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Planting the seeds of journalism

Guest Writer
Guest Opinion

Francisca Flores was a feminist, journalist and organizer in the 1960s and ’70s, when the Chicano movement was dominated by men.

She created the Regeneracion publication, named after Ricardo Flores Magon’s revolutionary newspaper that preceded the Mexican Revolution of 1910. It focused on women’s issues within the movement.

Flores wrote for a variety of Chicana/o journals and magazines such as Carta Editorial, and she assisted Carey McWilliams with “North of Mexico.”

During the 1950s and 1960s, she organized underground screenings of the controversial film “Salt of the Earth” and, like many activists of the era, she became a victim of McCarthyism.

She also started/co-founded organizations including Chicana Service Action Center.

Flores was born in Los Angeles in 1913, and grew up in the barrios of San Diego during the Mexican Revolution.

She contracted tuberculosis at age 15 and spent more than 10 years in a sanitarium, where she met veterans of the Mexican Revolution.

She and some Mexican women started Las Hermanas de la Revolucion Mexicana; they met to discuss politics. There, she became very conscious of how women were treated. She would later tell her nephew Guillermo, “I knew that men didn’t take us seriously. They only wanted us to make tortillas. They couldn’t accept that we had our own ideas.”

Flores believed in full equality for women and advocated for a more critical view on gender issues within the Chicano movement.

“Women must learn to say what they think and feel, and be free to state it without apologizing or prefacing every statement to reassure men that they are not competing with them,” Flores said.

Her Regeneracion not only presented issues that many Chicanas/os were experiencing, but also laid out the framework for Chicana feminism.

She demanded more educational, working and legal opportunities, reproductive rights, and child care services. In an article titled “Justice,” Francisca criticized the women’s liberation movement for marginalizing women of color.

Because of the little interest shown in Chicana issues, Flores started Comision Feminil Mexicana, which grew to serve generations of Chicanas with limited resources.

In the ’70s, for example, CFM helped a group of Chicanas file and win sterilization suits against a California hospital. CFM also established the Chicana Service Action Center in Los Angeles.

Flores’ role in founding the Mexican American Political Association has rarely been acknowledged by historians.

She also was very involved in the Democratic Party. In 1942, she became active in the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee, supporting a group of Mexican-Americans wrongly accused of murder.

While she fought for equal opportunities for Mexicans living in the U.S., she also believed it was very important to support the Raza in Mexico.

“We are the hope for this country,” she said. “We are also the hope for America, not the country but the hemisphere.”

Writer Frank Sifuentes, her colleague, wrote: “What Francisca did was really major, because she formally brought the ‘better half’ into play. It is little wonder that in politics Latinas have prevailed, and this can be traced back to her.”

Said multimedia artist-writer Harry Gamboa, who also worked with Flores, “Through my discussions with her, I was able to receive a focused viewpoint that was decidedly different than what was being promulgated on the streets and took into consideration various humanistic ideals and more advanced viewpoints regarding the role of women in society.”

Flores worked all her life to open opportunities and services for Chicanas and Chicanos. She did not tolerate injustices against them. Because of this, Flores is a major part of Chicana/Chicano history and a major though unheralded figure in the history of U.S. journalism.

Grecia Ramirez is an aspiring journalist and University of Arizona sophomore majoring in Mexican American Studies.

E-mail: greciar1@emailarizona.edu


The History of Red-Brown Journalism, a University of Arizona class, is unveiling its newspaper, El Coraje: La Nueva Generacion, at a celebration 5:30 p.m. May 5 in Gallagher Theater inside the Student Union on campus.

An exhibit will run through May 7 at the UA Main Library, featuring ancient codices and colonial chronicles, books, magazines, newspapers, photographs and an old computer.

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