Flying under the radar with the Royal Chicano Air Force: The ongoing politics of space and ethnic identity

by Diaz, Ella M., Ph.D., THE COLLEGE OF WILLIAM AND MARY, 2010, 482 pages; 3420975


This dissertation explores the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF), a Chicano/a arts collective that produced numerous murals in Sacramento, CA, for over forty years. Grounded in Mexican and US aesthetic traditions, their murals reflect cultural hybridity and re-imagine US history through a Chicano/a perspective. Many of their works were and are located in Sacramento's Chicano/a barrios, while others occupy interethnic, public space in the vicinity of the State Capitol. By encoding hidden Chicano/a iconographies within each mural, the RCAF offers what scholar Alicia Gaspar de Alba calls "alter-Native" narratives of American history because they posit "Other" views of local history, which trouble larger frameworks of US history.

The exposition begins by exploring the RCAF's origin's-story—or, how the group emerged in the 1960s and '70s Civil Rights Movement, and also in relation to events of the early twentieth century. Both the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the 1942 Bracero Program in the US impacted Mexican Americans in meaningful ways that resonate in the memories and biographies of the RCAF. After locating the group's historical antecedents, Chapter Two examines the rise of public art in the wake of the 1960s and '70s civil rights era, which reflected ethno-political activism as well as ethnic self-actualization.

Chapter Three explores issues of gender in the RCAF, since most of the artists that comprise the group are male. Chapter Four provides a historical overview of their murals, all of which convey messages and themes of historical inclusion and intervention. Chapter Five proposes a theoretical framework on the notion of 'remapping' and how it's been used in American Studies, Literary Studies and related intellectual fields.

Finally, Chapter Six enacts a remapping by rethinking Sacramento's history according to the murals and historic spaces of the RCAF. As a conclusion, this chapter also charts the RCAF and Chicano/a art's movement into institutional space, both literally—through museum and library collections—and figuratively—in perceptions and paradigms of US art history.

AdviserLeisa D. Meyer
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsAmerican studies; Art history; Hispanic American studies
Publication Number3420975

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