Metamorfosis: The Journal of Northwest Chicano Art and Culture appears for the first time on May 13, 1977.

  • By Oscar Rosales Castaneda
  • Posted 9/27/2007
  • Essay 8294
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On May 13, 1977, the journal Metamorfosis appears for the first time. It is produced out of El Centro de Estudios Chicanos (Center for Chicano Studies) at the University of Washington, and becomes an essential cultural component of  the Chicano movement in Washington. Though it will last only from 1977 to 1984, Metamorfosis will become instrumental in providing a forum for academic work on Chicano/Latino arts and culture in the Northwest during a period when the movement at the national level is beginning to wane. The journal is especially important considering the relative isolation of Seattle from the Chicano cultural hubs of the Southwest.

A New Kind of Mestizaje 

Chicano scholarly work in the Northwest would make an impression that, coupled with the emergent muralist art movement, influenced the discourse on Chicano/Latino identity in the state of Washington.

Upon completion of the first edition of the newly minted journal, chief editor Dr. Ricardo D. Aguilar gave an introduction outlining the importance of recording the collective Chicana/o and Latina/o experience in the Northwest. As Aguilar noted:

Seattle Mictán Siglo XX

a 6 de abril de 1977

"Thousands of years ago, our ancestors explored and settled throughout the Northwest. Even then our people were migrating south from Chicomostoc, Aztlán (the place of storks, the city of the navel of the world) of ancient folklore. Much later, our white relatives traveled north from Nueva España by sea. They bestowed Spanish names upon the straits, the points, the places. We still call them by these names. Later on, as mestizos emerged and our great family was formed, our greatgrandparents looked north again. Once more a great migration was undertaken, this time inversely, which was to reach points where once we had stopped to rest.

"Throughout this entire time, few dwellers of this region have made an effort to collect our thoughts, our experiences, nor have any let them be known to others except through word of mouth. We live in a special kind of vacuum, one in which there is little written communication among us. We are many here now, around Puget Sound, in the valley across the mountains and in neighboring states. The need for a publication of our poetry, our narrative, is greater than it has ever been before.

"We are undergoing a new kind of mestizaje, the kind which can only develop in such a place. We must define it through our writing because, in this respect, we are becoming original and different from our brothers and sisters to the south. We live submerged in a rain bubble full of winter which the sun rarely penetrates. This creates a totally new cosmic environment, strangely different from what we have known before.

"The other dwellers here look upon us as a strange breed of foreigners, invaders of their mechanistic, every-thing-was-working-out-fine-till-they-came-world. There is a tremendous ignorance about us here and it prevails throughout. It is different from our experience in the southwest, for when we lived there, one knew very well when and why one was not wanted. It was made extremely clear to us. Here, people do not let-on that they don't want to see us around. They pretend that we aren't really here; they smile awkwardly and pat one on the back, yet there is always the fear that a pat may turn into a stab at any time as it frequently happens.

"We are undergoing METAMÓRFOSIS, inadvertently changing, growing into different beings. We will not let this transformation continue unnoticed by ourselves or by others, for even though we may be forced to adapt to this climate in order to survive, we will not forget who we are and where we came from, Our identity is the only true means by which we can continue to cling to reality, our own reality, that which will ultimately define our future transformations.

"For these reasons we now publish this tomito: METAMÓRFOSIS. We hope that through publication, our creative writing, our literary criticism, our historiography, our artwork we may reach all other Chicanos. We wish to promote our literature, to define its perimeters by making our contribution and in so doing effect its change. We seek to let ourselves be known for we are also the makers of that body."

Ricardo D. Aguilar Ph.D., Editor (Aguilar)

Arts, Culture, and Literature

In addition to Ricardo Aguilar, the first editorial board of the academic journal was composed of scholars Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, Mercedes Fernandez, Genaro Padilla, and Luis Torres, and poet, Raul Salinas. Throughout its seven-year tenure from 1977 to 1985, Metamorfosis was one of the most influential scholarly journals dedicated to the arts, culture, and literary movements based in the Chicana/o and Latina/o community. The journal would cover everything from original poetry to the performing arts, to the visual art reflected on the many murals painted by muralists in the Northwest.

Of note were the articles written by prominent artists Harry Gamboa and Malaquias Montoya, art critic Shifra Goldman, writer Luis J. Rodriguez, and various others, many of whom were direct participants of visual art and literary movements that flourished throughout the early part of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. These nationally renowned voices intermingled with those of local poets, authors, and scholars to create a vibrant publication.

Last Issues

However, things would change as funding became increasingly scarce. The journal began publishing sporadically and toward the end, things began to disintegrate. According to former chief editor, Dr. Lauro Flores (now Chair of the University of Washington's American Ethnic Studies Department):

"We did not have enough of a cadre of people to carry on with the production (and, especially, the distribution) of the journal. The last couple of issues were put together, literally, by myself, my wife, Angelica Hernandez, and two different graphic designers I hired to help out with each number (Aldemaro Barrios, first, and then Cynthia Martinez). In addition to the lack of help, it was a question of budget. By state regulations, we were compelled to use the university printers, which was very expensive" (Flores).

As Flores noted, the lack of funding, coupled with the lack of people power, proved to be the end of the journal in the mid-1980s. Despite its sudden demise, the journal would be key in providing a space for Chicana/o and Latina/o academics, artists, and writers to interpret the collective human condition encountered by people of Latin American decent who reside in the Pacific Northwest. Given the overall isolation from cultural hubs, Metamorfosis was essential in articulating a collective human condition that often went unnoticed both by the dominant society as well as by academics in the Southwest who neglected the "Raza" presence in this corner of the country.

Sources: Ricardo D. Aguilar, "Introduction," Metamórfosis, Vol 1: No 1 (Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1977); Dr. Lauro Flores, Email Communication with Author, February 10, 2007; Oscar Rosales Castañeda, "The Chicano Movement in Washington State 1967-2006: Part 2, Chicano Cultural Awakening" Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project website accessed August 30, 2007

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