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M.E.Ch.A.: A Brief Southern California Chicana/o History, 1969-2010
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements For the degree of Master of Arts in Chicana and Chicano Studies by Mónica Valenzuela
Dedication This thesis is dedicated to Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicana and Chicano de Aztlan. In particular, the Mechistas at Pasadena City College (MEChA de PCC) and California State University Northridge (MEChA de CSUN), you have been my inspiration for this study. A mi madre Linda Valenzuela quien me enseño la escuela de la vida tiene significado como la escuela de la Universidad. To my mother Linda Valenzuela who taught me the school of life is significant like the school of academia. Both have been the backbone to my education, thank you.
In no particular order, I give thanks to Omar González and Abel Correa for believing in me, especially during graduate school. Luis H. Moreno for your motivation, input, and research towards this thesis. Armando Lara-Millán, thank you for polishing this manuscript. Jesus Reyes and Omar Ramírez for sending me resources including your unconditional support. Dr. Margarita Nieto for encouraging me to stay in graduate school, having your support always, and giving me the encouragement to persevere in life, I am privileged to have met you. My thesis chair Dr. Lara Medina for being patient, available, opening your home, and your constructive feed back/direction, I would have not completed this paper, thank you. My thesis committee Dr. Sirena Pellarolo and Dr. Rodolfo F. Acuña for their guidance of this thesis. Chicana/o Graduate Student Association de C.S.U.N., Jhonny Ramírez and Daniel Valencia. Lupe Orozco who never failed at making graduate school interesting. Mujeres Activas Letras y Cambio Social de C.S.U.N. Mónica De La Torre, Lizeth Moya, Maritza Flores, and Nancy Pérez. To the interview participants Rosa Furumoto, Roberta Orona-Cordova, Erik Mata, and Marcos Zamora-Sánchez. Gracias.
Table of Contents Signature page…………………………………………………………………………….ii Dedication………………………………………………………………………………...iii Acknowledgements….………………………………………………………………........iv List of Figures……………………………………………………………………………vii Abstract………….………………………………………………………………………viii Chapter One: Introduction……….………………………………………………………..1 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………….1 Review of the Literature…......................................................................................2 Methods…………………………………………..................................................11 Chapter Two: The social/political context of MEChA’s Founding………………….......14 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………...14 MEChA and Third World Spaces………………………………………………..15 Origins of MEChA..……………………………………………………………...16 Sexism and El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan………………………………………...19 El Plan de Santa Barbara…………………………………………………………22 Sexism and El Plan de Santa Barbara……………………………………………29 MEChA’s Mottos and Symbolization……………………………………………30 Foundations of MEChA………………………………………………………….33 The Vietnam War………………………………………………………………...36 National Chicano Moratorium Committee………………………………………39 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………….40 Chapter Three: The organizational growth and revisions of MEChA…………………...41 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………...41 Organizational growth of MEChA ………………………………………………42 Philosophy of MEChA …………………………………………………………..46 Sexism and La Mujer in MEChA………………………………………………..52 Raza of Non-Mexican Descent and MEChA ……………………………………57 The LGBTIQ Chicana/o MEChA Community ………………………………….61 Impact of MEChA………………………………………………………………..63 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………….65 Chapter Four: MEChA’s current and future Challenges………………………………...67 Introduction……………………………………………………………………………67
Chicana/o Studies and MEChA………………………………………………….67 MEChA as a Support System for Chicana/o Educational Advancement………..69 Opponents of Chicana/o Studies, the Immigrant, and MEChA in California…...72 and Arizona MEChA’s Chicana/o Studies Limitations………………………………………..77 40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara.…………………………………..78 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………….83 Chapter Five: Conclusion/Reflections…………………………………………………...84 Introduction..……………………………………………………………………….....84 Reflections……………………………………………………………………….84 Summary...…………………………………………………………………….....86 Bibliography…………………………………………………………..............................89
List of Figures 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. El Plan de Santa Barbara, Cover MEChA Eagle Cuauhtemoc Head Positive Representation in Education ¡No to SB 1108!, Flyer Save The Date! 40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara, Flyer 40th Anniversary of El Plan De Santa Barbara M.E.Ch.A. Statewide Conference May 22-24 University of California Santa Barbara, Flyer 27 31 32 75 81 82
Abstract M.E.Ch.A.: A Brief Southern California Chicana/o History, 1969-2010 by Mónica Valenzuela Master of Arts in Chicana and Chicano Studies
This thesis provides an overview of the history of MEChA and its impact on Chicana/o students in Southern California from 1969 to 2010. Chicana and Chicano studies is an area of study that has been formalized in many universities beginning in the late 1960s. And though the literature as a result of Chicana and Chicano studies has grown because of this formalization, only recently has the topic of Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicana and Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) become a subject of study in academic literature. Using a historical narrative of MEChA and the Chicana and Chicano movement’s fundamental documents such as El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan and El Plan de Santa Barbara are consulted. These two documents were influential to the creation of this Chicana/o student movement group. This thesis will examine closely the history of events that lead to the formation of MEChA, how it developed, with an analysis of its present standing today by looking at one of MEChA’s more recent documents called the philosophy of MEChA (1999). Along with these conversations, it is shown here how MEChA and Chicana and Chicano studies go hand in hand. A critique of the present state of Chicana/o studies using a historical context of MEChA’s activism is also demonstrated in this thesis. The thesis concludes with reflections and some of the challenges that MEChA faces today.
Chapter One Introduction Introduction Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicana/o de Aztlan, formed in 1969, has motivated Chicanas/os to remain in school, graduate, and pursue higher levels of education. This paper discusses the history of MEChA and its contributions to the enhancement and empowerment of the Chicana/o community in Southern California from 1969 to 2010. When MEChA first began it was not only concerned with the institutionalization of Chicana/o studies, but it also produced activists who worked in the Chicana and Chicano community. Many Chicanas/os developed their own agency, and that of the Chicana/o community through their involvement in MEChA. In the process, the structure, purpose, and guiding documents of MEChA will be reviewed. In this light the paper will frame the role it continues to play on campuses and in the community. Given so much information about the organization the paper will assess its continued importance and why students should consider participating in the organization. Within the context the significance of El Plan de Santa Barbara and El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan will be analyzed as it pertains to the MEChA community today. My examination of MEChA documents the history and significance of a Chicana/o organization that has tremendous impact in the university and in the community. MEChA as a Chicana/o student organization serves as one case study that showed it was possible for Chicanas and Chicanos to reclaim their identity and acquire power in the political, educational, and public arenas.
Noted by María Eva Valle, it is important to study the Chicana/o student activism of the 1960s and 1970s so as to put into context what is going on with the Chicanas and Chicanos of the early 1990s, society, and today. Not only does MEChA have a place in the span of Chicana/o political history within California, but has reached a forty-one year mark existing on campuses nationwide.1 In this chapter MEChA is introduced and the conditions that created this Chicana and Chicano organization are discussed come together. The next section is a review of the literature which will provide a framework that will narrate the Chicana and Chicano student movements in the mid to late 1960s. Methods; the approaches to this thesis will be described as well. The last section will give an overview of each chapter in this study. Review of the Literature This literature review uses a framework of student movements to show the circumstances that MEChA was built around. The general themes within the literature focus on Chicana and Chicano nationalism, Chicana feminism, and the Chicano/a antiVietnam war movement. The salient research of Chicana and Chicano nationalist student movements like MEChA were first conducted by Carlos Muñoz Jr., María Eva Valle, and Roberto Tijerina Cantú. Though Carlos Muñoz Jr. also shows the involvement of other Chicana/o organizations in his research and does a comparative analysis between California and Texas; he is arguably the first scholar to document MEChA extensively. María Eva Valle is the first doctoral student to complete a study on the topic of MEChA from a California
María Eva Valle, “MEChA and The Transformation of Chicano Student Activism: Generational Change, Conflict, and Continuity,” PhD diss., University of California, San Diego, 1996, 1-2, Roberto Tijerina Cantú, MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy, And Organizational Strategy, Riverside, Coatzacoalco Publications, 2007, 537.
university, but her emphasis revolves around Mechistas2 in Arizona. Roberto Tijerina Cantú’s work as mentioned above is the first book to be published on MEChA, in California. Gustavo Licón’s dissertation focuses on MEChA in California. In Muñoz’s Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement,3 the author noted that by the mid 1980s MEChA was trying to use methods and approaches that had been tailored to the 1960s. Though Chicanas and Chicanos had higher enrollment in the university, younger Chicanas/os in the high school and junior high school systems still remained at considerable drop out rates. MEChA at this point, more often than not, was concentrating many of their efforts on campus rather than work outside of college grounds. He also considered that even though Mechistas were no longer in the decade of the 1960s, it did not mean that they had less zeal to work towards social progress for Chicanas and Chicanos, nor did it make their oppressions any less real.4 Muñoz’s analysis reveals the experience of a Chicana/o student movement in the Southern Californian historical narrative of how problems of the Chicana/o may somewhat remain the same, yet the conditions revolving those obstacles can be completely different or are very likely to change. Muñoz reported that MEChA played a part in the development of Chicana and Chicano student activism both in the university and in Chicano communities at large. MEChA has influenced the curriculum for Chicanas and Chicanos and has many times succeeded in improving the social conditions in the barrio. Muñoz has been
Mechistas is a reference for the MEChA membership and will be used throughout this work. Carlos Muñoz Jr., Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement, London & New York, Verso,
1989. Carlos Muñoz Jr., Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement, 10th ed., London & New York, Verso, 2007, 219-220.
critiqued in this work for lacking a Chicana feminist analysis however in his later editions of his book he has made efforts to correct these omissions. María Eva Valle, the author adds to the study of MEChA in that her research cites that once that Mechistas were to complete their educational endeavors, they would return to the Chicana and Chicano community to push for social justice.5 Completing higher education for the purpose of helping the Chicana and Chicano community is one of the focal points that will be explored in this thesis. Valle indicated that MEChA was one of the Chicana/o student activist groups that founded Chicana/o studies and other programs on campus, and they worked on recruiting Chicana/o students and staff members. MEChA were active agents in creating a space for Chicano scholarship.6 The conclusions mentioned in Valle’s report of MEChA helping establish Chicana and Chicano studies and its development; along with the hypothesis that through MEChA, Chicanas and Chicanos had more decision making power over their education. This supports the premises described in this thesis. Tijerina Cantú discusses how MEChA’s most important mission was to make sure that the Chicana/o community had access to college resources such as processing students through admissions and helping them apply to financial aid in the university. Tijerina Cantú reported that Chicana/o students were taught to speak publicly by having the MEChA membership take turns facilitating meetings, give presentations, hosting an event, coordinate activities, organize functions and meetings, and network with others.7 Tijerina Cantú reinforces the thesis of this study that Mechistas advocated for access to
5 6 7
Valle, 1996, 105-106, 160. Valle, 1996, 64, 123, 150-151. Tijerina Cantú, 2007, 23, 102.
the Chicana and Chicano community and that the members were given the opportunities to learn leadership and organizational skills. In MEChA meetings at Pasadena City College, for example, the membership’s board of coordinators rotated in chairing their own meetings and for the general assembly on a weekly basis. These MEChA members learned to organize by learning to facilitate meetings and became comfortable with speaking in front of audiences, and by taking turns everyone was given a chance to gain that experience. But, it was not only limited to conducting meetings, the members of MEChA at PCC also participated in committee meetings in an array of different subjects such as on campus activities, off campus activities, education and retention, history and culture, community relations, Chicana topics, and Central and South American topics which lead many times to putting together events, lectures, presentations, etc.8 Gustavo Licón’s dissertation “¡La Unión Hace La Fuerza! (Unity Creates Strength!) M.E.Ch.A. And Chicana/o Student Activism in California, 1967-1999,” the author discusses that MEChA members networked to one another within locales, districts, and throughout the stretch of California by attending annual and biannual conferences; but the organization has been able to balance general communication with maintaining individual campus autonomy.9 Licón’s study supports the arguments put forward in thesis that MEChA works not only at the campus level, but at the external level as well in a logistical and organizational manner.
Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlan Pasadena City College Constitution, Pasadena City College (1996). Author’s personal papers. Gustavo Licón, “¡La Unión Hace La Fuerza! (Unity Creates Strength!) M.E.Ch.A. And Chicana/o Student Activism in California, 1967-1999,” PhD diss, University of Southern California, 2009, 50.
The M.E.Ch.A. Manual: History, Philosophy, & Organizational Strategy by Roberto Tijerina Cantú, the only published work (to date) where MEChA as an organization is treated as the main focus of study. It is important to note that graduate students on the campuses of the University of California Berkeley and Arizona State University are currently writing their dissertations about MEChA. There are two unpublished studies about MEChA, one by María Eva Valle “MEChA and The Transformation of Chicano Student Activism: Generational Change, Conflict, and Continuity” (Ph.D. diss., UC San Diego, 1996) and the second by Gustavo Licón “¡La Unión Hace La Fuerza! (Unity Creates Strength!) M.E.Ch.A. And Chicana/o Student Activism in California, 1967-1999” (Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California, 2009). Ernesto Chávez’s Mi Raza Primero! (My People First): Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978, discusses how Chicanas and Chicanos in the Los Angeles area were activists within the paradigm of Chicano nationalism. Chávez indicated that the Brown Berets were Chicana and Chicano activists who were dedicated to working in the Chicana/o community; with specific issues such as police brutality.10 The author also highlighted the role of the Brown Beret’s community involvement. For example, they opened a free clinic, and they were instrumental to the Chicano anti-Vietnam war marches that the Chicano Moratorium had organized.11 Chávez affirms that Chicana and Chicano groups such as the Brown Berets and the Chicano Moratorium were individuals that helped inform the opinion of the
Ernesto Chávez, “¡Mi Raza Primero!”(My People First!): Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2002, 49, 74-75.
Chávez, 2002, 55, 68.
MEChA membership in that the war against Vietnam was immoral; which will later be discussed in this thesis. Some of the first scholars to document and write about Chicana feminism in the greater scheme of Chicana and Chicano history during the twentieth century and the Chicana and Chicano movement were Alma García, et al., Vicki Ruíz, and Enriqueta Vásquez. The book Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings, an anthology of early primary documents on Chicana feminist scholarship of the late 1960s to early 1970s, author Cynthia Orozco in her essay “Sexism in Chicano Studies and the Community” found that while MEChA used racial, cultural, and educational discrimination against Chicanos in order to address and organize for the Chicana and Chicano community, as an entire organization, their comprehension of patriarchy was deficient. The author emphasized that the membership had contested sexist approaches towards Chicanas, but MEChA fell short in appreciating the larger conditions which created the structures that placed women in subservient positions to men.12 Orozco fills in the understanding of the Chicanas’ position within MEChA and the Chicana/o movement. This essay helps emphasize the discussions of sexism in MEChA which will be discussed later in this paper. Vicki Ruíz’s From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America, Ruíz identified that many students of color who protested on university campuses during the late 1960s were able to attain departments of ethnic studies. She also discussed the different Chicana and Chicano students that were engaged in activities such
Cynthia Orozco, “Sexism in Chicano Studies and the Community” in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings, ed. by Alma García (New York: Routledge, 1997), 268 (footnote 4).
as setting up health clinics, fighting for immigrants, tutoring Chicana and Chicano students, active against the war in Vietnam, and organizing food banks for the United Farm Workers.13 According to Ruíz, other students of color influenced MEChA’s activism. Gabriela F. Arredondo, Aída Hurtado, Norma Klahn, Olga, Nájera-Ramírez, and Patricia Zavella wrote and edited a significant collection on Chicana feminist scholarship and Chicana student activism. Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader (PostContemporary Interventions). In this work’s second chapter “Contested Histories: Las Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, Chicana Feminisms, and Print Culture in the Chicano Movement, 1968-1973,” scholar, Maylei Blackwell documents the struggle of the Hijas de Cuauhtémoc. Las Hijas de Cuahtémoc (HDC) was a Chicana student organization was born out of Long Beach State College (now California State University Long Beach) during 1968 to 1971. It was named Hijas de Cuauhtémoc to honor the Mexican feminist organization (also named Hijas de Cuauhtémoc) that was active through the use of the printing press during the Mexican Revolution 1910-1920. The beginnings of the group came out of the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) in 1968 and then Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) in 1969-1971. The original function of HDC within UMAS was to serve as a political information committee to the female membership, but as the year passed and UMAS became MEChA, the Hijas’ level of gender consciousness grew even further, eventually turning into an organization of its own. Blackwell indicated how the Hijas’ rightfully criticized MEChA’s treating Chicanas
Vicki Ruíz, From Out Of The Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America, New York, Oxford University Press, 1998, 105.
unequally and in sexist manners’ towards women.14 Blackwell provides the perspective of the Chicana within MEChA during its initial years of the HDC organization. She exposes through her examples the contributions of Chicanas within the Chicana and Chicano movement during the 1960s with her study of the Hijas de Cuauhtémoc. Blackwell shows how sexism occurred within the MEChA membership which will be addressed in chapter three of this thesis. Editors Lorena Oropeza and Dionne Espinoza of Enriqueta Vasquez and the Chicano Movement: Writings From El Grito del Norte (2006), Vásquez contended in “Teach True Values, Says La Raza Mother” that children need to be taught to develop their self-agency so they could direct the curriculum they studied. She found that students need to have an active part in their learning processes. The author argued that it is fundamental to a child’s education that the learning materials be inclusive of diverse cultures, this included Chicana and Chicano Studies.15 Vaquez’s analysis confirms the importance of education that MEChA advocated for Chicana/o self and collective agency, and that a relevant education is of utmost priority. More recently, terms such as active participatory research have been used, but it should be noted that Enriqueta wrote of this in 1968 where she was addressing the need of the student being a co-creator of their own education; an activist-scholar ahead of her time. The war against Vietnam is something that is imprinted in the minds of those who lived during the late 1960s. Oropeza makes her case well of demonstrating the anti-war
Maylei Blackwell, “Contested Histories: Las Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, Chicana Feminisms, and Print Culture in the Chicano Movement, 1968-1973,” in Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader, ed. by Gabriela F. Arredondo, et al. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 62, 68. Enriqueta Longeaux y Vásquez, “Teach True Values, Says La Raza Mother,” in Enriqueta Vasquez and the Chicano Movement: Writings from El Grito del Norte, ed. by Lorena Oropeza & Dionne Espinoza (Houston: Arte Público Press, 2006), 33.
movement in the Chicana and Chicano community during this period. Oropeza’s ¡Raza Si! Guerra No! Chicano Protest and Patriotism during the Viet Nam War Era (2005) indicates that at the beginning of the Vietnam War in 1965, one of the first student activists to protest against the war was the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At the New Mobe (an umbrella group during 1967 that was against the Vietnam war), Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers (UFW), Rodolfo Gonzales of the Crusade For Justice (CFJ), and Rosalio Muñoz of the National Chicano Moratorium Committee (NCMC) were all present in organizing and speaking out against the war in Vietnam.16 Furthermore, she pointed out another student activist group that was involved at the time was the Student Mobilization Committee (SMC).17 The author complements the topic of Chicana and Chicano participation against the war in Vietnam which will also be discussed in this thesis. George Mariscal’s research explores the activist Chicana and Chicano population who were not strictly of Mexican descent within MEChA and in the Chicana/o movement. In Brown-Eyed Children of The Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975 written by George Mariscal, wrote about Chicana and Chicano activists who were from a racially-mixed background, for example, Katarina Davis del Valle. An activist in the Chicana and Chicano community during the late 1960s, her mother was from Vera Cruz, México, and her father from Los Angeles, of African-American ancestry. Davis del Valle was a vital participant during the anti-Vietnam war effort, Black Student Union, and MEChA (including many other socially responsible
Lorena Oropeza, ¡Raza Si! ¡Guerra No! Chicano Protest and Patriotism during the Viet Nam War Era, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2005, 128.
Oropeza, 2005, 223.
accomplishments as well).18 The participation of Chicanas and Chicanos of non-Mexican descent within MEChA’s history, Mariscal’s findings not only adds knowledge to this subject but bolsters the arguments for extending the Chicana/o identity to include those who are not strictly of Mexican heritage. It is important to stress the value of primary sources in order to evaluate history, these were the origins of MEChA’s foundations; documents’ are part of the approaches that will be used for evaluation in this paper. Methods The research is based on a historical textual analysis of documented accounts in MEChA’s background, history, and philosophy in books (secondary sources) as well as MEChA documents (primary sources). This thesis includes archival material from the Rodolfo F. Acuña Collection and the El Popo Collection at California State University Northridge are implemented. My own personal papers will also be used. Interviews of two MEChA alumnae, one MEChA alumnus, and a current MEChA undergraduate. This thesis provides an overview of the history of MEChA and its impact on the retention of Chicana/o students in Southern California from 1969 to 2010. I will use MEChA of Pasadena City College (PCC) and California State University Northridge (CSUN) to inform my analysis, explore selected accomplishments of MEChA, but also look at some of the limitations of over forty-one years of activism and the challenges that MEChA faces in the 21st century. The activities of various Chicano/a activist groups the Mexican American Movement (MAM) of the 1930s for example; were the Mexican American Political
George Mariscal, Brown Eyed Children Of The Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2005, 203-204.
Association (MAPA) beginning in 1959, Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO), and United Mexican American Students (UMAS) in 1967.19 MEChA was a participant in the formation of Chicana/o studies in 1969. MEChA has retained to large extents those departments at the university level through MEChA’s efforts. The importance of conducting this study is to learn about what MEChA accomplished or lack thereof. MEChA is an example of Chicana/o student resistance in Southern California. The value of documenting MEChA’s history is to add to the existing body of research on Chicana/o and Raza student activism that helped Chicana/o students who have completed not only their college degrees, but have accomplished their professional endeavors to help the Chicana and Chicano community. According to Armando Navarro, “of the numerous student youth organizations that emerged, the following four played a critical role in the Movimiento MAYO, UMAS, the Brown Berets, and MEChA.”20 In the second chapter Third World activism is discussed to reveal MEChA’s influences and the context that MEChA was formed under. Second the origins of MEChA will be noted explaining how it began. Equally important, there will be a historical account of El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan and El Plan de Santa Barbara. These two documents were instrumental in the formation of MEChA’s first years and continue to help provide MEChA’s framework for its present state. The El Plan de Santa Barbara conference that led to the formation of MEChA is introduced. El Plan de Santa Barbara was an example and is a symbol of Chicana and Chicano community activism. The
Lorena Oropeza, “¡La Batalla Esta Aqui!: Chicanos Oppose The War in Vietnam,” PhD diss., Cornell University, 1996, viii-ix. Armando Navarro, Mexicano Political Experience in Occupied Aztlán: Struggles and Change, Walnut Creek, Altamira Press, 2005, 367.
Vietnam War will also be presented as existing conditions that influenced anti-war activism in the MEChA community during the 1960s. In the third chapter this thesis explores MEChA’s principles. It will delve into MEChA’s historical activities both in the community and university spheres. Next, the foundations of how MEChA were based on will also be stated. The chapter continues with the philosophical structure of MEChA that will make an inquiry of MEChA’s philosophical stances from 1986 until 1999. In the fourth chapter there will be an inspection of MEChA’s more current participation with Chicana and Chicano studies. Second, MEChA will be examined for its function as a base of educational support. Third, the topics discussing Raza of NonMexican descent is addressed along with MEChA’s other different underpinnings; revolving the issues of sexism and La Mujer in MEChA; and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender In Question (LGBTIQ) Chicana and Chicano community through a historical and textual analysis of MEChA’s Philosophy Papers. Next, the opponents of Chicana/o studies, the immigrant, and MEChA will be analyzed. Finally, a reflection of El Plan de Santa Barbara turning forty years and beyond will be weighed in on and the present state of MEChA since El Plan de Santa Barbara’s inception. Finally, the fifth chapter in this thesis will conclude with a summary of each chapter discussed including personal reflections. The thesis will end by determining whether or not the hypothesis of MEChA being an effective organizational and educational tool for Chicanas and Chicanos to succeed in higher education is accurate.
Chapter Two The social/political context of MEChA’s Founding when one joins MEChA, one inherits its history, documents, literature, hopes, aspirations, failures, and even its spirit. —Roberto Tijerina Cantú, MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy, & Organizational Strategy
Introduction In 2010, MEChA reached forty-one years and had spread to high schools, colleges, and university campuses nationwide.21 MEChA played an important role in the history of Chicana/o student activism because it remained consistent in representing Chicanas and Chicanos in both the university and the community.22 As a Chicana/o student organization, it has yet to be examined. This chapter explores MEChA’s formative influences. First, a discussion of Third World Spaces active during the 1960s and their influence on MEChA organizers. Second, the First National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver, Colorado and the drafting of El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan. This discussion will include the role of sexism and El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan. Third, the conference at the University of California Santa Barbara that produced El Plan de Santa Barbara and also discusses sexism and El Plan de Santa Barbara. Lastly, the chapter will discuss the various MEChA’s mottos and symbolism. Within this context, the Anti-Vietnam War movement and the impressions it left on the Chicana and Chicano
María Eva Valle, “MEChA and The Transformation of Chicano Student Activism: Generational Change, Conflict, and Continuity,” PhD diss., University of California, San Diego, 1996, 1-2, Roberto Tijerina Cantú, MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy, And Organizational Strategy, Riverside, Coatzacoalco Publications, 2007, 537. Ed Lerner, “MECHA involved on, off campus,” Daily Sundial, November 8, 1973, The Rodolfo F. Acuña Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN.
community will be discussed. This will be rounded off by a discussion of the National Chicano Moratorium Committee as an example of the Chicana/o Anti-Vietnam War movement in Southern California during the late 1960s. MEChA and Third World Spaces MEChA is one of the influential Chicana/o student organizations emerging in the late 1960s. Despite the fact that Chicanas and Chicanos marginality, third world spaces, MEChA allowed the possibility to resist their limitations and create a vehicle for change. It was formed at a crucial period when Chicanas and Chicanos needed to organize as students in their community to demand that their academic needs be met. Equally important, they sought to assert their identity in a concrete and material manner. MEChA was not an isolated movement.23 There was also activism in other third world spaces. Third world spaces are zones where people of color who derive from developing countries are in a continuous struggle for political and ideological sovereignty against developed countries. Third world spaces can also mean people of color who live within a developed nation and have similar socio-economic conditions as developing nations, and who also fight for equality within a developed country. During the 1960s into the mid 1970s MEChA germinated as a student organization in the midst of the Cuban revolution, the Anti-Vietnam war movement, and civil rights activism. There were influences of the Black Panthers in Oakland, the Young Lords in New York, and student activists in Mexico City.24
There were other Chicana/o arenas of activism like Catolicos Por La Raza, the United Farm Workers, La Raza Unida Party, Teatro Campesino, Chicano Press Association, Inside EastSide, El Gallo, and El Malcriado.
Elena Poniatowska, La noche de Tlatelolco, México, D.F., Ediciones Era, S.A. de C.V., 2006.
The Young Lords of New York and the Black Panthers of Northern California adhered to similar tenets of self-determination and nationalism. A member of the Young Lords named Woodrow Díaz opposed the war in Vietnam. Díaz was also critical of capitalism and condemned both political parties of the U.S. government towards Puerto Rico. Díaz advocated that Puerto Ricans and Chicanos build alliances with third world countries.25 Most of the participants in the Mexico City student movements of 1968 exhibited a concern for third world alliances, by not only being concerned with Mexico, but also in supporting the Cuban Revolution. These third world spaces helped give perspective to Chicana/o organizations and their activism. Origins of MEChA El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan (EPEDA) was a compelling document that influenced the Chicana/o community, across the nation. On March 29th-31st, 1969, the Crusade For Justice (CFJ), a Chicana/o community group in Denver, Colorado organized the First National Chicano Youth Leadership Conference held in the organization’s building in Denver and produced El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan. The CFJ convened this conference to discuss the present conditions of the Chicano people in this country. Their goal was also to define and assert Chicano/a identity and self-determination within the United States. Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales,26 Alurista, Jorge González, Luis Valdez, Juan GómezQuiñonez,27 Montezuma Esparza,28 are some of the writers that helped form El Plan
Lorena Oropeza, “¡La Batalla Esta Aqui!: Chicanos Oppose The War In Vietnam,” PhD diss., Cornell University, 1996, 253. Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales born 1928 in Denver Colorado. He was a boxer, poet, and a politician. A visible activist and leader in the Chicana/o Movement. He passed away April 12th, 2005. Jorge González, Interview, (1979), as cited in Carlos Muñoz Jr., Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement, 9th ed., London & New York, Verso, 2000, 97.
Espiritual de Aztlan. The contents of the plan were the result of the efforts and input from the participants involved with the conference: We are a bronze people with a bronze culture. Before the world, before all of North America, before all our brothers in the bronze continent, we are a nation, we are a union of free pueblos, we are Aztlán. El Plan commits all levels of Chicano society - the barrio, the campo, the ranchero, the writer, the teacher, the worker, the professional - to La Causa. EDUCATION must be relative to our people, i.e., history, culture, bilingual education, contributions, etc. Community control of our schools, our teachers, our administrators, our counselors, and our programs. INSTITUTIONS shall serve our people by providing the service necessary for a full life and their welfare on the basis of restitution, not handouts or beggar's crumbs. Restitution for past economic slavery, political exploitation, ethnic and cultural psychological destruction and denial of civil and human rights. Institutions in our community which do not serve the people have no place in the community. The institutions belong to the people.29 Chicana and Chicano nationalism promotes the notion of self-determination in which Chicanas and Chicanos decide what their education consist of, how they politically organize, and how they ethnically identify themselves. Self-determination is the main thrust in the El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan. This has caused some controversy amongst some observers. The wording that causes the most controversy is “For la Raza todo, Fuera de la Raza nada” as it only implies nationalist concerns. Yet as Jorge Mariscal writes, [It] meant simply that their daily activities as Chicanos and Chicanas ought to focus on how they were working to improve the life chances of their community.”30
Meier and Rivera, Mexican Americans, American Mexicans, 222, as cited in Armando Navarro, Mexicano Political Experience in Occupied Aztlán: Struggles and Change, Walnut Creek, Altamira Press, 2005, 339. MEChA de Tejaztlan, “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán,” http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/mecha/archive/plan.html (accessed May 20, 2010).
These critics forget or do not understand that within the very title of the Plan is the word Espiritual (Spiritual) and this suggests that its context is not to be taken literally. I contend this because its authors, like Corky Gonzales worked with other non-Chicano groups. He worked with and supported others like the American Indian Movement (AIM). Gonzales once said that “Human rights is a respect between two or more people, two or more families and two or more nations . . . ”31 What he meant was that Chicana and Chicano nationalism included learning about other cultures in order to learn about the Chicana/o identity, embracing diversity would only make Chicana/o culture stronger. Corky also spoke about having unity with African-Americans, Peruvians, and Puerto Ricans.32 Another piece of evidence is that even those claiming to be Chicano nationalists would work with non-Chicano movements in coalitions. Plan’s emphasis on nationalism is only a part of MEChA’s quest for social justice. It can be postulated that Chicanas and Chicanos probably did not realize how influential El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan’s emphasis on nationalism would be later on. The National Chicano Youth Leadership Conference participants felt that nationalism would unite the Chicano community. “Nationalism as the key to organization transcends all religious, political, class, and economic factions or boundaries. Nationalism is the common denominator that all members of La Raza can agree upon.”33 Nationalism promoted unity within Chicana/o youth and instilled pride in
George Mariscal, Brown Eyed Children Of The Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2005, 65. Magdalena H. Beltran, “Corky and Jerry Gonzales speak at CSUN, urge unity for Chicanos,” El Popo, Vol. 15, no. 2, December, 1980, El Popo Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN. Rodolfo F. Acuña, Foreword in Antonio Esquibel, (ed), Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings, Houston, Arte Público Press, (2001), xii-xiii, 37, 39, 53.
their cultural identity when American society did not. Nationalism motivated Chicanas and Chicanos to feel they had a place in the world with the agency to improve conditions they were experiencing in their communities. The goals listed above in El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan became the framework that was widely used in Chicana/o movement organizations like MEChA. While it was a good start, it needed for the positions stated in El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan to be fleshed out even further. El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan held positive feedback for the assessment of the Chicana and Chicano community at the time. Alberto Heredia Urista, known as “Alurista,” a Chicano poet, was the driving force behind El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan. Sexism and El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan In retrospect, critical analysis of the conference and El Plan did not address discrimination against Chicanas. El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan reflected noticeable issues concerning sexism in the movimiento. As Mariscal notes, “[t]he centrality of the terms carnalismo and brotherhood in key documents such as the ‘Plan Espiritual de Aztlán’ left the lasting impression that the future nation was to be for boys only, or at least it would have to be based on the unequal relations of the traditional patriarchal family.”34 In 1969, the issue of gender had not been discussed sufficiently among Chicano/a activists. Sonia A. López in her essay “The Role Of The Chicana Within The Student Movement” highlighted the sexism against Chicanas at the National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference, she stated, As early as Spring of 1969, at the Chicano Youth Conference held in Denver, Colorado, a few vocal Chicana activists raised the issue of the traditional role of
MEChA de Tejaztlan, “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán,” http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/mecha/archive/plan.html (accessed May 20, 2010), 1.
the Chicana in the Movement and how it limited her capabilities and her development. However, the majority of the Chicanas participating in the workshop which discussed the role of the Chicana, did not feel the same. One Chicana observed that, ‘when the time came for the workshop to report to the full conference, the only thing that the representative had to say was this. It was the consensus of the group that the Chicana woman does not want to be liberated.’35 Although this did not represent the views of all Chicanas present, it would be safe to say that the Chicana and Chicano movement in 1969 did not provide a safe space (both in Denver like California) in which Chicanas could discuss gendered injustice aimed at them as women. Not only was there sexism within the Chicano culture, but based on the quote mentioned above, we can see that internalized sexism amongst women in the movement was also evident. There were also Chicanas who disagreed with the above proclamation. As a response to the exclusion of Chicanas at the First National Chicano Youth Leadership Conference in Denver, Colorado, Dionne Espinoza stated that “Enriqueta Longeaux y Vasquez, a conference participant, responded to the statement made by the Chicana Caucus in her groundbreaking article, The Woman of La Raza I.”36 Longeaux y Vasquez wrote that while she belonged to the Chicana and Chicano community, she felt it unjust to claim that “the Chicana does not want to be liberated.”37 Longeaux y Vasquez’s background provided her a unique perspective. She occupied both traditional gender roles
Sonia A. López, “Essays on La Mujer” in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings, ed. by Alma García (New York: Routledge, 1997), 16-29. Dionne Espinoza, “Rethinking Cultural Nationalism and La Familia through Women’s communities: Enriqueta Vasquez and Chicana Feminist Thought,” 205, Enriqueta Longeaux y Vasquez, “The Woman of La Raza, Part I,” 116, in Enriqueta Vasquez and the Chicano Movement Writings from El Grito del Norte, ed. By Lorena Oropeza & Dionne Espinoza (Texas: Arte Público Press, 2006), Maylei Blackwell, “Contested Histories: Las Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, Chicana Feminisms, and Print Culture in the Chicano Movement, 1968-1973,” in Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader, ed. by Gabriela F. Arredondo, et al. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 72-73.
37 36 35
as a main wage earner and also responsible for domestic affairs such as caregiver. Longeaux y Vasquez was active in the Chicano/a community despite living in poor housing and facing other barriers. Longeaux y Vasquez was puzzled by the Chicana workshop representative at the Denver conference, but at the same time she understood that the majority of the Chicanas felt pressured by most of the Chicano males not to contradict them.38 Her experience at Colorado, in addition to her experience in Chicana activism subsequently led to her many writings on Chicana feminism as Longeaux y Vasquez was also a regular contributor to the Chicana/o newspaper El Grito del Norte. She became a major figure in the Chicano/a movement. Longeaux y Vasquez challenged the mistreatment of Chicanas at a time when Chicana feminism was not a recognizable term. Her work adds to the Chicanas who dared to defend women when it was not popular to do so. The First National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference discriminated against Chicanas at the conference proceedings and on the document as a result of those proceedings named El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan. Within the first four lines of EPEDA in its opening poem it shows that Chicanas were not recognized, “the Chicano inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztlán from whence came our forefathers, reclaiming the land of their birth and consecrating the determination of our people of the sun.” The tone of gender exclusion consisted in El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan. In the last paragraph of the poem in EPEDA reads, “Brotherhood unites us, and love for our
brothers makes us a people whose time has come.” 39 Women and Chicanas were left out of the aforementioned definition of what constituted people. El Plan de Santa Barbara El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan provided a catalyst for another important moment in Chicana/o history and inspired a subsequent Chicana/o gathering in California’s central region of 1969. The Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education organizing the Santa Barbara conference in April, 1969 at University of California, Santa Barbara. El Plan de Santa Barbara resulted in the formalization of Chicana/o studies and MEChA in colleges and universities. The Chicana/o youth and the community who came together in Denver, Colorado created an educational plan of action which set the foundation for EPDSB. EPEDA set the groundwork to address the challenges within the Chicana/o community, but EPDSB would compliment that articulation by demanding that the negligence of Chicana and Chicano education be stopped. In Armando B. Rendón’s chapter “No Future Without The Young,” Rendón identified that in Los Angeles during the late 1960s there were problems of Chicanos and Chicanas having under-enrollment at the university. Rendón also pointed out that “within three and a half miles of California State College at Los Angeles [now California State University Los Angeles], about 42,000 students of Mexican background live, yet Cal State has a Chicano enrollment of less than 5 percent and its school of education less than 1 percent.”40 Los Angeles Chicana/o students were one example of
MEChA de Tejaztlan, “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán,” http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/mecha/archive/plan.html (accessed May 20, 2010), 1.
how the university systems in Southern California were failing them by not recruiting them into colleges, this only affirmed the need to make an educational plan such as El Plan de Santa Barbara. René Núñez, a community activist41 came up with the idea of holding a statewide conference under the auspices of CCCHE.42 The CCCHE stood for the Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education, a Chicano organization during the late 1960s that focused on the improvement of Chicanas and Chicanos in higher education. The CCCHE can be credited with approaching Chicana/o student organizations and the community to hold a conference that discussed the conditions of Chicanas and Chicanos in colleges/universities during the late 1960s. One hundred Chicanas/os that were part of community organizations participated in dialogue, reflection, and documentation of the proceedings for Chicanas and Chicanos in higher education. This would help Chicanas/os in their communities, and a guide that would help them navigate through the university and college systems.43 Within El Plan de Santa Barbara there are proposals that were used as models on how to attain and develop Chicana/o studies, organize on campus, develop a Bachelor of Arts and Associate of Arts program, and course outlines for history, political science, and sociology.44 Founding
Armando B. Rendón, Chicano Manifesto: The history and aspirations of the second largest minority in America, Berkeley, Ollin and Associates, Inc., 1971, 189. Rodolfo F. Acuña, e-mail message to author, February 12, 2008. René Núñez has just passed away. Other contributors to El Plan de Santa Barbara that have departed are Frank Sandoval, Joe Serna, Rudy Tapia, Guillermo, and Ricardo Sais. (Lecture “40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara,” University of California, Santa Barbara, May 23 2009). René Núñez, interview, January 3, (1979) as cited in Carlos Muñoz Jr., Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement, 9th ed., London & New York, Verso, 2000, 135.
43 44 42 41
Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education, El Plan de Santa Bárbara: A Chicano Plan for Higher Education, Table of Contents, Oakland, La Causa Publications, 1969.
Chicana and Chicano studies in universities was one of the important issues, but also was finding a name that transformed and expressed their solidarity as a Chicana/o student organization. One of the visible Chicana and Chicano organizations at the Santa Barbara conference was the United Mexican American Students (UMAS).45 UMAS members wanted to shift from the Mexican American identity to the Chicana and Chicano identity.46 One name considered was “CAUSA” (Chicano Alliance for United Student Action).47 Most of the Santa Barbara conference attendees felt that Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlan was a good selection, “one of the reasons that MEChA was chosen as the new name for our organization was because it was in Spanish.”48 Speaking Spanish was considered a form of resistance since it was censored in high schools. In April of 1969, during this three day conference, Chicana/o community based organizations and Chicana/o student groups traveled to Santa Barbara at the Santa Catalina dormitories (formerly the Francisco Torres),49 in order to discuss the situation of education and Chicanas/os. Community groups such as the Chicano Center from Berkeley, La Verdad from San Diego, Concilio of Marysville, Brown Berets from
Ernesto Chávez, “¡MiRaza Primero!”(My People First!): Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2002, 62. Phil Missimore, “UMAS seeks unity in new name,” Daily Sundial, November 6, 1969, The Rodolfo F. Acuña Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN. Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education, El Plan de Santa Barbara: A Chicano Plan for Higher Education, Organizing and Instituting Chicano Programs On Campus, Oakland, La Causa Publications, 1969, 22. Mariana Marin (Lecture “40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara,” University of California, Santa Barbara, May 23 2009). “Congreso The Official M.E.Ch.A. Chapter of U.C.S.B. El Congreso Our Story,” Congreso, http://orgs.sa.ucsb.edu/elcongreso/ourstory/ (accessed May 16, 2009). Francisco Torres is now called the Santa Catalina dormitories at U.C.S.B.
49 48 47 46
Sacramento, La Vida Nueva Newspaper, Community Service Center, and La Causa Center50 came together at UC Santa Barbara to participate. Also included in the conference participants were the members of Chicana/o student groups such as the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) from University of California, Riverside; University of California Santa Barbara; Long Beach, University of California, Davis; East Los Angeles College; California State University, Los Angeles; University of California, Irvine; joined with Mexican American Youth Alliance (MAYA) from University of California, San Diego; San Diego State College; University of California, Los Angeles; Loyola Marymount University; Marymount College; and the Mexican American Student Confederation (MASC): Fresno State, University of California, Berkeley,51 Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO), and San Fernando Valley State College, Mexican American Political Association (MAPA). Two significant events were that they formulated El Plan de Santa Barbara which called for the inception of Chicana/o studies programs statewide.52 Second, they created MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicana/o de Aztlan).53 Jesús Chavarría, one of the original participants in writing El Plan de Santa Barbara’s54 foreword wrote about the
Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education, El Plan de Santa Barbara: A Chicano Plan for Higher Education, Workshop Participants, Oakland, La Causa Publications, 1969, 84-90.
“Armando Valdez was the actual publisher on behalf of La Causa Publications for El Plan de Santa Barbara,” Gus Chavez, (Lecture “40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara,” University of California, Santa Barbara, May 23 2009).
Aside from Jesús Chavarría writing the manifesto, he proofread EPDSB along with Fernando de Necochea, Juan Gómez Quiñones, Paul Sánchez and Armando Valdez. Jesús Chavarría, interview, 27, (1980) as cited in Carlos Muñoz Jr., Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement, 9th ed., London & New York: Verso, 2000, 167-168.
importance of education being culturally and historically relevant to Chicanas and Chicanos, he stated “We recognize that without a strategic use of education, an education that places value on what we value, we will not realize our destiny.”55 Chavarría also highlighted that the Chicana/o movement was larger than the student movement, Chavarría makes his argument that different perspectives existed in the Chicana/o community, he continued “ . . . El Plan de Santa Barbara, reflects one critical dimension of the Chicano struggle.” 56 MEChA has always supported the idea of education being relative in every aspect possible for Chicanas and Chicanos and other people of color. And though MEChA’s main emphasis is education, as an organization it has many dialogues and participates in different topics such as identity formation, politics, gender issues, etc. During a MEChA statewide conference a panel commemorating El Plan de Santa Barbara’s fortieth anniversary at UC Santa Barbara, a panelist reflected how Chicanas’ were not given the sufficient acknowledgement they deserved for their contributions to the making of EPDSB, Mariana Marin reflected, “most of the women were in the typing pools where the original El Plan de Santa Barbara editions were typed out as there were no word processors yet.”57 She also mentioned that “twelve percent of the women were on the actual Steering Committee.”58 Nevertheless, the main points of El Plan de Santa Barbara were Chicana and Chicano studies, recruiting and admitting Chicanas/os into the
Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education, El Plan de Santa Barbara: A Chicano Plan for Higher Education, Manifesto, Oakland, La Causa Publications, 1969, 9-11.
56 57 55
Mariana Marin (Lecture “40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara,” University of California, Santa Barbara, May 23 2009).
university, support programs, political action for Chicanos/as, and organizing on and off campus (including creating community centers).59 Chicanas and Chicanos that day claimed their presence in higher education and actualized their collective and individual agency.
Figure 1. El Plan de Santa Barbara, Cover
Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education, El Plan de Santa Barbara: A Chicano Plan for Higher Education, Manifesto, Oakland, La Causa Publications, 1969, 9-11. EPDSB was so important that it helped organize Chicano prisoners. One example of EPDSB’s lasting strengths was during “the prison rebellion years in Leavenworth [Penitentiary in 1971-73], Chicanos in prison read El Plan de Santa Barbara and began to organize. They started their own plan and started a Chicano Studies class.” Alan Gómez (Lecture “40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara,” University of California, Santa Barbara, May 23 2009).
On one of the original covers to El Plan de Santa Barbara, the Francisco Torres (now the Santa Catalina dormitories) are set ablaze with fire at the top of its tower, enveloped by smoke to its left. The building is also wrapped with two bullet straps though to some this may seem violent, during the late 1960s many Chicana and Chicano students felt they were not going to tolerate anymore discrimination. It was visually a message that social change for Chicanas/os was very likely to occur, and that a transition was happening from repression to empowerment. Years later, El Plan de Santa Barbara and El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan would be critiqued by Chicano scholars. George Mariscal, author of Brown Eyed Children of the Sun Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975 wrote the following, Once we accept that neither the ‘Plan de Santa Barbara’ or the ‘Plan espiritual de Aztlán’ will serve us as a blueprint for the present, we can begin to glean important insights from the documents and adjust them for current conditions.60 Mariscal continues, . . . framers of the ‘Plan’ were products of their particular moment. In the revolutionary atmosphere of 1969, the framers of the Plan could be relatively confident that the radical restructuring of the liberal university was underway and that its complete transformation was a real possibility.61 While not totally revolutionary, El Plan de Santa Barbara was implemented as a guide for community outreach by Chicana/o students and for the retention of Chicana and Chicano studies on many college campuses throughout the U.S. The inclusion of Chicana and Chicano studies along with other branches of Ethnic studies does not in fact constitute a restructuring of the university. These documents are functional today, but need to be read
Mariscal, 50. See “The Relevance of Chicano Studies Today: El Plan de Santa Barbara Revisited,” René Núñez, Raoul Contreras, Paper presented at the National Association of Chicano Studies Annual Conference, 1989, Ignacio García, Juncture in the Road: Chicano Studies Since El Plan De Santa Barbara, University of Arizona Press, 1996.
with a critical lens. They are bases from which we can work from. At the UC, Santa Barbara conference there were also problems of sexism towards Chicanas as well. Sexism and El Plan de Santa Barbara Like in the National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference the month before, the problem of sexism also existed in UC Santa Barbara that weekend. Anonymously, in a written response, a Chicana tells her experience at the next CCCHE conference, which was organized as a response to the Santa Barbara conference. She explains some solutions as to how some of the Chicanas who attended the first El Plan de Santa Barbara conference combated the sexism towards Chicanas during the El Plan de Santa Barbara conference, The CCHE (Chicano Committee on Higher Education) held in San Diego, March 1920  was a historical policy-making weekend for the Chicana. The electrifying atmosphere created by 19 state colleges assembling with the common objective of statewide unity came to a climax when it was unanimously resolved that El Plan de Santa Barbara (the bible of CCHE) and other higher education policy-making organizations) be revised to include the Chicana and her vital role in el movimiento. Equally important were the amendments that followed after Cal State Long Beach’s initial motion which included: 1. That no form of policy be made without adequate Chicana representation. 2. That Chicanas be recruited into significant faculty and administrative positions. 3. That all Chicano Studies Programs initiate and implement coursework on the Chicana. 4. That the cover of El Plan should recognize the Chicana and her movimiento input.62
Anonymous, “CCHE Conference” in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings, ed. by Alma García (New York: Routledge, 1997), 164-165, “ . . . the formation of a Chicana Caucus at the 1970 Chicano Council in Higher Education (CCHE) meeting in San Diego . . . ,” See Blackwell, 2004, 78. The different citations should be noted about the same organization being referred to. El Plan de Santa Barbara used “Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education,” the anonymous Chicana cited here refers to it as “Chicano Committee on Higher Education,” and Blackwell called it the “Chicano Council in Higher Education.” For a discussion of these distinctions of the CCHE see Carlos Muñoz Jr., Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement, 10th ed., London & New York: Verso, 2007, 187.
When the mujeres at the conference who felt excluded at the first conference for Santa Barbara Plan decided to have a conference of their own, they mobilized their power as women and claimed participation in the movement. El Plan de Santa Barbara was the foundational philosophy used by MEChA. MEChA implemented El Plan de Santa Barbara by proposing Chicana and Chicano studies at colleges and universities, and demanding from university administrators the recruitment and admittance of more Chicana and Chicano students, and faculty/staff MEChA provided orientation for incoming Chicana/o students, and developed community centers in Chicana/o communities. With the exception of six campuses that had already proposed Chicana and Chicano studies, and California State University, Northridge which already had an approved program, El Plan de Santa Barbara like El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan was fundamental in shaping MEChA’s direction. MEChA’s Mottos and Symbolization MEChA chose two primary mottos in 1969. The first was “La Union Hace La Fuerza” meaning unity gives us strength, first coined in 1929 by La Alianza Americana, a mutual aid society based in New Mexico.”63 Even though forty years had passed from the time La Alianza used this adage it continued to reverberate into the late 1960s when MEChA adopted it.
Eisenhower M.E.Ch.A, “M.E.Ch.A. Emblem,” http://www.rialto.k12.ca.us/eisenhower/mecha/emblem.html (accessed January 8, 2009).
Figure 2. MEChA Eagle
MEChA approved the image of an eagle that carries a stick of dynamite in its left claw, and a macahutil in its right claw.64 Macahuitl in the nahuatl language (one of the primary indigenous languages spoken in historical and present day Meso-America), the macahuitl, a weapon used in battle by the Mexicatl warrior, usually this club had sharp blades made from black obsidian. This weapon is called Macana in Spanish, and club in English. This symbol bears MEChA’s acronym at the top of a ribbon which surrounds the entire eagle in mid flight with the words “La Union Hace La Fuerza” near the eagle’s tail. The artist of the original MEChA eagle is for the most part unknown, however, it seems to have been designed in 1969, though the description of the symbol cited here was drafted and/or amended in 1998.65 One interpretation of using the club is to symbolize MEChA’s will to fight for higher education and the Chicana and Chicano community just as the Mexicatl warrior had used for battle. The dynamite held by the eagle could mean that change was imminent, that social and educational revolution needed to happen now.
California Statewide M.E.Ch.A. Constitution, Amended at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (1998). Author’s personal papers.
The second motto of MEChA was “Por Mi Raza Habla El Espiritu,” which means “For My People The Spirit Speaks.” Connected to this motto which will be detailed is a symbol that was never formally approved by the MEChA membership even though it has been argued that it was designed before the MEChA eagle.66
Figure 3. Cuauhtemoc Head
This other recognizable emblem of MEChA shows Cuauhtemoc, the last Mexica ruler who fought against Cortéz and his Tlaxcalan allies in Mexico-Tenochtitlan. In the MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy, And Organizational Strategy by Roberto Tijerina Cantú, he described this slogan of MEChA, he stated that activist scholar Roberto Sifuentes created the logo at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) about 1969. “Por Mi Raza Habla El Espiritu” was an adaptation of “Por Mi Raza
Eisenhower M.E.Ch.A., “M.E.Ch.A. Emblem,” http://www.rialto.k12.ca.us/eisenhower/mecha/emblem.html (accessed February 26, 2009).
Hablara El Espiritu” originally written by José Vasoncelos in his book La Raza Cosmica. Roberto Sifuentes applied Vasconcelo’s statement to the present (late 1960s) and the Chicana and Chicano movement. Tijerina Cantú asserts that Sifuentes drew the Cuauhtemoc head when MEChA was still called UMAS (United Mexican American Students), but after the conferences in Denver (El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan) and Santa Barbara (El Plan de Santa Barbara), the acronym was changed from UMAS to MEChA.67 MEChA had begun to take on a life of its own with their mottos being established and their logos having been designed. Foundations of MEChA One of the reasons that MEChA was formed was to ensure that Chicanas and Chicanos received the same access and treatment in the university that other students of more privileged backgrounds enjoyed. Chicana and Chicano students realized they had a right to be treated like first class U.S. citizens. What is meant by first class U.S. citizens is that all people are treated with the respect and rights as those who were considered American (blond haired and blue eyed) in the late 1960s. During 1967, Mexican American and African American students at California State University Los Angeles formed university student organizations like the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) and Black Student Association (BSA) at CSULA. These student organizations brought public attention to the racism students of color received from university administration. Originally called the “Minority Student Program,” (MSP) in response to a lack of effort by the university administration and officials to make California State University Los Angeles more diverse with students of color “[i]n April 1969, the
Roberto Tijerina Cantú, MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy, And Organizational Strategy, Coatzacoalco Publications, 2007, 13.
California Legislature passed Senate Bill 1072 (the Harmer Bill) establishing the MSP at the California state institutions of higher learning.”68 In 1969 this program would be renamed the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) resulted from students of color advocating for other students of color to be admitted into college. For example, at California State University Northridge (CSUN, formerly San Fernando Valley State College) it offers programs that assist students with a low-income background in the admissions process, helps high school students transition into college, advises students through their faculty mentor program, and the EOP at CSUN also supports students by providing grants and academic guidance.69 The purpose of EOP was outreach to students who were academically neglected and were not encouraged to attend four-year colleges or universities. This program also provided academic support for students that needed tutoring in a specific subject. Once they were admitted, EOP also helped with financial assistance to students who had low-income backgrounds. The California legislature agreed with the Black Student Association and United Mexican American Students at California State University Los Angeles, that everyone must be afforded the same quality education, and the possibility to approach higher education with ample opportunities. EOP was seen as being needed to provide students of color access to higher education. The Educational Opportunity Program was the brainchild of student activists and intellectuals to challenge the institution.
“History of EOP,” http://calstate.edu/sas/eop/various/history.shtml (accessed August 12th,
2010). “History of Educational Opportunity Program,” http://www.csun.edu/eop/history_index.html (accessed March 25th, 2011).
Like EOP, UMAS also was helped to balance social justice.70 Ronald Reagan, (then Governor of California) moved to cut it by June 30th, 1971.71 When Ronald Reagan attempted to cut the Educational Opportunity Program, it was UMAS that defended EOP. This was a time of consciousness in which students were getting involved in the improvement of their college experience and the EOP Program is a testament to that awareness. Carlos Muñoz Jr. in his book Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement he wrote who had suggested MEChA as the name for the Chicano/a student organization, he had written that “in 1969, [t]he name MEChA was proposed by [student,] Ysidro Ramón Macías.” George Mariscal in Brown Eyed Children Of The Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975 also details some of the history behind the naming of MEChA, he identified that “Macías was a key member of the Third World Liberation Front Strike at UC Berkeley, and was clubbed unconscious by police on February 26, 1969. He was also a member of Teatro Campesino and reportedly the originator of the name Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) at the Santa Barbara
Gustavo Licón (Lecture, California State University Northridge, April 17 2008). “The Educational Opportunities Program (E.O.P.) at San Fernando Valley State College [now CSUN] began with the formal admission of 222 minority students in September, 1968,” “EOP benefits Chicano Students,” El Popo, Vol. 1, no.1, March 10, 1970, El Popo Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN. “EOP IN DANGER EDUCACION EN PELIGRO,” “EOP LETTER CAMPAIGN,” El Popo, Vol. 3, no. 2, 1971, “Editorial, Reagan sets out to force us OUT OF COLLEGE…again!!!,” El Popo, Vol. 4, no. 3, 1972-1973, El Popo Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN, Joel Malinak, “EOP fights budget cuts,” Daily Sundial, March 12, 1971, “EOP bill considered,” Daily Sundial, March 26, 1971, “MECHA letters urge EOP reinstatement,” Daily Sundial, March 30, 1971, “MECHA protests EOP cuts; class boycott, march planned,” Daily Sundial, April 12, 1972, The Rodolfo F. Acuña Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN, Ernesto Chávez, “¡MiRaza Primero!”(My People First!): Nationalism, Identity, and Insurgency in the Chicano Movement in Los Angeles, 1966-1978, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2002, 77.
Conference.”72 MEChA formed in April of 1969 and was based in central California. Its core issues were to elect more Chicano politicians, struggling for education by getting Chicanas/os admitted into college, giving workshops about Chicana/o history to promote the Chicana and Chicano identity, and land grant issues such as supporting Reies Lopez Tijerina who advocated to have honored the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848. The war in Vietnam will now be considered as one of the additional influences on the formation of MEChA. The Vietnam War Amidst the student activism the Vietnam War waged its own warfare on the Chicano communities. Like in previous wars Chicanos during the 1960s were fighting for the United States Army. It was difficult for Chicano soldiers because they felt there was a need to protect the country. During the draft, if the soldiers returned from combat they still faced discrimination aimed at Chicanas/os, Blacks, and other people of color. Mechistas at California State University Northridge (CSUN) expressed their views against the war in Vietnam in a student run Chicana/o newspaper from CSUN named El Popo, Chicana and Chicano students were critical of the media and federal administration at the time of the war towards Chicanos, a Mechista in El Popo wrote “ . . . The established press and government are totally insensitive to the aspirations of Chicanos and couldn’t care less if they live or die - - here or in Vietnam.” The author continued, “Why should Chicanos fight in order to remain slaves at home?” 73 George Mariscal in
Carlos Muñoz Jr., Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement, 9th ed., London & New York, Verso, 2000, 97, George Mariscal, Brown-Eyed Children Of The Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2005, 281 (footnote 14). “Chicano Moratorium ¡Raza Si! Vietnam No!, El Popo, Vol. 1, no. 1, March 10, 1970, El Popo Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN.
his book that he edited Aztlán and Viet Nam: Chicano and Chicana Experiences of the War, Mariscal brought attention that some Chicanos during the Vietnam War were given rifles that didn’t work.74 He also presented evidence that the U.S. military sent in its soldiers without any intelligence on enemy locations.75 Mariscal mentioned a Chicano soldier who got hurt did not receive medical attention for eight hours. Because of poor treatment from his first doctor, the soldier had to have another doctor look at him again, but only after an unreasonable amount of time.76 Chicanos who were in trouble with the law were coerced into going to the army.77 The Chicanos who were fortunate enough to return home safely to a life of war hysteria, flashbacks, and most had a difficult time readjusting to civilian life.78 Many also returned in a state of psychological disturbance, or were physically maimed. Often the loyalty of Chicano war veterans was questioned. The following account is an example of discrimination faced by Chicano war veterans according to Charley Trujillo who wrote Dogs From Illusion and Soldados: Chicanos in Vietnam Narratives of the Vietnam War. Ese, Chuco, and Machete were Chicanos, U.S. citizens, veterans of Vietnam, but because they had brown skin and were working in the sugar beet fields they were harassed by border patrol agents, they were left in dismay because not only were they citizens but they were war veterans, unfortunately, they were treated as neither by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) now referred to as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Trujillo reports this incident:
George Mariscal, (ed), Aztlán and Viet Nam: Chicano And Chicana Experiences of the War, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999, 147.
75 76 77 78 74
Ibid. Ibid, 149. Ibid, 151. Ibid, 155.
‘Where were you born?’ asks one agent with disdain. ‘Fuck you,’ he answers, pissed off. ‘What did you say?’ asks the other agent, enraged and astonished that a Mexican would talk back to them like that. ‘I said fuck you. Can’t you understand Eng—’ But before Ese can finish his sentence or set himself to fight back, the agents assault and begin to hit with macanas [billy clubs].79 American society purported the message that if one went to fight in the Vietnam War one would be accepted and treated with respect as an American. As Trujillo had said, these Chicanos did serve in the war, came back, and were treated as if they were not citizens. As a result Chicana/o students and the community began to protest the war in Vietnam. Chicanos and Chicanas began to realize that they were defending a nation that gave them little acknowledgement as a people and treated them unjustly.80 New Chicana/o community organizations began to emerge: the Southwest Council of La Raza [now National Council of La Raza], MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund, and CASA-HGT (Centro de Acción Social Autonóma-Hermandad General de Trabajadores).81 The National Chicano Moratorium Committee in the late 1960s to early 1970s was a good example of that. During this time it awakened many in the Chicana/o community to what was happening in the war against Vietnam, inspiring Chicanas and Chicanos to become involved in their community by being vocal and visibly organized towards stopping the occupation of Vietnam. Many who were active in this movement also became participants in MEChA’s goals of getting more of the
Charley B. Trujillo, Dogs From Illusion, San José, Chusma House Publications, 1994,199, Charley B. Trujillo, Soldados: Chicanos in Vietnam Narratives of the Vietnam War, Sunnyvale, Patson’s Press, 2000. Rodolfo F. Acuña, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, 5th ed., New York, Pearson Longman, 2004, 418. Armando Navarro, Mexicano Political Experience in Occupied Aztlán: Struggles and Change, Walnut Creek, Altamira Press, 2005, 337.
81 80 79
Chicana/o community into the university. The National Chicano Moratorium Committee is evidence of Chicana/o participation against the war during the Vietnam era. National Chicano Moratorium Committee The National Chicano Moratorium was organized by a Chicana/o grassroots organization named the Brown Berets of Aztlan. They put together a protest in which 2000 demonstrators attended on December 20, 1969 eight months after EPDSB.82 “By late 1969, the [Brown] Berets joined the anti-war protest by holding two marches and rallies. [David] Sanchéz, joined by Rosalio Muñoz in 1970 formed the National Chicano Moratorium Committee (NCMC). On August 29, they staged the largest Chicano antiwar march and rally involving some thirty thousand people in Los Angeles.83 Chicanas/os organized against the war to end repression of Chicanos who were being pushed to the front lines of Vietnam instead of the university classrooms. As people entered the 1960s the war was an eye opener for the general public. A critique of American society was direct at times, it was able to assess where as a country it was heading. Unfortunately, Chicanas and Chicanos continue to be one of the largest ethnic groups still recruited today into the army.84
Rodolfo F. Acuña, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, 4th ed., New York, Addison Wesley, 2000, 377.
MEChA, “Military Targets Chicanas/os Students,” El Popo, no. 1, Spring 2006, El Popo Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN, “Army’s Hispanic Access Initiative still draws some campus criticism,” Daily Sundial, November 17, 2005, http://sundial.csun.edu/2005/11/armyshispanicaccessinitiativestilldrawssomecampuscriticism/, (accessed September 16, 2010), Melanie Sax, “Protestors rally against Iraq war,” Daily Sundial, March 23, 2007, http://sundial.csun.edu/2007/03/protestersrallyagainstiraqwar/, (accessed September 16, 2010).
Conclusion MEChA has maintained their mission, to keep Chicanas and Chicanos in higher education for forty-one years. Third world spaces, like the Young Lords of New York, and the Black Panthers of Oakland, were some of the movements that influenced MEChA to participate in the civil rights movement. Also included are the students in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, Mexico. These examples and other global south movements were crucial in informing MEChA’s desire for social change. El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan and El Plan de Santa Barbara in 1969 were the original cornerstones of Chicana and Chicano studies and MEChA. MEChA’s mottos and symbolization gave their membership symbolic and visual goals, to aim for the development and future of their organization. UMAS/MEChA’s foundations in the late 1960s helped establish the presence of more Chicanas and Chicanos on campus including the development of the Educational Opportunity Program. With the upsurge of the Vietnam War students and members of the community mobilized protests and marches to show the general public their moral outrage of the murdering of innocent lives, both on the side of Vietnam and the United States. Chicana/o organizations like the National Chicano Moratorium Committee and the Brown Berets of Aztlan who were some of the key participants that spearheaded these efforts in the Chicana/o community.
Chapter Three The organizational growth and revisions of MEChA To some of us MEChA is a passion. —Roberto Tijerina Cantú, MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy, & Organizational Strategy Introduction This chapter will examine MEChA’s initial goals and the evolution of the chapter, county, region, state, and national level organization. Also examined are MEChA’s position papers and what would become the philosophy of MEChA is also documented. Discussed is MEChA’s positions as chronicled in the philosophy of MEChA, which includes topics such as members of non-Mexican descent, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, In Question as it relates to the Chicana and Chicano community. The chapter addresses gender discrimination in MEChA during its developmental phase. Once MEChA became a formal organization, it evolved through stages of re-evaluation and change. The impact of MEChA will be included describing the positive effects it had on two Chicanas who were involved in the Chicana/o organization and the movement. MEChA became a Chicana/o student organization in the late 1960s; however Chicanas and Chicanos already had a long history of resistance. After the stock market crash of 1929, the Mexican Chamber of Commerce spoke out against the mass deportations of Mexicans and Mexican Americans by immigration authorities. Spontaneous arrests disrupted the Chicano community in Los Angeles because they were causing Mexicans and Chicanos to lose their employment and accessibility to purchase
food at markets.85 During these hard economic times, Mexicans transitioned from migratory farm workers to working in urban settings, such as Los Angeles.86 Once unemployment hit the barrio in the east side of Los Angeles, women like María Olazábal helped unemployed Mexicans by selling tamales at very low prices. She, along with other women of the Belvedere area formed the Cooperative Society of Unemployed Mexican Ladies (CSUML).87 At the beginning of the repatriation period in Los Angeles many Mexicans left, however towards the end of the deportation campaign, Mexicans and Chicanos refused to go to Mexico in spite of the harsh economic conditions they faced in the U.S. Heading into the 1930s and 1940s Chicanos and Chicanas integrated themselves as activists into trade unions.88 In Lemon Grove, San Diego, California, Mexicans challenged the decision of Lemon Grove School Board of Education to segregate Mexican children so as to not impede the “progress” of American children in the 1930s.89 The schools in Westminster, California followed a similar pattern, prompting Mendez vs. Westminster that challenged the segregation of Mexican children.90 Organizational growth of MEChA In an e-mail correspondence, Rodolfo F. Acuña talks about one of the co-editors of El Plan de Santa Barbara and suggested the models he thought MEChA should use to
George J. Sánchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), ACLS Humanities E-Book, 123.
86 87 88 89
Sánchez, 189. Sánchez, 209. Sánchez, 227-234, 240.
Robert R. Alvarez Jr., “The Lemon Grove Incident: The Nation’s First Successful Desegregation Court Case,” Journal of San Diego History 32, no. 2 (Spring 1986). Matsuda Michael, Sandra Robbie, and Eleazar Martinez, Mendez Vs. Westminster: For All the Children: the Story of an American Civil Rights Victory, Yorba Linda, Blue State Press, 2006.
develop itself as an organization, he stated that “Juan Gómez Quiñones wanted to pattern it [MEChA] after the Magónistas and its Focos.”91 Magónistas can be traced back to the early twentieth century, when Ricardo Flores Magón and Enrique Flores Magón, two Mexican revolutionaries organized against Porfirio Díaz. The Magónistas followed the beliefs of the Magón brothers. Focos are small groups within a larger organization that have their specific tasks or goals that coordinate with the overall organization or group to attain similar ends. From examining the El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan and El Plan de Santa Barbara I could not find any direct influence of these paradigms; because neither EPEDA or EPDSB contain any language connected to Magonism or Foquismo. As time progressed MEChA established campus chapters that facilitated meetings and held events on issues involving the local community, education, politics, cultural & social issues. MEChA developed Centrales that organized county structures to coordinate the chapters. In California, MEChA established itself into three regions, the north, central, and the southern regions. Within each region the following counties are located:92 1) Northern-(Del Norte, Siskiyou, Moodoo to San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, San Joaquin, Calaveras, and Alpine) 2) Central-(Santa Cruz, San Benito, Stanislaus, Tuolomine, and Mono to Santa Barbara and Kern) 3) Southern-(Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino to San Diego, and Imperial Valley). The conferences were a valuable tool in keeping the members connected with one another. The MEChA statewide coordinates and makes the final decisions on behalf of their MEChA chapters. The statewide committee decides on the themes of the conference
Rodolfo F. Acuña, e-mail message to author, (February 12, 2008).
California Statewide M.E.Ch.A. Constitution, Amended at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (1998). Author’s personal papers.
program, its itinerary, goals and objectives of the conference, keynote speakers, caucuses, workshops, vendors, housing, registration, security, entertainment, and food. The statewide liaison process must have at least three meetings: one in the northern region, central, and the southern, the last meeting in the region where the MEChA statewide conference is to take place. Statewide MEChA elects two chairs for the conference, preferably a female and a male, to have equal representation (not necessarily authority) throughout the entire statewide process. There are two yearly California statewide conferences (known originally as Summits), during the fall and spring semesters in which the regions will rotate as the hosting campus. Most chapters get funds to hold statewide conference through fundraising on and off campus like selling tamales or having benefit concerts, etc. The rest is paid with statewide conference registration fees. A chapter is usually responsible for hosting the conference: more recently chapters have collaborated with their respective region and county to coordinate and share the responsibilities. Typically, a California MEChA statewide conference takes place over a weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). On Friday evening, the first day of the conference, registration, training for facilitators, and cultural entertainment “Noche de Cultura” or “Flor y Canto” takes place. On Saturday, the host committee welcomes MEChA campuses and statewide chairs. Next, gender caucuses gather and focus on topics of gender. After the gender caucuses, there are a series of workshops. Caucuses concentrate on issues regional priorities, and the day concludes with dinner and entertainment. On Sunday, various caucuses address middle school, high school, junior colleges, public and private universities and meet to discuss problems or situations they feel need to be
brought to the attention of statewide MEChA. Lastly, all of the statewide conference participants meet at one location at the hosting campus to share, reflect, and critique the outcomes of the conference. This is called the “Resolution Circle,” and finishes with the bid for a MEChA chapter to host the next MEChA statewide conference. This tends to be the general format that has evolved over time and every semester it tends to add something different. The majority of the conference participants are MEChA members with a smaller percentage of community members and other organizations participating. Not until 1994, did MEChA form a national structure93 composed of ten regions which are: 1) Alta Califas Sur (Southern California) 2) Alta Califas Norte (Northern California) 3) Centro Califaztlan94 (Central California) 4) Pacific Northwest 5) Mictlampa Cihuatlampa (North West) 6) Calpulli Montañas del Norte (Homes of the North Mountains) 7) South East Tejaztlan (South East Texas) 8) Centro Aztlan (Mid-States) 9) Tierra Mid-Atl (Land of the Mid-Water) 10) Este Aztlan (East Coast) These regions meet once a year at the annual national conference to network, dialogue, and meet with the intent to create a plan of action for current national pressing issues in the Chicana/o and Raza communities. The MEChA national liaison is the deciding body that coordinates and makes the final decisions on behalf of their respective states as to the structure and content of the national MEChA conference. In regards to the logistical decisions that the MEChA
National M.E.Ch.A. Constitution, Amended March 18, at San Diego State University (2001). Author’s personal papers. Aztlan, land of herons. Aztlan is of great discussion. Schools of thought range from where its physical location exists, philosophical stances, to political views. Aztlan here is defined as a geographical place. The Nahuatl terms explained here are translations and not transliterations. Spanish and Nahuatl terms were translated to English.
national liaison must make, they are virtually the same as California MEChA statewide with the difference that the MEChA national conference is yearly and begins on Thursday evening. The national liaison committee has at least three meetings, one in a different state as chosen by the National MEChA Coordinating Council (NMCC), the NMCC are the coordinating body that is nominated and elected to represent the MEChA chapter from their specific states. National MEChA elects two chairs for the conference, preferably a female and a male that have equal representation throughout the entire national process.95 The MEChA national takes place once a year during the spring. Philosophy of MEChA As a Chicana and Chicano student organization MEChA prioritized what their philosophical tenets changes occurred. Besides El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan and El Plan de Santa Barbara were its guiding principles. In 1973, at the University of California Riverside there was a summit, approximately 1,500 Chicanas and Chicanos attended. Groups like the Communist Workers Party (CWP) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) also appeared at this meeting. There were clashes over ideological direction of nationalism versus internationalism. The attendees of this conference did not reach a common vision for improvement of the Chicana/o community. This would foreshadow later attempts by the League of Revolutionary Struggle to remove MEChA leadership that promoted nationalist ideals from the organization. In the late 1970s, the organization named the League of Revolutionary Struggle (LRS) formed. The League of Revolutionary Struggle was originally the labor committee of La Raza
Gustavo Licón, “¡La Unión Hace La Fuerza! (Unity Creates Strength!) M.E.Ch.A. And Chicana/o Student Activism in California, 1967-1999,” PhD diss, University of Southern California, 2009, 89.
Unida Party which became a faction and splintered into its own group. It was a group informed by Marxist-Leninist and Mao teaching. The LRS was an organization that functioned at the national level, their membership was rarely transparent, they ran a newspaper, but their overall end was to “overthrow the country.”96 Chicano nationalism promoted the belief of being proud of the cultural identity and history of the Chicana and Chicano. Chicano nationalism was to make self-reliance a reality by depending less on society for social and racial validation. MEChA wanted to discuss history and culture, while the focus of LRS was mainly class issues. By the mid 1980s there was a heavy “infiltration by the League of Revolutionary Struggle (LRS)” or referred to by Mechistas as “Liga,” where MEChA members were being encouraged to leave their chapters to join the LRS, this was even more visible in California.97 In the MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy, And Organizational Strategy, Tijerina Cantú wrote that MEChA from the University of California Riverside took action to counteract measures posed by Liga by having MEChA write their stances on MEChA’s ideology—Chicana and Chicano nationalism.98 In a hand out, MEChA at UCLA narrated how MEChA responded to LRS’s attacks, and how it had sat down to write a set of documents that was known as M.E.Ch.A.’s Position Papers.99 The nationalists in MEChA retaliated against the LRS and this along with other factors furthered the deterioration of Liga as an organization. In 1985 during the fall semester, the LRS offered to
Gustavo Licón (Lecture, California State University Northridge, April 17 2008).
M.E.Ch.A. de U.C.L.A., Handout, “Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlan 101,” Fall (2000). Author’s personal papers. Ibid, Roberto Tijerina Cantú, MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy, And Organizational Strategy, Coatzacoalco Publications, 2007, 618. M.E.Ch.A. de U.C.L.A., Handout, “Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlan 101,” Fall (2000). Author’s personal papers.
accommodate a statewide conference at California State University Northridge in which all of the workshops did not have a Chicana/o nationalist foundation. Many of the participants felt conflicted as some were nationalists. During that semester in December of 1985 another conference at the regional level was hosted by the California State University Fullerton and University of California Irvine MEChA’s, all of the speakers and workshops had been decided upon and approved. Right before the conference, the LRS changed the workshops. In 1986 at a national conference hosted by MEChA at the University of California Berkeley, the LRS became the conference itself. The Liga targeted chapters that were nationalist in orientation. MEChA nationalists were strategically housed farther from the conference than non-nationalist chapters. Colorado was housed fifteen miles away, Texas was placed thirty miles apart, and according to Tijerna Cantú “the delegation from Southern California was put in the basement of a gym with no heater or lights.”100 In a lecture, Gustavo Licón stated that “the northern chapters were more likely to be supportive of Liga than the southern chapters.”101 In 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union102 and the falling of the Berlin wall, these factors caused tensions within the League of Revolutionary struggle.103 This along with the formal approval of MEChA’s Position Papers throughout California contributed to the demise of Liga’s direct and indirect involvement in MEChA.
100 101 102 103
Tijerina Cantú, 615-616. Gustavo Licón (Lecture, California State University Northridge, April 17 2008). Ibid.
Gustavo Licón, “¡La Unión Hace La Fuerza! (Unity Creates Strength!) M.E.Ch.A. And Chicana/o Student Activism in California, 1967-1999,” PhD diss, University of Southern California, 2009, 3.
Initially, M.E.Ch.A.’s Position Papers were divided into four sections: Philosophy, Structure, Goals and Objectives, and Relationship to Outside Organizations. The Philosophy section mentions that MEChA was formed from El Plan de Santa Barbara and El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan, emphasizing the importance of self-reliance as Chicanos. The Structure, Goals and Objectives details how MEChA had a framework of logistical operations and how it functions on campus as a chapter, county (e.g., Los Angeles, Orange County), region (northern, central, southern), as a state, nationally. Relationship to Outside Organizations discusses that when working with other groups other than MEChA, MEChA must be cautious and make sure that its principles will not be compromised. The League of Revolutionary Struggle was an example and MEChA exercised caution when working with other coalitions. MEChA believed that through Chicana/o nationalism and higher education the Chicana/o community would empower itself. An advantage of Chicana and Chicano nationalism is that it improves the self-esteem of the individual and group through cultural and historical pride. Chicano nationalism also instills the idea of self and collective agency, making their thinking more independent from the dominant culture. Some disadvantages are that it has at times excluded Raza that is not of Mexican descent, and the paradigm within Chicano nationalism has also left the Chicanas’ voice out of the discussion. It is important to note that during the 1960s the idea of Chicana and Chicano nationalism was presented as essentialist, a set of concepts and ideas that were demarcated to be one clear cut idea. There was no room for variances. In prior literature regarding Chicano nationalism, it is the tendency for Chicano nationalism to be interpreted as being exclusive. In chapter 2, the discussion of activist Rodolfo “Corky”
Gonzales was described as being inclusive of other people besides Chicanas and Chicanos. Some scholars can interpret Corky Gonzales as someone who would identify as an internationalist, his work in the Chicana and Chicano community suggested his being a nationalist. Although much more complex, Corky was not the type of Chicano nationalist that has been previously described as exclusionary. In his speeches, work, and writings he emphasized the Chicana and Chicano cultural identity. MEChA’s Position Papers re-emphasized that education has gotten worse for the Chicana and Chicano student since 1969, attacks against immigrants continued, affirmative action and civil liberties further deteriorated. MEChA rejected the labeling of Chicanos/as as Hispanics and reaffirmed Chicano/a self-determination. A very important point that is stated in the philosophy of MEChA is the Chicana and Chicano identity. MEChA posited that identifying as a Chicana or Chicano is a decision a person must make on their own and that this process of ascribing as a Chicana/o comes from personal and gradual development. MEChA declared solidarity with their indigenous sisters and brothers of the northern Native peoples. MEChA also kept the belief that Chicana/o higher education should be for the end of going back to help the Chicana/o/Mexicana/o and Raza communities improve themselves. By 1986 MEChA admitted sexism existed towards Chicanas.104 Mechistas reaffirmed its commitment to the betterment of the community. The questions of ideology, identity, the treatment of Chicanas were part of this commitment through the Philosophy of MEChA. MEChA began revisions of the position papers at the Casa Ramona Community Center in San Bernardino, California, at a Fall Summit in1986.105 Two more summits at
Tijerina Cantú, 621.
UC Riverside and Mt. Jacinto Community College in 1989 furthered the revision of MEChA’s position papers. A new draft was produced in 1992 at California State University Fullerton.106 This process was spearheaded by the Northern Regional Task Force (NRTF), a committee representing MEChA from the northern region of California. The meetings continued modifying MEChA’s philosophy four years later.107 MEChA’s positions kept evolving or changing as different generations became part of the membership, this in part explains why these documents continued going through cycles of revising. It also represented the views current at the time they amended the position papers. For instance, CSUN MEChA at the California Fall Statewide in 1996 decided that they needed to address MEChA’s current positions on “La Mujer, Raza of Non-Mexican Descent, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender [In Question]) Mechistas, and Chicanismo.”108 The Philosophy of MEChA’s most recent amendments were made “at the M.E.Ch.A. National Conference of 1999 at Phoenix Community College” on May 21st of 1999.109 The new changes from the 1986, 1989, 1992, 1996, versions were incorporated to the 1999 draft. MEChA made statements on Chicana and Chicano identity (Chicanismo), the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender & In Question Chicana/o community, Chicanas and Chicanos who are not of Mexican descent, and the Chicana.
105 106 107
M.E.Ch.A. Position Papers, (1986). Author’s personal papers. Philosophy of M.E.Ch.A., Amended May 21st, at Phoenix Community College, (1999). Author’s personal papers.
In my opinion the League of Revolutionary Struggle’s clandestine attempts to take over MEChA, precipitated the writing of MEChA’s 1986 Position Papers. LRS pushed MEChA to take a look at their place in their organization, pressuring them to reevaluate their opinions, their daily operations as well as working relations with nonMEChA individuals and organizations. It forced introspection of where they stood in the community and academy. The long overdue acknowledgement of the Chicanas’ contributions to MEChA and the Chicana and Chicano community at large will be addressed. Sexism and La Mujer in MEChA The exploits of Chicanas in MEChA took on different forms. During the late 1960s into the early 1970s, women were not in a position of leadership within MEChA, nor did they speak as much as the men did. Chicanas were relegated to serving coffee, and writing minutes for meetings. By the late 1970s incidents of sexism towards Chicanas were still occurring in MEChA. In her essay, by Sonia A. López, describes how mujeres were treated. She recalled that, In the more politically advanced M.E.Ch.A. organizations, lip service to Chicana demands and needs were given, and a ‘selected few’ Chicanas were given leadership positions in organizations, boards, and committees. Yet in practice the men continued to be the ‘jefes’ [bosses] in decision making policies and political direction. Often, even though they contributed much of their time and labor, these Chicanas were not fully accepted into organizations. This caused many Chicanas to drop out of the M.E.Ch.A. organizations. The formation of Chicana groups, therefore, became the only vehicle through which some Chicana activists could receive moral and political support. At Long Beach State University [now CSU Long Beach], for example, a Chicana group by the name of Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, separated from the M.E.Ch.A. organization. They not only created support for Chicana activists, but also organized other Chicanas in the struggle of their people. In this particular case, some of the male members of the M.E.Ch.A.
organization reacted to the formation of the women’s organization by conducting a symbolic funeral to make their dissatisfaction known.110 Chicana scholar and contributor to Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader (PostContemporary Interventions), Maylei Blackwell writes “…women leaders were hung in effigy outside of the MEChA trailer during this time, and later, after the publication of the newspaper, a mock burial for the Hijas de Cuahtémoc was presided over by a MEChA ‘priest,’ with tombstones where several of the members’ names were inscribed...”111 While MEChA members were outspoken about their culture or capitalism, it was taboo to discuss sexism. Nationalists and leftists alike were guilty of male chauvinism. In an anonymous article to El Popo, a Chicano student newspaper at California State University Northridge (formerly San Fernando Valley State College), the author of the column made the attempt to defend Chicanas’ right of taking on a career but could not let go of the traditional expectations most Chicanos anticipated, they wrote “She is capable of being an artist, a writer, a poet, a historian, and a lawyer. She does not, however, forsake her role as a mother and wife.”112 This quote is an example of how women were allowed to take new roles so long as they did not cease their “primary obligations.” Sexism shifted from expecting Chicanas to remain domestic and subservient to having a career and not abandoning what was accepted as commitments of Chicanas. The idealization of women is different, and not for better, this new idealism puts more
Sonia A. López, The Role of the Chicana Within the Student Movement, in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings, ed. by Alma García, (New York: Routledge, 1997), 105-106. 111 Maylei Blackwell, “Contested Histories: Las Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, Chicana Feminisms, and Print Culture in the Chicano Movement, 1968-1973,” in Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader, ed. by Gabriela F. Arredondo, et al. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 64. “What is a Chicana,” El Popo, Vol.1, no.1, March 10, 1970, El Popo Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN.
physical and emotional stress on the woman, “the super woman” because her responsibilities are doubled. And this evidence of sexism continues to perpetuate the idea that men should have no involvement in the home, and only involve themselves with activities in which they will receive recognition. Conferences that were organized by the Chicanas who had attended the first Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education (CCCHE, El Plan de Santa Barbara) in 1971 addressed the need of support groups for Chicanas and made it a point to include mujeres and form Chicana organizations such as Hijas de Cuauhtémoc. As the 1980s emerged, Chicana feminism began to address these injustices, not only in MEChA, but in other Chicana/o organizations. Queer Chicana feminists like Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua helped influence Chicanas to advocate against the issues of sexism. In El Popo, a newspaper item by Mary Pardo about Chicanas and how they were instrumental to the Chicano movement, she cites Rodolfo Acuña about his thoughts on the Chicana’s participation in the Chicana/o movement; he stated that “women have been the key movers throughout the history of MEChA at CSUN -- the most consistent hard working force.” In this article, Acuña provided analysis that Chicana and Chicano relationships needed to parallel one another, he continued saying that “Chicanos must recognize that the relationship must be more equal. We can’t have it both ways. If we establish relationships with politically aware Chicanas, we can’t keep them barefoot, pregnant and tied to the kitchen stove.”113 Throughout history, Chicanas’ work in the Chicana/o movement and MEChA for the most part has not been recognized. Recently this has begun to change. Chicanas in MEChA are
Mary Pardo, “Dr. Rudy Acuña interviewed Mexicana/Chicana: forgotten chapter of history,” El Popo, Vol. 14, no. 4, February/March 1980, El Popo Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN.
receiving more recognition for their work, are in leadership positions, and have more of a say in the directions that MEChA goes.114 In the MEChA Philosophy Papers of 1999 it says, “In the spirit of our past and for the spirit of our future, M.E.Ch.A. will not condone, tolerate, or perpetuate sexism.”115 Mechistas are bound to expose anything he or she sees as resembling a sexist practice. Recently, more workshops at California MEChA Statewide conferences are being offered so that both women and men can discuss gender issues. The gender caucus is an exercise that continues today at the California MEChA Statewide. The structure of the gender caucus uses the “fish bowl method,” where questions that were approved through the MEChA statewide liaison process will be used during the caucus. Women and men take turns asking each other the questions that will have an assigned facilitator for the discussion. According to gender, one group will form an inner circle and the other group an outer circle. The outer group must refrain from talking while the inner group is allowed to answer the questions they are asked by the facilitator and have the opportunity to dialogue without interruption, and so that the outer group can practice listening about matters of gender. Then the groups switch and repeat the process. In the last phase of this activity, both groups integrate and have a discussion about what had been said earlier with each participant promising to keep the dialogue confidential in order for it to ensure the caucus as a safe space to talk about gender issues. This has created more sensitivity to the treatment of Chicanas in every day life, especially when MEChA is organizing and/or conducting meetings and functions.
Philosophy of M.E.Ch.A., Amended May 21st, at Phoenix Community College, (1999). Author’s personal papers.
A very poignant example of when traditional gender roles were reversed was the MEChA contingent against the Democratic National Convention (DNC) of 2001, held at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Chicanos were asked to make food and clean, while Chicanas sat down to organize and develop the strategies and tactics for the day. This example does not prove that gender equality has been obtained, but that like the Philosophy Paper’s amendments of 1999 there are now attempts to remedy discrimination towards Chicanas involved in MEChA. Another example, in 1993, . . . the UCLA hunger strike included vital involvement by women strikers, speakers, negotiators, and in spiritual work such that as of professor Gina Valdez on the medical team and professor Laura [sic] Medina; they conducted prayers, blessings, and spiritual healing throughout.116 A Mechista talked about the gender dynamics in his chapter, he said “[m]y M.E.Ch.A. chapter is 90 percent female,” Sergio Romero said, “but that doesn’t by itself reduce the sexism. A few women will speak out against it but a lot won’t. I think high school students are more likely to do it.”117 As time advances, more Chicanos are sensitive to issues of La Mujer. Ernesto, a student of Acoma Community College (ACC), mentioned how MEChA effected his opinions on how Chicanas are treated, Being a male, I believe that many privileges are afforded to us. If I had been a female, I probably would have not been as involved in activities and organizations such as M.E.Ch.A. I probably would have been restricted as to when and where I could go. I would have never have been able to make field trips such as one I took to the university. I know this because I have five sisters and saw the ‘burden’ that was placed on them for being women.118
Elizabeth Martinez, “Seeds of a New Movimiento,” Z Magazine, September (1993), 55-56 as cited in Mora, 169. Silvia Pellarolo, a doctoral student had also been a hunger strike participant.
117 118 116
Marcos Pizarro, Chicanas and Chicanos in School: Racial Profiling, Identity Battles, and Empowerment, Austin, University of Texas Press, 2005, 234.
A personal anecdote helps illuminate Ernesto’s words further. In 2001, when I was active in MEChA, I was reprimanded by a Chicano for being tardy. This infuriated me, because I was not given the chance to explain my tardiness. The Chicano male probably was not expected to clean his house on Saturday like I was (those were my mother’s rules and I had to respect them which can be interpreted as, internalized Mexican sexism). I could not leave my house without cleaning the bathroom, my room, my brother’s room, living room, etc. In retrospect, I should have shared my gendered obligations with him. On another occasion where I was heading out to the MEChA contingent meeting to participate in protests of the Democratic National Convention Center during August 2001. Before I left my father told me that if he caught me with a red bandana on my face again119 to not bother coming back home. Disheartened, I still left. I do not know if my father’s threats were because of me being female or because of the political activity, or both? Raza of Non-Mexican Descent and MEChA MEChA is a supporter for people who are of non-Mexican descent. After the Civil War in El Salvador in the 1980s many immigrants from El Salvador sought political asylum in Southern California and this forced MEChA to re-evaluate its position on nonMexican people. It is a common misnomer that Central and South American people and Mexicans or persons of Mexican descent did not interact in California prior to the 1980s, let alone have a history between their cultures in Los Angeles prior to the Salvadoran Civil War. From indigenous times when the Pochtecas/os120 would travel throughout the
I was showing solidarity with the EZLN, and my father found Sub-Comandante Marcos to be offensive because he did not show his face.
Nahuatl word for merchants and vendors.
continents trading and selling, communicating with one another, to the nineteenth century when Raza were cauterized and lashed for being considered “greasers” by the Anglo establishment.121 Throughout the 1930s and 1940s there was a strong sense of solidarity in union organizing by both cultures with organizations such as “El Congreso de Pueblos que Hablan Español or the National Congress of Spanish Speaking Peoples.122 There is no doubt that Central and South Americans faced persecution from colonizing forces alongside Mexicans. Throughout MEChA’s history many MEChA chapters believe that MEChA should only be open to Mexicans. Nevertheless, by illustrating the history between Central, and South Americans and Mexicans, connections can be made between Central and South Americans and Mexicans to develop healthier relations. What we now know as México, Central and South America did have distinct and diverse names and cultures where perhaps boundaries existed, but not the military enforced borders that we know of today. Though Mexica culture deserves respect like any other culture, Mechistas have made the tendency to romanticize its history and as a result the humanity of the Mexica is taken away, that is they were not perfect. This perspective does not claim that one should not be proud of their México heritage, but, forwards that Mexica peoples, did not live in a vacuum where they did not interact with other peoples and their cultures. Even in 1999, at Phoenix Community College during the National MEChA conference, when the Philosophy Papers were in discussion to amend the acknowledgement of Raza of nonMexican descent, there was disagreement in the voting process between California and
Rodolfo F. Acuña, Occupied America: A History Of Chicanos 5 Longman, 2004, 137.
ed., New York, Pearson
Sánchez, 244-249, 251-252.
other states if people of who are not of Mexican descent are considered Chicanas/os, and should non-Mexicans be allowed to be part of the MEChA membership. Nevertheless, California’s MEChA chapters were able to attain enough support from other states so that non-Mexican Chicanas and Chicanos work and presence would be recognized. “Throughout MEChA’s history non-Mexican Raza participated” said Gustavo Licón in a lecture he delivered at California State University Northridge about MEChA.123 Under MEChA’s Goals and Objectives, in Objective One it states that “We recognize that Chicanismo is evolutionary and that a Chicano identity is not a nationality but a philosophy.” 124 As I have argued, MEChA’s position as of 1999 with the passing of the Philosophy Papers at the National level postulates that Chicanisma/o is multifaceted, fluid, and should remain open to interpretation. It is dangerous to create dogma and not leave any room for challenge or debate on the construction of Chicano or Mechista identity. Many influential women during this period of the Philosophy Papers late 1990s, who were Chicanas of a Salvadoran and Guatemalan background, were student activists that created impact and positive changes for the Raza, Chicana/o, and MEChA community. It is clear that non-Mexican Mechistas do have concerns for the Chicana/o and wider Raza community. Mora offers an important example taken from the UCLA hunger strikes in 1993 that fought for the establishment of Chicana/o Studies, Rachel was a Cuban American senior student in premed who began fighting for Chicana/o Studies because of the unfair treatment that her classmates suffered the night of May 11. Rachel became so involved coordinating the media committee
Gustavo Licón (Lecture, California State University Northridge, April 17 2008), Ana Contreras, “Central America is focus of new organization,” Daily Sundial, January 25, 1993. Gustavo Licón’s, “¡La Unión Hace La Fuerza! (Unity Creates Strength!) M.E.Ch.A. And Chicana/o Student Activism in California, 1967-1999,” PhD diss, University of Southern California, 2009 doctoral work has been criticized for not having interviewed Chicana/o studies faculty nor MEChA alumni at CSUN. Philosophy of M.E.Ch.A., Amended May 21st, at Phoenix Community College, 7, (1999). Author’s personal papers.
and investigating on behalf of the assembly that she even decided to cancel her wedding and postpone applying to medical school. Those were the kind of profound and personal changes and decisions that the Chicano/a movement produced in young Latino/as.125 Another example of a non-Chicana/o for Chicana/o advocacy during the hunger strikes at UCLA was an Asian American. “Though I am Asian, Chicano Studies has become my struggle . . . ,”126 which can be interpreted as an expression of her passion for the Chicana/o community because she chooses to identify. She continues in her speech that she gave at Murphy Hall, I’m also fighting in this struggle for my people, the Asian people, for African people . . . for all people of color who need to know about Chicano Studies, Mexican struggles about the realities of the mistreatment of Chicano people in this country.127 Both of these women were not of Mexican descent, but they both lent their hand to the Chicana/o studies hunger strikes at UCLA. Ernesto Sanchez, a Chicano student from Acoma Community College (ACC), described how he began forming his identity as a Chicano because of his Chicana/o studies classes and MEChA, he suggests an open interpretation of what a Chicana/o is rather than what a Chicana/o is not, I found that role model in the Chicano Studies Instructor at ACC and it was through him and my experiences with M.E.Ch.A. that I learned what it meant to be Chicano. An identity which is always changing, hard to define and yet so near to the hearts of so many who know that our gente are in a state of crisis and are engaged in the struggle to break the binds of oppression that have held us subservient for so many years.128
Carlos Mora, Latinos in the West: The Student Movement and Academic Labor in Los Angeles, United Kingdom, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005, 146.
126 127 128 125
Ibid, 157. Ibid, 158, Julia Lau, at Murphy Hall, June 3, 1993. Pizarro, 232-233.
What is being explored here is the possibility of making the term Chicana/o more inclusive to other folks who aren’t of Mexican extraction. The LGBTIQ Chicana/o MEChA Community Through political activism in the community, Gay and Lesbian social networks created safe spaces and literature that reflected their experience which helped to create a discourse that was critical of homophobia in the Chicana/o and Anglo heterosexual communities.129 From 1996 to 1999, MEChA in the northern region of California felt that it needed to call this inexcusable behavior into question. In the third objective of the Philosophy Papers of MEChA, it describes the new position that MEChA took to address the problem of homophobia, Understanding that homophobia exists in our community, M.E.Ch.A. must undertake the task of educating ourselves to put a stop to homophobic remarks in our organization. Being that there are Chicanas/os who are of the Lesbian/Gay/ Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) community we must work to provide a safe environment in M.E.Ch.A. Therefore, M.E.Ch.A. will not tolerate disrespectful comments to LGBT members as they are a vital part of our Chicano[a] community. Our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community is a very important asset not only in the growth of M.E.Ch.A. but it also provides strength and unity between our Mechistas.130 Also under the 3rd “Process of [this objective’s] Implementation,” it discusses that, Any Mechista who makes homophobic remarks must be stopped and corrected. M.E.Ch.A. will not allow for any segment of our Chican[a]o community to be disrespected as these remarks are as self-defeating in M.E.Ch.A.’s purpose to help create a safe environment for members who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT).131
Juan Arellano, Gabriel Meza Buelna, “Commentary Homophobia: Prejudice among us…,” El Popo, Vol. 21, no. 2, Spring 1992, Enrique Castrejon, “Chicana/o Queers, Come Out: Take Over,” El Popo, no. 2, Fall 1996, El Popo Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN. Philosophy of M.E.Ch.A., Amended May 21st, at Phoenix Community College, 8, (1999). Author’s personal papers.
131 130 129
On a personal level, many times throughout my involvement in MEChA, homophobic remarks or acts have occurred. Not every comment or act was held accountable, but some were. Also, it should be clear that this does not mean that there aren’t heterosexual Mechistas who are not sensitive to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, In Question (LGBTIQ) community, or are at least making the efforts to do so.132 It is a good sign that Mechistas post 1990s continue to educate students and the public about the LGBTIQ Chicana and Chicano community,133 informing people about AIDS, exposing how it is affecting the Chicana/o heterosexual community at alarming speeds, erasing the stereotypes of HIV being an epidemic that is only contained within the Queer community. Erik, a CSUN MEChA member said in an interview “You learn about what MEChA is and issues that I’ve been involved with like the AIDS awareness event that took place in the Chicano House [at CSUN]. Our communities are being greatly affected, for example, right now heterosexual women are being exploited and being raped. . . . I thought it was important to address this issue.” 134 Marcos, a CSUN and USC MEChA alumni, mentioned that in his MEChA experience at CSUN he would encourage talks in meetings about whether any of the MEChA membership were open
J. Alfredo Santana, “Dancing for a cause: MEChA event highlights social equality,” Daily Sundial, Vol. 50, no. 32, October 18, 2007, Nicole Medina, Letter to the editor, The Observer, February 9, 2010, http://www.ndsmcobserver.com/viewpoint/lgbtq-support-from-mecha-1.1120682#, (accessed September 21, 2010). Kristen Whitehurst, “Activist brings light to lesbiphobia and religious homophobia,” Daily Sundial, April 24, 2007, http://sundial.csun.edu/2007/04/activistbringslighttolesbiphobiaandreligioushomophobia/, (accessed September 15, 2010). Susan Murray, “Students honored for work with LGBTQ community,” Daily Sundial, April 28, 2010, http://sundial.csun.edu/2010/04/students-honored-for-work-with-lgbtq-community/, (accessed September 15, 2010). Erik Mata, interview by author, Northridge, CA, August 11, 2010.
about being queer. He felt resistance which prompted him to take action about this important issue, . . . so that’s when I went ahead and started La Familia which is the only organization here at CSUN, or was the only organization here at CSUN that catered to the Chicana/o/Latino/a population here on campus, and at the same time it dealt with a lot of Queer issues that MEChA wasn’t dealing with so this organization definitely led on people to participate, not necessarily in organizing factors, but also to try to bring in the idea of homosexuality to the organizing scheme and to have it as a forefront, you know as an issue that is affecting all organizations not necessarily MEChA, because I feel like that has been one of my biggest campaigns within the organization and trying to make it more inclusive of people in general.135 Marcos continued on to say that the heterosexual membership of MEChA should also address these important topics because it should not always have to be a person who identifies with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or In Question, . . . with issues of La Mujer right, if there aren’t any mujeres involved that doesn’t mean that issues of La Mujer do not need to be discussed. And it’s ok if a man would bring issues of La Mujer into a discussion or issues of Queer people into a discussion. It’s not gonna make you Queer or it’s not gonna make you a mujer if you bring up those issues like that. And I felt like that was the idea of MEChA.136 In MEChA, the heterosexual membership needs to continue these efforts of making queer people acknowledged and feel safe. It is time to reciprocate that support that the LGBTIQ Chicana/o community has always given the heterosexual Chicana/o community in the faces of racial and cultural discrimination. It is important to note that one of the first chairs from the MEChA chapter at California State University Northridge was Gay. Impact of MEChA In spite of sexism, women did manage to benefit from their experiences in MEChA. Mechista alumnae do testify to MEChA’s importance in their educational
Marcos Zamora-Sánchez, interview by author, Northridge, CA, October 4, 2010. Ibid.
careers that helped their leadership and coordinating skills into their academic and community oriented professions develop even further. In an interview with professor Roberta Orona-Cordova of Chicana/o studies at CSUN, she touches on how it helped her career objectives unfold, “I was active in MEChA as an undergraduate. It was quite beneficial because it helped me learn leadership and organizing skills. All this helped my self-esteem which also gave me confidence to go on to higher education.” When I asked her if she would have stayed in school or graduated without MEChA she responded, “No I would not have. MEChA is a community that gives us a purpose and makes us aware of what we have to do to change society and make our lives better.” In response to whether she had selected a career because of MEChA, she said “Oh yes, I definitely went into teaching because I want to give the students the same educational and learning process that I went through.”137 In this same vein, Rosa Furumoto, a Chicana/o studies professor, at CSUN, in a personal interview described her politicization and how MEChA had been an influence, I was co-chair in MEChA, we got the vatos and the locas involved, it was gang people doing those programs. I knew my life would be to serve the people. It was through high school MEChA I went to college. Mr. Reza was a good advisor, he taught a Chicano studies course, I took that course three times, that course helped me to be proud of myself. Someone I really respect and his wife Mrs. Reza. I was super active all the time. I remember in high school there were demonstrators, we fed them. It helped determine the direction in my life. All I care about is serving the community. I just care about justice. If I have to choose between writing a paper to keep my job and organizing a bus for a march, I’m gonna get those buses. I really like working with the Mechistas. MEChA, CAUSA. The minute I stop caring about the community I might as well be dead. I don’t care about material things. The most important things are relationships.138
Roberta Orona-Cordova, interview by author, Northridge, CA, Spring 2006.
Rosa Furumoto, interview by author, Northridge, CA, Spring 2006. Rosa indicated that her experience with MEChA was more connected to her when she was in high school, rather than to her college career. CAUSA stands for Central American United Student Association (at CSUN).
I asked whether she had chosen a career because of MEChA she responded, “Definitely, I needed one more course to get my degree in Biology, but I ended up getting a degree in Chicano studies. MEChA as part of the movement that shaped me.”139 Looking at the responses here it can be deducted that, though MEChA is an undergraduate experience, it tends to be a set of unique experiences to each member that she or he is usually left with. They are lessons that will help them in their future academic/career, community, and life endeavors. Conclusion As time progressed, MEChA formed chapters, coordinated through counties and regions within California, and nationally. As a form of defense for MEChA against other organizations like the League of Revolutionary Struggle who wanted to take MEChA membership away to join their respective group, MEChA wrote, drafted and amended what we now know as the Philosophy of MEChA. In MEChA’s Position Papers (later the Philosophy of MEChA), it addressed very important issues in the Chicana and Chicano community such as sexism towards Chicana members of MEChA which was finally discussed in 1986. As a result, women were starting to be acknowledged for their work in the Chicana and Chicano community, and efforts are being made to improve the condition of the Chicana today through the Philosophy of MEChA. Raza of non-Mexican descent, the importance of acknowledging that our Central and South American sisters and brothers are part of the Chicana and Chicano community, or (anyone else for that matter that chooses to identify with the self-ascribed term Chicana/o). However, according to MEChA, in choosing this identification comes a responsibility of remaining active in the Chicana and Chicano community. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,
In Question (LGBTIQ) Chicana and Chicano community were issues that were acknowledged and amended into MEChA’s documents.
Chapter Four MEChA’s current and future Challenges Introduction This chapter discusses el Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlan’s involvement in establishing and preserving Chicana and Chicano studies in higher education. The chapter will explore how MEChA functions as an educational support system for Chicana and Chicano students. Next, it exposes the opponents of MEChA, Chicana/o studies, and the Mexican/Raza/immigrant community in California and Arizona as well as its contributions to a continued advocacy of Chicana/o studies will be examined. Finally, the fortieth anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara, California MEChA Statewide Conference at U.C. Santa Barbara and reflections with updates of El Plan will be reported. Chicana and Chicano studies, MEChA, and the Chicana/o community in recent times will also be considered. Chicana/o Studies and MEChA Chicana and Chicano studies is an area of studies that has survived in academia for forty-one years. In “Chicano Studies: A Public Trust,” Rodolfo F. Acuña writes that people have forgotten how Chicana/o studies began, or do not realize that it has not always been available in the educational system to the public let alone for the Chicana/o communities. “Chicano scholars have ignored the historical development of the discipline that opened the doors of opportunity for them.”140 MEChA was key to the survival of the area of study. Moreover, “[Chicana/o studies] builds student organizations such as
Rodolfo F. Acuña, “Chicano Studies: A Public Trust” in Chicano Studies: Critical Connection Between Research and Community, National Association of Chicana/o Studies, 1992, 2, Rodolfo F. Acuña Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN.
MEChA, giving students a common historical memory and purpose.”141 Indeed, MEChA was often the sole organization on campus that kept Chicana and Chicano studies alive and forged space for Chicanas and Chicanos to become scholars. Unfortunately, as Rudy Acuña has stated, both Chicana/o studies and MEChA have been forgotten or are not aware their debt to Chicana/o studies or MEChA.142 More specifically Chicana and Chicano studies contributed to the training of several generations of activists in the university and college systems and thus forging a middle class. This activism is essential in bonding students and then professors to the Chicana/o community and establishing a communication network. This has built a demand for not only academic positions but support services and works of literature and art. When someone applies for a job position it is assumed that the person will know by experience what they are talking about, why should being an activist in the community or at least in the university be any different? Chicana and Chicano studies did not just have a pre-requisite of activism in its early stages, but it built a tradition of activism so that the material in the classroom is relevant. When devoid of an activist practice (whatever that activism may be) Chicana/o studies falls short of its potential to make social and political change out in the community for Chicanas and Chicanos. Chicana/o students, faculty, and Mechistas knew that a Chicana and Chicano studies curriculum in the university should reflect community issues. Mechistas also knew that in order for their organization to survive, it needed to be connected to both higher education and in community issues. This was necessary so that curriculum and
Roberto Tijerina Cantú, MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy, And Organizational Strategy, Coatzacoalco Publications, 2007, 8-9, 18, 28, 305, 337, 369.
discipline could develop a permanent department in order for Chicana and Chicano studies to continue and grow.143 During the late 1960s Chicanas and Chicanos sought to hold educational institutions accountable by demanding the establishment of Chicana/o studies departments. One of MEChA’s most important goals was to make sure that Chicana and Chicano studies departments were established. They used EPDSB as a guide. Not only did MEChA help institute Chicana/o studies, but they also helped influence other Chicanas and Chicanos to start campus organizations144 such as Aztlan Graduation and Scholarship Committee, Ballet Florklorico de Aztlan, and Chicanos for Community Medicine, which were present at California State University Northridge. MEChA and its counterparts on other campuses fought to keep administrators honest by ensuring that they provided more than a token class and/or later stopped offering those courses. MEChA has a long history of defending Chicana/o studies. MEChA as a Support System for Chicana/o Educational Advancement MEChA was also active in the outreach and retention of Chicana/o students.145 MEChA can be seen as a substitute for resources that schools should have provided to encourage Chicanas/os and Raza to attend and complete college. “For several students, MEChA was a key support system that gave meaning to their schooling by providing a network of friends who shared a vision of improving their community and by helping
Armando Navarro, Mexicano Political Experience in Occupied Aztlán: Struggles and Change, Walnut Creek, Altamira Press, 2005, 371. Cindy Von Quednow, “MEChA prepares high school students for college,” Daily Sundial, Vol. 50, no. 96, April 2, 2008.
them on the path to their degrees,”146 wrote Marcos Pizzaro. Miguel Ceja in his article “Chicana College Aspirations and the Role of Parents: Developing College Resiliency” he discussed the part that parents have in first generation Chicanas developing goals in order to finish their education. Ceja stated that through the parents’ life experiences of Chicanas, their daughters were able to transform their negative barriers into positive messages. The obstacles that existed in their families were used as sources of inspiration and resourcefulness instead of dropping out of the university.147 Many Chicana/o students struggling college/university life found some relief by joining MEChA. Ramona, a Chicana student from Acoma, Washington had this to say about her educational goals and their relationship to MEChA, Right now mostly what has been influencing me a lot is MEChA. Because a lot of goals from MEChA are, like education, get educated and stuff like that. So that has been an influence on me . . . There’s been people pushing me in MEChA and everything . . . They’re always worried about who’s doing good and who’s not.148 Recruitment and retention programs make sure students are learning, whether or not they need help with coursework, or need emotional support. Such programs can help students to stay in school and graduate. MEChA has been such a program for Chicana/o students. By joining MEChA this student found motivation to pursue a higher degree, because she found a space that was relevant, to her and that she could relate to. It is MEChA’s belief that students have improved their self-esteem when they find other students and
Marcos Pizarro, Chicanas and Chicanos in School: Racial Profiling, Identity Battles, and Empowerment, Austin, University of Texas Press, 2005, 183. Miguel Ceja, “Chicana College Aspirations and the Role of Parents: Developing College Resiliency,” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 3, no. 4 (October 2004), under “Fresno Unified,” http://www.fresnounified.org/dept/planning/careerprep/Source%20Material/Chicano%20College%20Aspir ations%20and%20the%20Role%20of%20Parents,%20Developing%20Educational%20Resiliency.pdf (accessed April 28, 2011), 5, 15, 18, 21.
curriculum that are culturally sensitive to them. Ramona was able to find an educational and cultural paradigm (MEChA) that was consistent to her needs. Some Chicana/o students even left their violent lives behind. It is possible for a Chicano or Chicana to leave a gang if they make that shift to higher education. For another student, named Ernesto Sánchez, MEChA was a huge stepping stone towards advancing in scholarship and away from gangs. “Gradually, I was able to stay away from the gang and spend more time in MEChA. I did not identify myself as a gang member any longer, I was Mexican,”149 said Sánchez in an interview. Chicanas and Chicanos, like anyone, need to feel like they belong to a group or people they can depend on. It doesn’t necessarily have to be MEChA, but it would be good for the Chicana/o student to be involved in her or his community in some way. Pizarro criticizes that since mentors from MEChA are still at a learning stage, because they have not graduated yet they may not offer the best mentorship. Despite that, MEChA is a group that can discuss racism they may encounter as a collective. Some students attend MEChA meetings and realize that it is not for them or they feel frustrated that people cannot get over internal disputes.150 MEChA can be a positive experience, but it can also have conflicts like any organization or group. Even if a potential member decides not to join, MEChA at least hopes to leave the impression that the community is a valuable resource that needs to be engaged.
Pizarro, 232. Pizarro, 257.
Opponents of Chicana/o Studies, the Immigrant, and MEChA in California and Arizona Some of the administrators on campuses and colleges are not the only ones who oppose Chicana/o studies and MEChA. Every time there is a dry spell of economic despair Mexicans are blamed for the mismanagement of public funds by government officials. The depression in the 1930s for example, economic struggle was followed by Mexicans and Chicanos/as being forced to repatriate and be deported to Mexico to give the remaining job opportunities to Anglo workers. On February 26th 1931, Mexican nationals and U.S. born Chicanos were detained by Immigration officials in what became known as “La Placita raid” at the Plaza Olvera in Los Angeles. Damage control was attempted by the Chamber of Commerce by sending a press release to radio stations not too much after this nefarious incident, but the release was sent not to apologize or ease the minds of the Mexican community, rather to avoid unfavorable publicity since the Olympics would be held the following year in 1932 in Los Angeles.151 The Voices of Citizens Together (VCT), Save Our State (SOS), and the Minute Men Project (MMP), Tea Party are some recent examples from the 1990s/2000s of hate groups who attempt every effort to make the life of the immigrant, Chicana/o, and Mexican a hard one in California. The legacy of hating Mexicans in California is one made of ignorance and violent tendencies. It is these kinds of misunderstandings that lead to jingoist and xenophobic behavior.152
Francisco E. Balderrama, and Raymond Rodríguez, Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1995, 57-58, 62-63. Tomás Almaguer, Racial Fault Lines: The Historical Origins Of White Supremacy In California, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1994, Martha Menchaca, Recovering History Constructing Race: The Indian, Black, and White Roots of Mexican Americans, Austin, University of Texas Press, 2001.
There are many opponents of Chicana/o studies and MEChA. Groups have formed throughout MEChA’s history that posit a nativist agenda, in order to oppose MEChA’s work. During the Great Depression of 1931, a California senator demanded that Mexicans without papers not be allowed to shop in the state or work. A director of the Los Angeles Unemployment Department (LAUD), by the name of C.P. Visel, circulated anti-Mexican propaganda in barrios that declared “that deportations would include both legal and illegal Mexican residents.”153 More recently, right-wing groups misconstrued El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan in order to forward a racist agenda against Chicanas/os, Mexicans, Raza, and Immigrant communities. Mariscal pointed out the irony of Patrick Buchanan, who is a descendant of immigrants and yet accuses MEChA of bigotry.154 MEChA does not conduct hate crimes as portrayed by right wing media and public figures. One need only look at MEChA’s history to see that this claim is untrue. “According to an Arizona Republic article, Rep. Russell Pearce, the legislator pushing for this proposal [to ban Raza studies at Tucson Unified School District], said that groups like MEChA ‘indoctrinate students in what might be characterized as antiAmerican or seditious thinking,’”155 wrote Rep. Pearce. Russell Pearce advocated for
Rodolfo F. Acuña, Corridors of Migration: The Odyssey of Mexican Laborers, 1600-1933, Tucson, University of Arizona Press, 2007, 228-229, George J. Sánchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), ACLS Humanities E-Book, 221. George Mariscal, Brown Eyed Children of the Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2005, 264-265. Matías Ramos, “Ethnic pride isn’t anti-Americanism,” Daily Bruin, http://beta.dailybruin.com/articles/2008/5/20/emethnic-pride-isnt-anti-americanismem/ (accessed May 20, 2008), see Mathew Benson, “Plan targets anti-Western lessons Some fear loss of diversity in lawmaker’s education proposal,” Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0417unamerican0417.html (accessed April 17, 2008), Ashley Thorne, “Protecting the Prickly: La Raza Studies,” National Association of Scholars, http://www.nas.org/polArticles.cfm?Doc_Id=323 (accessed September 4, 2008).
Senate Bill 1108 which would outlaw the formation of organizations like MEChA and other chartered associations based on ethnicity on public college campuses and universities in the state of Arizona. Equally important, if passed, this bill would dissolve any departments in which “ethnicity is studied.” The current period is one in which racist and ethnocentric proposals will be codified into law. Rep Pearce ignores the fact that the United States was built by immigrants. America was given to what we now know as the Western Hemisphere in honor of the Italian explorer Americo Vespucci. Secondly, Pearce states that organizations based on ethnicity “indoctrinate” which is incorrect since student populations can think for themselves in a critical way. Rep. Russell does not explicitly deem what he considers anti-American ideology, and, therefore, anyone who does not share his worldview (that of a white male in a position of power and privilege) becomes an enemy. These laws are justified with ad hominem arguments on Mexican, Chicanas/os, and Raza community, when in fact, MEChA is a mutli-faceted organization with many of its goals being education for the betterment of the public. Rudy Acuña, historian and activist astutely responds to this xenophobic demagoguery, on behalf of the Chicana/o community “With that laundry list of stances, it is easy to see how a fear-mongering legislator like Pearce would prey on a progressive student organization to build his tough-man rep during a congressional campaign.”156 Pearce has no proof his laws will be implemented equally.
Ibid, see Howard Fischer, “Measure backs American Values in state schools,” Capitol Media Services, East Valley Tribune, http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/114048 (accessed April 16, 2008), La Voz de Aztlan, “Arizona legislation will outlaw MEChA and Mexican-American studies,” http://www.aztlan.net/arizona_targets_mecha.htm (accessed August 25, 2008), Rhonda Bodfield, “Tucson Region TUSD’s Raza unit survives under fire,” Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com/altds/pastframe/metro/240683 (accessed May 27, 2008).
Russell Pearce is passing off opinions for facts. Acuña in a Letter to the Editor responds to Pearce by defending MEChA, Pearce implies that MECHA excludes other races and promotes racism, which is just not true. For Pearce's information, MECHA organizations on every campus are chartered by student affairs. In order to be chartered, the organization has to be open to all students regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion. Every campus differs. I have visited hundreds of campuses throughout the country and have found that on some campuses the majority of the members were nonMexican American.157 Many former gang members are today lawyers, medical doctors and teachers because of Chicano studies and MECHA. Indeed, in California 85 to 95 percent of all Latino elected officials are alumni of this organization. Frankly, people like Pearce relish in the portrayal of Mexican Americans as gang members rather than university graduates because they can step on us.158
Figure 4. Positive Representation in Education ¡No to SB1108!, Flyer
Rodolfo F. Acuña, “Letter to the Editor-Rodolfo F. Acuña responds to Arizona’s Rep. Pearce,” see La Voz de Aztlan, “Government attempts to outlaw M.E.Ch.A. in Arizona,” http://www.aztlan.net/arizona_targets_mecha.html (accessed April 21, 2008), Roberto Rodriguez, “Tom Horne to Ethnic Studies: Drop Dead!,” Flor y Canto, http://www.florycanto.net/blog/?p=544 (accessed August 22nd, 2009), Jeff Butera, “School Official: Horne’s Bill ‘Racist, Facist,’” KPHO.com, http://www.kpho.com/news/19747803/detail.html# (accessed June 15, 2009).
In this flyer, activists’ that are against Senate Bill 1108 is expressed. In the figure above it shows essentially the negative consequences if the bill were to be approved such as not allowing any organizations to meet at educational institutions within the state of Arizona if cultural identity is discussed. The curriculum must be authorized by the Superintendent but Tom Horne has already said he does not approve of Raza Studies and Women’s Studies. And, this bill would cut state funding in order for the Raza and Ethnic Studies programs to be run. Along with images of students and teachers protesting on the flyer are the contact numbers of the Arizona Senators and House of Representatives. People who read the flyer are urged to contact them, both within and out of Arizona to not vote on SB1108. Though this is a study of MEChA in Southern California, it was important to address this situation because MEChA sees an attack on a Chicana/o as an attack on all Chicanas and Chicanos. If these types of bills are not protested, they set a negative precedent for the rest of Chicanas and Chicanos and people of color in other states for their right to have a culturally and historically relevant education and their right to organize on public colleges and universities. Many other attacks on MEChA have occurred. A Mechista and an undocumented student were recently deported in January of 2008. The student attended Palomar College in San Diego and was taken with some of her family members.159 An even more recent attack on MEChA occurred when Minutemen/Save Our State, a right wing, racist, anti-
Linda Lou, “President of MEChA club at Palomar College deported,” Copley Newspaper Site, Union Tribune, http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/northcounty/20080116-1748-bn16mecha.html (accessed January 17, 2008), La Voz de Aztlan, “ICE arrests MEChA president and her family,” http://www.aztlan.net/mecha_president_arrested.htm (accessed August 25, 2008). See “Activists push ballot initiative to end state benefits for illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children,” Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-illegal-immigration132009jul13,0,4982035.story?page=2 (accessed July 14, 2009).
immigrant group connected to Voices of Citizens Together (VCT) happened on May 20th 2008 at California State University Northridge (CSUN). On their message board through the internet, the VCT was organizing a demonstration to protest Mexican immigrants and Chicanas/os who were graduating. One of the SOS protestors had a sign that read “Down with MEChA, Fix Mexico First.” Members stopped traffic, intimidated the CSUN Humanities graduation by wearing caps and jackets that read “ICE” (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), zip ties, handcuffs, and pepper spray (even though none of them worked for ICE and had no identification to prove this). Ironically, the group protested the wrong ceremony.160 MEChA’s Chicana/o Studies Limitations MEChA can be credited with helping to create and maintain Chicana/o studies departments around the country, but there are limitations to these victories, “In spite of its imperfections, the Plan of Santa Barbara has its place in history,”161 wrote Acuña. Many forget that when El Plan de Santa Barbara was drafted there was a stipulation that Chicana/o studies departments were meant to be temporary or transitional departments. In El Plan de Santa Barbara’s section, Organizing and Instituting Chicano Programs on Campus, the ultimate goal was, in fact, to develop a Universidad de La Raza or Universidad Autonoma de Aztlan.162 There is an example, though, of a school that has managed to dispel this notion, Academia Semillas del Pueblo (ASP), two K-12
b-cubed, “Minute Men plan to protest CSUN Chicana/o Studies Graduation” Los Angeles Independent Media Center, http://la.indymedia.org/news/2008/05/217624.php (accessed May 17, 2008). Rodolfo F. Acuña, “Chicano Studies: A Public Trust” in Critical Connection Between Research and Community, National Association of Chicana/o Studies, 1992, 2, Rodolfo F. Acuña Collection, Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, Urban Archives Center, CSUN. Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education, El Plan de Santa Barbara: A Chicano Plan for Higher Education, Oakland, La Causa Publications, 1969, 20.
educational charter schools in East Los Angeles. Academia Semillas del Pueblo, an educational institution that values cultural relevance and social consciousness in their pedagogy. ASP also emphasizes preparation for college and university work that gives their students the careers which will help them contribute to underrepresented communities. 40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara Many more Chicanas and Chicanos are allowed to attend the college and university systems since the passing of EPDSB. And some are fortunate to be able to major in Chicana and Chicano studies. The fortieth anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara took place last year at the MEChA Statewide Conference hosted by University of California Santa Barbara, May 22nd-24th, 2009. Some of the original contributors to El Plan de Santa Barbara were present at the “69ners Panel/1969-2009 El Plan de Santa Barbara-Historia, Chicana/o Studies, and Future Activism of the Movimiento.” The participants were Dr. Mariana Marin an alumna of University of California Santa Barbara, Dr. Roberto Richard Valencia alumnus of University of California Santa Barbara, Mr. Gus Chavez graduate of San Diego State University, Professor Armando Vazquez-Ramos alumni of California State University Long Beach. Also one of the original contributing artists to El Plan de Santa Barbara José Ernesto Montoya, a Professor at California State University Sacramento participated at the conference as well.163 During the 69ners panel the presenters shared with the audience the conditions including MEChA’s role that existed during the time that El Plan de Santa Barbara was written and what prospects for the future of the Chicana and Chicano community might
40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara, California M.E.Ch.A. Statewide Program, University of California Santa Barbara, 10-11, 19, (2009). Author’s personal papers.
be. Dr. Roberto Richard Valencia with his overhead projector presented that he had belonged to the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) which would later become MEChA after the El Plan de Santa Barbara conference. When he was a student at the University of California Santa Barbara there were only fourteen Chicano students at the campus. He discussed a book from 1962 The Other America, Poverty in the United States by Michael Harrington. He also provided insights about the Black civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Another source of inspiration for the Chicana/o movement during the 1960s was The Mexican-American People: The Nation’s Second Largest Minority by Leo Grebler, Joan W. Moore, and Ralph C. Guzman. Dr. Valencia also mentioned that Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales gave a speech in down town Santa Barbara. He acquainted the conference participants with some of the original organizations that had participated at the Santa Barbara conference forty years ago such as the United Mexican American Students (UMAS), Mexican American Student Confederation (MASC), Mexican American Youth Association (MAYA), Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO), and Mexican American Student Association (MASA). Dr. María Marin stated that she began as a student in the Fall of 1967 at the University of California Santa Barbara. She talked about how UMAS had picketed the Safeway store in 1968 when grapes were boycotted in Santa Barbara. She mentioned that BSU, an African-American student organization took over the computer room at UCSB. According to Dr. Marin, “The United Front” was a coalition of all ethnicities at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) which always had rallies and speakers. She submitted that one thousand people had participated at the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference. Some writers of the moment that influenced her were Carey
McWilliams, Julian Samora, and Ernesto Galarza. Two persons that were on the Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education were from UCSB. During this time an “antiimmigration ‘undocumented’” sentiment of Mexicans in California existed, said Dr. Marin. Mr. Gus Chavez presented information about the situation that existed for Chicanas and Chicanos before El Plan de Santa Barbara and shared his projections of what the circumstances for Chicanas/os would be like in the future. Before El Plan de Santa Barbara, Mr. Chavez introduced that there was a Coors boycott going on. He also shared his insights on what El Plan de Santa Barbara meant, he said that EPDSB “produced a living document,” that the “philosophical elements of El Plan” were important, and to consider “the short term and long term implications” of El Plan de Santa Barbara. Mr. Chavez declared that Mike Firebaugh had been a Mechista. Mr. Armando Vasquez Ramos from California State University Los Angeles presented that the purpose of El Plan de Santa Barbara was “to generate activism, to generate leadership.” He also shared that he was arrested as part of the 21 for Catolicos Por La Raza. Mr. Vasquez Ramos asked an important question “What is El Plan de Santa Barbara 40 years from now?”164 I think though we have made many accomplishments in the Chicana/o community, the high school drop out rate is higher then it was back in 1969 (to be fair the Chicana/o population has expanded immensely), and the Chicana/o community is still not completing higher education in considerable portions. And it is valid to fear that many people including Chicanas and Chicanos are not informed about
Armando Vasquez Ramos (Lecture “40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara,” University of California, Santa Barbara, May 23 2009).
Chicana and Chicano history. That being said El Plan de Santa Barbara was instrumental to opening the university doors to more Chicanas and Chicanos than prior to the conference at the University of California Santa Barbara, the efforts of these participants must also be acknowledged.
Figure 5. Save The Date! 40th Anniversary of El Plan de Santa Barbara May22nd to 24th 2009 at UC Santa Barbara La Lucha Sigue!, Flyer
Figure 6. 40th Anniversary of El Plan De Santa Barbara M.E.Ch.A. Statewide Conference May 22-24 University of California Santa Barbara, Flyer
Conclusion MEChA throughout its history has always been a proponent for relevant education in the Chicana and Chicano community. MEChA has also been an educational support network for Chicanas and Chicanos that come from a background where their families have little formal education. A history of opposition towards Chicanas, Chicanos, Mexicanas, Mexicanos, and Raza, unfortunately is not anything new, cases dating back as far as1929 show the mass deportations in Los Ángeles of both non-citizens and citizens alike of Mexicanas/os and Chicanas/os. Most recently, senators from Arizona like Representative Pearce attacked the Raza community, Raza/Ethnic studies, and MEChA with Senate Bill 1108 by trying to dismantle Raza Studies, other ethnic studies programs. If it were passed other states could potentially follow suit. The Minute Men Project continued their anti-immigrant actions for people of Mexican descent at California State University Northridge’s graduation ceremonies in 2008. Despite these attacks, MEChA and other caretakers of Chicana/o studies have made Chicana and Chicano studies more pervasive and increased its development throughout these forty-one years.
Chapter Five Conclusion Reflections . . . M.E.Ch.A.’s ultimate goal, is to not need a M.E.Ch.A. —Luis Rodriguez, Daily Sundial
Introduction MEChA was founded on the principle of furthering education in Chicano communities. Chicano studies in higher education continues to be a strong priority for most members, something that many Mechistas fight for on a daily basis. This concluding chapter will offer final reflections of MEChA’s history in Southern California, and a summary of each chapter in this thesis. Reflections My interview with Marcos Zamora-Sánchez, an alumni of University of Southern California and California State University Northridge captures much of what my research documents. Marcos shares, I think that as with a lot of movements, MEChA has definitely been in transition. I feel like the focus within the sixties was one, within the 80s was a different one, the 90s was a different one, and even when I was in school it was just a different focus. But I feel that the underlying point for MEChA should be, you know, trying to get people into higher education just because that was pretty much the foundation of the organization and how it came about.165 Furthermore, Marcos makes suggestions for the future of MEChA, . . . Teach them [students] about the papeles [MEChA’s documents], teach them about how MEChA started, why MEChA is even at the university level, you know like why are they even in MEChA . . . .
Marcos Zamora-Sánchez, interview by author, Northridge, CA, October 4, 2010.
. . . We’re learning from MEChA, we’re learning from the organizing that happens within the organization, and as an organization MEChA is, you know, growing with us . . . How can we make people more interested with what’s happening in their educational lives, what’s happening in Sacramento in terms of the budget decreases, and the tuition increases, and I feel like people are so unaware of what’s happening right now . . . people cannot communicate with each other.166 I knew that I wanted to go to a university, but I didn’t know what path I wanted to take. I come from a family that getting to college is a miracle in itself, let alone graduating from it. Though my family has been supportive to the best of their abilities throughout my academic career, college for them is a set of experiences, information, and people they cannot relate to or would have trouble relating to. Thus, I was fortunate to see a flyer announcing a MEChA meeting at Pasadena City College which led to my first meeting in spring of 1998. MEChA was the network that gave me the support I needed to become focused, to have perseverance, and to become empowered so that I could use my personal agency to navigate through the academy. Since I already had an interest in history, being exposed to MEChA and Chicana and Chicano studies motivated me to pursue an education that was relevant. MEChA empowered me; and I knew from that moment on that no one would be able to take that away from me. The next step was to motivate other Chicanas/os attain similar results and experiences that go with them. A historical consciousness brought the power of action to do something with that consciousness and analysis. These were the fundamental lessons MEChA had taught me and the type of practices that I attempt to keep.
Summary Chapter one described the founding of MEChA within the social context of the Civil rights movements in the United States and other parts of the world. Chapter two explored how MEChA learned lessons of collective agency from other social movements, both nationally and internationally. In MEChA’s formative years, the First National Chicano Youth Leadership Conference in Denver, Colorado helped produce El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan giving MEChA an initial framework of Chicano nationalism. The Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education organized the University of California Santa Barbara conference resulting in a manifesto calling for more Chicanas and Chicanos in higher education El Plan de Santa Barbara, and the creation of Chicana and Chicano studies and MEChA. The war in Vietnam furthered a sense of urgency for MEChA to organize against the draft targeting African American and Chicano males. Chapter three discusses how MEChA developed beyond the local level. MEChA began to organize at the county, regional, and state levels. In the mid 1980s, MEChA continued to revise itself as an organization. During this time MEChA dealt with an organization named League of Revolutionary Struggle167 allegedly attempted to take over MEChA chapters, steal their membership, and even remove persons in leadership positions. This conflict ironically forced MEChA to re-examine its purpose, goals, organizing strategies, ideology, and who they would and would not work with. This reexamination eventually became formalized in “MEChA’s Position Papers.” With more revisions in the late 1990s, this set of documents was amended to include a broader
It should be noted that the perspective of the LRS was not documented in this thesis. As has been expressed by some, the struggle between MEChA and the LRS was mostly personal. This topic deserves a broader interpretation which is the subject of another paper. Some credit the League of Revolutionary Struggle having worked significantly in the union movement and have made other contributions to diffusing the ultra nationalist elements within MEChA.
membership not of Mexican descent, the acknowledgement of the Chicana, and inclusion of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, In Question community. Concluding this chapter, MEChA alumnae discussed the positive effects that MEChA had in their lives and in their careers. The fourth chapter explored the beginnings of Chicano studies in the late 1960s at the university level. Its developments since then have also been examined. MEChA is seen as the primary student organization that has consistently ensured that Chicana and Chicano studies did not disappear from the curriculum in colleges. MEChA also became a support system for Chicana and Chicano students that needed help with their academic work, peer support, study groups, and tutoring, etc. However, there would be no Chicana and Chicano studies had not the Educational Opportunity Program been available. MEChA had its allies, but also its opponents. Arizona House Bill 2281 (HB 2281) eliminates Raza Studies curriculum from the K-12 Tucson Unified School District. A court case is currently underway to appeal the passage. An attack on one state is a threat to all as it will set the precedent for other states of this attack on the teaching of Chicana/o studies. MEChA in and out of Arizona have been supportive of Tucson keeping Raza Studies going.168 This study has shown that over the previous forty-three years, MEChA has sustained the battle to maintain Chicana/o studies at the university level and to ensure the representation of Chicana/o students in higher education. MEChA continues to connect the community to academia so that higher education will be relevant to the lives and needs of Chicana/o and immigrant communities. MEChA has proven to be an organizational and educational tool that helps to empower many Chicana and Chicano
students that in their efforts to complete an undergraduate education for the purpose of helping underserved communities.
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