Chicano Literary Renaissance

By: Teresa Palomo Acosta

Type: General Entry

Published: December 1, 1994

The Chicano literary renaissance, a flowering of all forms of literature by Mexican Americans throughout the Southwest, started in 1965 with the Teatro Campesino (Farmworkers Theater) in California. In Texas, however, the renaissance started in 1969, with the publication of poet Abelardo Delgado's 25 Pieces of a Chicano Mind, and lasted for about ten years of renewed literary activity among Mexican Americans in the state. The writers reaffirmed their ethnic identity and addressed their community through fiction, poetry, essays, and works of drama that responded to its political, economic, and social history. They also pioneered in Texas literature the use of "Spanglish," which combines English and Spanish into new words or mixes words of the two languages in the same passage. The literary movement in Texas achieved national stature with the 1971 publication of the novel ...Y no se lo tragó la tierra (translated as And the Earth did not Part) by Tomás Rivera of Crystal City. The book was awarded the first Quinto Sol Award from Quinto Sol Publications, a Mexican-American publishing house in California. In 1973 Rolando Hinojosa-Smith of Mercedes won the prize for Estampas del valle y otras obras (Sketches of the Valley and Other Works). He received international recognition in 1976, when the Latin-American literary world honored him with the Casa de las Américas Award for Klail City y sus alrededores.

Other important works written by Tejanos during this period were Hay Otra Voz Poems (There is Another Voice Poems) by Tino Villanueva of San Marcos (1972) and Viaje/Trip by Raúl Salinas of Austin (1973). In 1975 Angela de Hoyos brought out Arise Chicano! and Other Poems, and in 1976, Carmen Tafolla, Reyes Cárdenas, and Cecilio García-Camarillo jointly issued Get Your Tortillas Together, a collection of their poetry. All these works depicted Mexican-American life in a style both lyrical and realistic. Other important writers to emerge in Texas were poets Evangelina Vigil Piñón, Rosemary Catacalos, and Ricardo Sánchez and playwrights Estela Portillo Trambley, Nephtali De León, and Carlos Morton.

Some of these writers were also published in Chicano literature anthologies produced in the Southwest and in the literary journals established in Texas. Two important periodicals were Tejidos, a quarterly published in Austin from 1973 to about 1978, and Caracol, a journal issued in San Antonio between 1974 and 1977. Tejidos and Caracol gave a voice to many working-class Tejano writers, who brought to their pages penetrating themes and innovative writing styles. The influence of Caracol in particular was felt throughout the state because it published a large amount of poetry, as well as novel excerpts, criticism, and political articles. It also served as an important forum for announcing literary events. Its editor, Cecilio García-Camarillo, was an important poet of the movement. The establishment of Caracol also brought about the first network of Chicano writers in the state and helped them to find an audience. Poet Angela de Hoyos set up her own publishing house, M&A Editions, in San Antonio for this purpose as well.

Tejano writers participated in other Chicano renaissance events in the Southwest and organized some of the Flor y Canto festivals, which were named for the Aztec poetic vision of literature as a fusion of "flower and song." These events facilitated the emergence of additional writers. Tejanos attended the first Festival de Flor y Canto, which was held in Los Angeles, California, in 1973, and sponsored the second and third festivals, respectively, in Austin in March 1975 and in San Antonio in June 1976. Starting in 1976, anthologies based on these gatherings were published in California and Texas. The festivals later became known as Canto al Pueblo, and at least one such festival was held in Corpus Christi in 1978; that same year an anthology featuring works from the event was published. The Chicano literary renaissance also included dramatic performances organized by the Teatro Nacional de Aztlán, the Texas affiliate of which sponsored the sixth annual celebration in San Antonio in July 1975. The presentations allowed theater groups to continue the tradition of Mexican theaters and circuses, which had flourished in Mexico and later in Texas between the 1850s and 1950s.

The renaissance began to end when the annual literary gatherings moved from Texas to other states after the 1970s. Tejidos and Caracol ceased publication in the late 1970s. With the demise of these tools to nurture new and often self-taught writers (both hallmarks of the renaissance), this important period in Chicano literature in the state was complete. Nonetheless, its legacy was felt in subsequent decades. Mexican-American feminists continued to challenge traditional views. Their work provided the impetus for the 1981 This bridge called my back: writings by radical women of color, coedited by Cherríe Moraga and Texan Gloria Anzaldúa. In 1987 Anzaldúa followed this book with her own work in prose and poetry-Borderlands = La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Portillo Trambley, whose collection of short stories, Rain of Scorpions and Other Writings, was published in 1975, saw her plays produced throughout the Southwest and in New York, where her Blacklight won second place at the Latin American Theatre Festival in 1985.

Poet Rosemary Catacalos and poet-novelist Sandra Cisneros of Chicago both held Dobie Paisano writing fellowships (see PAISANO RANCH), as did novelist Genaro González. Rolando Hinojosa-Smith continued to write many well-received works in his Klail City Death Trip Series. He also was recognized as an outstanding prose stylist. Tino Villanueva established an international Mexican-American poetry journal, Imagine, on the East Coast in 1984. In Houston, Nicolás Kanellos continued to produce the Americas Review and established Arte Público Press, both of which introduced many Tejano writers. Some of the works produced during the Chicano literary renaissance in Texas were incorporated into university literature courses and found an audience outside the Mexican-American community; some also received scholarly attention. The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin has become a major repository of Chicano literature.

Leonardo Carillo et al., eds., Canto al Pueblo: An Anthology of Experiences (San Antonio: Penca, 1978). Francisco Lomelí and Carl R. Shirley, eds., Chicano Writers, First Series (Detroit: Gale Research, 1989). Julio Martínez and Francisco A. Lomelí, eds., Chicano Literature: A Reference Guide (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1985). National Chicano Literature Festival, Flor y Canto II: An Anthology of Chicano Literature from the Festival Held March 12–16, 1975 in Austin, Texas (Albuquerque: Pajarito, 1975).
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Clubs, Movements, and Associations
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Journalism

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Teresa Palomo Acosta, “Chicano Literary Renaissance,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994

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