Yo soy chicano

Juanita Dominguez, 1968

What was the Poor People's Campaign of 1968?

How are the efforts of the campaign reflected in the lyrics of "Yo Soy Chicano"?

Why do you think the song is sung to the melody of a corrido from Mexican Revolution?

The lyrics refer to participating in a new revolution. What kind of revolution is it?

How do the music and lyrics reflect a sense of cultural pride?

"Yo soy chicano" recorded by Los Alvarados on Rolas de Aztlán: Songs of the Chicano Movement, © 2005. Available on Itunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

 

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source:

https://media.smithsonianfolkways.org/liner_notes/
smithsonian_folkways/SFW40516_additional.pdf

A protestor carrying a sign reading "Yo Soy Chicano."

Juanita Dominguez, an activist in the Chicano Movement involved with the Crusade for Justice in Denver, Colorado, wrote the lyrics to "Yo Soy Chicano" while traveling on a bus to Washington D.C. for the 1968 Poor People's Campaign. Although the Civil Rights Movement made great strides for African Americans, economic inequality remained a persistent struggle for people of all races, especially people of color. Led by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Poor People's Campaign (also known as the Poor People's March on Washington) sought to gain visibility for all people living in poverty, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Dominguez wrote the lyrics to fit the melody of a popular corrido, “La Rielera” (The Railwaywoman), from the period of the Mexican Revolution. Dominguez's lyrics retain the revolutionary spirit of the original. The lyrics assert, for example, "Tengo mi par de pistolas / Para la revoluciín" (I have my pair of pistols / For the revolution). In addition to drawing parallels between the Mexican Revolution and the struggles of the 1960s, Dominguez's lyrics directly address economic inequality and assert a sense of racial pride that was absent in the original: "Tengo mi orgullo, tengo mi fe. / Soy diferente, soy color café" (I have my pride, I have my faith. / I am different, I am of brown color).

"Yo Soy Chicano" was first recorded in 1973 by Los Alvarados for the album El Movimiento Chicano. It is also included on the album Rolas de Aztlán: Songs of the Chicano Movement (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2005).