Aztlan, as I see it, exists on three (3) levels:
On a historical level, Aztlan has been generally described as the swath of land that Mexico ceded to the US within the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (Texas, NM, Arizona, Nevada and parts of Califas). Overnight, many people instantly became territorial possessions of a country with a different language and customs. Literally, many people were turned into immigrants with the splashing of some ink upon a legal document.
The Chicano Movement sought to re-establish this swath of land and call it Aztlan, evidenced by El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan. In regaining this territory, the form of government would change, as would the type of economics practiced within Aztlan. The inhabitants of this territory would be Chicanos and those people would form a sovereign nation-state.
However, the Chicano Movement lost steam and as more generations have assimilated, the idea that this land known as Aztlan could return to its inhabitants has largely been forgotten.
On a psychological level, though Aztlan has been largely a part of Chicano ideology, for me, it is the source of my identity. I am Chicano: A bi-lingual and bi-cultural person who owns both realities of which I am a part. I draw from Aztlan, as it’s the source of all that’s good and strong and beautiful. Fear or addiction or depression do not belong within Aztlan; all that i create for the betterment of all people derives from Aztlan.
However, there are many people who believe that life in the U.S. has no place for them, regardless of their ethnic or cultural backgrounds. However, we all have a “homeland” inside of ourselves from which we can draw strength and courage. This source of identity is Aztlan, for me, but it could be just as easily known as anything else, like psychological empowerment, mental health, whatever it’s called, it’s still Aztlan to me.
Really, Aztlan exists on a spiritual level, as it’s analogous for me to the concept of the “Imago Dei;” the image of God that exists in every single person on the planet. Though the Chicano Movement failed to establish a physical location known as, Aztlan, for me, through great Chicano authors like Rudolpho Ananya, Ana Castillo, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Sandra Cisneros, Denise Chavez, and others; I learned that Aztlan lives inside of me just as it lives inside all people everywhere.
Educational psychologists speak and write about the “Pygmalion Effect,” that is, people perform to the level that they believe themselves capable. If people could learn about and understand Aztlan as I understand it, people would perform higher, as they would understand that they are worthy and capable of all that is good and strong and beautiful as the Image of God is.