Joel Zapata is a PhD Candidate in SMU’s William P. Clements Department of History
The Chicana/o Civil Rights Movement, or simply the Chicana/o Movement, has traditionally been documented as a regional liberation movement centered in South Texas, Northern New Mexico, the Denver metro area, and Southern California. Moreover, scholars have tended to focus their work on the Chicana/o Movement within major cities like Los Angeles and San Antonio.  This is partly because the Chicana/o Movement was a decentralized patchwork of local movements, and partly because the history profession relies on archives and other source materials that institutions outside of progressive, urban areas do not often preserve. As Michel-Rolph Trouillot declared, “the production of historical narratives involves the uneven contribution of competing groups and individuals who have unequal access to the means of such production.”
Thus, Chicana/o Activism in the Southern Plains Through Time and Space, a digital history project, is meant as a step in revealing an understudied portion of the Chicana/o Movement: the way it unfolded on the Southern Plains. Ethnic Mexicans (people of Mexican descent regardless of nationality) in the largely rural region worked towards achieving social justice in their own communities through the Chicana/o Movement and larger Mexican American Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s and 1970s. Through their activism, they made the plains a more hospitable home for Mexican people.
This digital history project takes scholarly research to the wider public. In other words, it is also a public history project. Keeping in mind the community origins and future of Chicana/o history, I initiated the project with the awareness “that Chicana/o history is for everyone (not just historians) and that the investigation of the past can be the engine driving today’s activist passions.” In my work outside the university setting, my aim is to make history accessible to Mexican origin and Latina/o communities, who may in-turn use knowledge gained from historical research towards the betterment of their social positions—the foundational goal of Chicana/o history and the related field of Chicana/o Studies. READ MORE