Royal Chicano Air Force Collection
The California Historical Society (CHS) is pleased to announce the addition of seven Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF) posters to our digital library. The RCAF was created by California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) art professors Esteban Villa and Jose Montoya, and students Ricardo Favela, Juanishi V. Orosco, and Rudy Cuellar, to express the goals of the Chicano civil rights and labor organizing movement of the United Farm Workers (UFW). This influential group of artists and activists used colorful posters, murals, and other artistic expressions to educate the public and promote political awareness.
The curious name for the artist collective was born from a simple misunderstanding. The “RCAF” initialism originally stood for the Rebel Chicano Art Front, but people confused it for the Royal Canadian Air Force. The collective took advantage of the misunderstanding by changing its name to Royal Chicano Air Force. The new name gave way to aviation-inspired imagery, which began showing up in everything from the RCAF’s well-known poster art to its members’ wardrobe choices.
The RCAF gained a reputation for outrageous humor, fine-art posters, murals, and community activism. The collective’s work throughout the 1970s and early 1980s was well known in the California Chicano community, and it continues to the present. One of its latest projects was the 2018 large-scale mural titled “Flight” at the Golden 1 Center arena in Sacramento.
CHS’s collection of RCAF posters announces fundraisers, actions, and events related to the UFW causes during 1975. View the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF) collection on the CHS digital library
For more information on the origins, history, and art of RCAF, see the following resources:
- Latinx art database maintained by Galeria de la Raza // galeriadelaraza.org
- PBS ViewFinder documentary “Royal Chicano Air Force—Art and Activism” // pbs.org
- Online guide to the Royal Chicano Air Force poster collection (1973–1988) at the California State University, Sacramento Special Collections & University Archives // oac.cdlib.org
- Mural At Golden 1 Center Honors Royal Chicano Air Force // cbsnews.com