1969 DENVER YOUTH CONFERENCE
In March of 1969, Chicano activists leader Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales convened a National Youth and Liberation Conference in Denver, Colorado. Approximately 1500 Mexican American youths from throughout the United States attended the conference held at the Crusade For Justice.
This was the first time, on such a large scale, that a generation of Mexican American youth met to discuss common issues of oppression, discrimination and injustice. After much debate and discussion, the conference formulated a philosophy of cultural nationalism, calling for all Mexican Americans to unite under the banner of the term “Chicano” and calling for self-determination in all spheres of life.
The conference participants looked to the past of their indigenous ancestors and discovered that the Aztecs who settled in the Valley of Mexico and created the Aztec Empire had originated somewhere in the Southwestern United States in a place called “Aztlán”. The youthful activism embraced the concept of Aztlán as their spiritual homeland and hammered out El Plan Espiritual De Aztlán as the “common denominator for mass mobilization and organization.”
Alurista, a Chicano poet, penned a “Preamble to the Plan Espiritual de Aztlán” which crystallized the spirit of the conference participants. During the conference, the participants marched to the Colorado state capital building, lowered the Colorado State Flag and flew the Mexican flag declaring the state of Colorado “territorio liberado de Aztlán” (Liberated territory of Aztlán)
In the years that followed, the term “Chicano” and “Aztlán” spread throughout the Southwest, as they became incorporated into the names of Mexican American civil rights, educational, political, cultural and artistic organizations.