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Chican@ Artivistas

Chican@ Artivistas
Music, Community, and Transborder Tactics in East Los Angeles

A Grammy Award–winning singer and scholar explores how Chican@ artivistas in East Los Angeles, from 1995 to the present, have created a unique community of process-based political engagement influenced by the Zapatista and Fandango movements.

July 2020
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184 pages | 6 x 9 | 15 b&w photos, 3 b&w illus. |

As the lead singer of the Grammy Award–winning rock band Quetzal and a scholar of Chicana/o and Latina/o studies, Martha Gonzalez is uniquely positioned to articulate the ways in which creative expression can serve the dual roles of political commentary and community building. Drawing on postcolonial, Chicana, black feminist, and performance theories, Chican@ Artivistas explores the visual, musical, and performance art produced in East Los Angeles since the inception of NAFTA and the subsequent anti-immigration rhetoric of the 1990s.

Showcasing the social impact made by key artist-activists on their communities and on the mainstream art world and music industry, Gonzalez charts the evolution of a now-canonical body of work that took its inspiration from the Zapatista movement, particularly its masked indigenous participants, and that responded to efforts to impose systems of labor exploitation and social subjugation. Incorporating Gonzalez’s memories of the Mexican nationalist music of her childhood and her band’s journey to Chiapas, the book captures the mobilizing music, poetry, dance, and art that emerged in pre-gentrification corners of downtown Los Angeles and that went on to inspire flourishing networks of bold, innovative artivistas.


International Latino Book Awards, Latino Literacy Now

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Music Misunderstood
  • Chapter 2. Chican@ Artivistas: Resistance to Capital Market Systems and the Mind/Body Split
  • Chapter 3. The Popular Resource Center and Centro Regeneración in Highland Park
  • Chapter 4. The Big Frente Zapatista: Using Art as a Tool of Critical Dialogue
  • Chapter 5. Fandango Jarocho as a Decolonial Tool
  • Chapter 6. Los Guardianes de la Convivencia
  • Conclusion. Imaginaries: The Grammy and the Graduate Student
  • Notes
  • Discography
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Martha Gonzalez
El Sereno, California

Martha Gonzalez is an associate professor in the Intercollegiate Department of Chicana/o Latina/o studies at Scripps/Claremont College, lead singer of the Grammy Award–winning rock band Quetzal, and contributor to Dancing Across Borders and Performing Motherhood.


“Part academic treatise...and part testimonio, [Chican@ Artivistas] seamlessly weaves together Chicana feminist theory, ethnomusicology and Gonzalez’s intimate experiences. In the process, it offers a glimpse into the vibrant art scene of 1990s East L.A. and the development of a Chicana artivist.”
Los Angeles Times

“Moving from her upbringing with her musician father to the Zapatista movement to the rise of Quetzal, Gonzalez shows how music is 'a conduit of freedom and a malleable tool for those who envision social change.' Moreover, she demonstrates how art practices can be used 'to go beyond resistance, into actively building on the dream and tangible enactments of new worlds.'”
L.A. Taco, "The 2020 L.A. Taco Book Guide"

“This is a wonderful and important book. Chican@ Artivistas is a roadmap, both to the author's own journey as successful musician, activist, and scholar and to the intricacies of Chicanx culture and social movements since 1994.”
Luis Alvarez, University of California, San Diego, author of The Power of the Zoot: Youth Culture and Resistance during World War II


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca