's women....

...All women that care about other women: white feminists, native Americans, Asian American, African American, and Latinas should get back to grass roots… The biggest issue is sexuality and the biggest issue is sexual exploitation of women in all of our communities. We have to face that right on because from sexual exploitation a lot of very negative stuff can happen."

Getting Involved:

" It first takes one women getting it started. Then it takes that group to grow and we educate, ourselves first of all. Then you work with the first responders which are generally you counselors, your teachers, your churches, your grass root community groups and you work. It is a very long-term commitment. As other issues have become long-term commitments. We've seen affirmative action has been a long-term commitment. It doesn't just have to be directed at sexuality. It can be directed in general just in terms of self confidence."


"... If you're a woman it just doesn't make any sense not to be a feminist.... People ask me “How long have you been a feminist?” and I say, “Well, when I realized I was a woman.” Even when you're very little you notice the differences. How many girls grow up thinking, “God, I wish I were a boy!” so you could do this or that."

"For woman, feminist or not, that were growing up in the 70's and 80's it was very difficult. There was a lot of antagonism against women, even against the woman not declared feminist. Why? Because we were finally able to get phone number on our own, because were able to get bank accounts on our own, we were able to get abortions, because we could get home mortgages. We couldn't get credit! In 1975, I started a business and I had to give up after two week and have my husband sign for me. I signed his phone bill payment for 20 years and the phone company would not let me get a phone on my own. Women don't realize they couldn't open bank accounts, they couldn't get phone numbers on their own, they couldn't buy a home. Women today have very little knowledge because our history is not taught."

"If you are able to get a phone you're a feminist. You're already cashing in on the feminist legacy. That's why I think we need to bring back that pride of being a feminist. If you're not a feminist you must be some kind of weird person because you're not owing up to you womanhood. If you're a woman you're a feminist that's all there is too it, unless you're dead. If you're a woman living breathing and surviving and for a woman to survive you have to be a feminist. I already. see my little granddaughter having to stand up for her rights. To deny being a feminist is to deny acknowledgment of what you have."


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Chicana Feminism - Interview