José Angel Gutiérrez Interview
August 8, 1999

Q: What does the word "Aztlán"mean?

A: To me it’s a dream. It’s a vision. It’s an extraordinary goal that we pursued during the times of activism that I was involved in. And it’s a search for mi corazon, because Aztlán is part of us. It’s that legacy of being dismembered as a homeland. The United States came to us. We became a different citizen. But we never lost that hope and that search and that vision for putting back together our homeland.

Q: Why was Aztlán so important in the sixties?

A: We took the concept of Aztlán--the myth the story the vision the hope the search--and used it as a political goal. Our numbers [were] not what they are today, but they were beginning to [be] in certain parts, particularly south Texas, where I’m from. And we built a political party and a political program that said we were going to build Aztlán here.
I worked in the Wintergarden area, in Crystal, Texas--or Tej-Aztlán as we used to call it. We built an empowerment movement that took control of our political and social and economic destiny. We built a political party, El Partido La Raza Unida, and proceeded to become the governors, established political sovereignty, creating Aztlán. People in seventeen other states plus the District of Columbia, bought into that same vision and goal and political agenda, and did the same thing in other places. In California, in Cucamonga, in Parleer, in walkouts with the students, in New Mexico, in Arizona, in Chicago--even in Washington D.C. All with the goal of building Aztlán--a nation within this nation.

Q: Does the concept of Aztlán have anything to do with Mexico?

A: Aztlán is one half of the one Mexico that we need to build. This is the Mexico on the other side, north of the Rio Grande, El Rio Bravo. We have been dismembered since 1826 in Texas, and 1848 in the rest of the Southwest. And then after 1853 in La Mesia, from Tucson to the border of California. So the mission of Aztlán is to put back together the original land where our ancestors came from. So our movement, then, has everything to do with the Mexico that exists. And that is, to make it bigger, to return it to its original homeland size.

Q: Given the sixties idea of Aztlán, is the resurfacing of the maps that show an actual place that the Aztecs might have originated an important event?

A: Finding the actual site of where Aztlán began and where those prior ancestors were from would make the myth and the legend real. It would be the ombligo; it would be the navel of where we are from. It would give us all the reason for reclaiming and reestablishing ourselves and asserting ourselves as the only ethnic group in America that has been dismembered and who must have its people and its homeland all in one place again.

Q: Anti-immigrant groups in the sixties and even now have spoken of radicals taking over the Southwest. Many people equate the concept of Aztlán with separatism. How, how do you respond to this?

A: We’re the only ethnic group in America that has been dismembered. We didn't migrate here or immigrate here voluntarily. The United States came to us in succeeding waves of invasions. We are a captive people, in a sense, a hostage people. It is our political destiny and our right to self-determination to want to have our homeland [back]. Whether they like it or not is immaterial. If they call us radicals or subversives or separatists, that’s they're problem. This is our home, and this is our homeland, and we are entitled to it. We are the host. Everyone else is a guest.

Q: How do you reconcile that with the fact that we're U.S. citizens, that we don’t have a nation in the traditional sense?

A: People don't have to like that fact that we’re searching for a homeland and they probably won’t. They will call us names. They will attempt to say that we're un-American and subversive, but they left their homelands and took ours. We want it back.

Q: What relevance does the concept of the Aztlán have for the year 2000 and beyond? Is it a practical concept?

A: Our numbers now are such that we are critical mass throughout the nation. Depending on what state you’re in, we’re on the verge of already being a majority minority. In some places, a majority, and in years to come, probably about one quarter of the entire United States population. We will exercise our rights, which include political sovereignty. So Aztlán will become a reality. It is not our fault that whites don’t make babies, and blacks are not growing in sufficient numbers, and there’s no other groups with such a goal to put their homeland back together again. We do. Those numbers will make it possible. I believe that in the next few years, we will see an irredentists movement, beyond assimilation, beyond integration, beyond separatism, to putting Mexico back together as one. That's irridentism. One Mexico, one nation.

Q: What would you envision this nation to be like? Are we going to be bilingual? Is it going to be part of the United States? Will we be playing electoral politics? What characteristics might Aztlán of the future have?

A: This entire region, as it becomes more Mexican and Latino, will blur the border. As it is, that’s an antiquated concept. The border is porous. It only exists for police purposes and security purposes. Ideas, disease, commerce, even people cross that border regularly, legally, and illegally. This whole region will become the new Meso-America once again.