Chicano literature can be described as originating at the end of the Mexican American War in 1848. After the war, many people who had been Mexicans living in northwestern Mexico found themselves to be Mexicans living in a larger southwest portion of the United States. These Mexicans were given the option of remaining in the United States as citizens or returning to Mexico. Many remained in the United States, becoming Americans but retaining Mexican culture, language, and traditions. The oral tradition is vital in Mexican American literature, and many of these oral forms, such as the folktale, folk drama, legend, and corrido were popular and artistically significant. The corrido is a ballad form that often is used to render contemporary social issues. Beginning in the 1850’s, corridos were sung about the border violence in south Texas. The corrido has proved itself to be long-lived; during World War II, corridos were composed about General Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific. César Chávez was celebrated in corridos in the 1960’s. The form continued into the late twentieth century, at which time corridos were sung about violence in the border region, immigration, romance, unemployment, drug traffic, and other social issues.
New Mexico was the center of Chicano literary activity at least until World War II. Las primicias (first fruits), a collection of lyric poems, was published by...
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