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Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, 1975. Courtesy the Denver Post Archive


Historical Foundation


     In March of 1969, at Denver, Colorado the Crusade for Justice organized the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference that drafted the basic premises for the Chicanx Movement in El Plan de Aztlán. The movement was led by a local activist Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez.

     The following month, in April of 1969, over 100 Chicanas/Chicanos came together at University of California, Santa Barbara to formulate a plan for higher education: El Plan de Santa Barbara. With this document they were successful in the development of two very important contributions to the Chicano Movement: Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) and Chicano Studies.

     The adoption of the name Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan signaled a new level of political consciousness among student activists. It was the final stage in the transformation of what had been loosely organized, local student groups, into a single structure and a unified student movement.

     Adamant rejection of the label "Mexican-American" meant rejection of the assimilation and accommodationist melting pot ideology that had guided earlier generations of activists. Chicanismo involves a crucial distinction in a political consciousness between a Mexican-American (Hispanic) and a (Chicanx) mentality. El Plan de Santa Barbara speaks to such issues of identity politics by asserting:

     "The Mexican-American (Hispanic) is a person who lacks respect for his/her cultural and ethnic heritage. Unsure of her/himself, she/he seeks assimilation as a way out of her/his "degraded" social status. Consequently, she/he remains politically ineffective. In contrast, Chicanismo reflects self-respect and pride on one's ethnic and cultural background. Thus, the (Chicanx) acts with confidence and with a range of alternatives in the political world. She/he is capable of developing an effective ideology through action" - El Plan de Santa Barbara
     MEChA played an important role in the creation and implementation of Chicana/o Studies and support services programs on campus. Chicana/o Studies programs would be a relevant alternative to established curricula. Most important, the Chicana/o Studies program would be the foundation of MEChA's political power base. Today many Chicana/os Studies Programs would have difficulty operating if it were not for the enthusiasm and dedication of Mechistas to Chicana/o Studies.

     Today Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA) is a student organization that promotes higher education, cultura, and historia. Each word in MEChA symbolizes a great concept in terms of la causa. Movimiento means that the organization is dedicated to the movement to gain self-determination for our people. Estudiantil, identifies the organization as a student group for we are part of our Raza's future. At the heart of the name is the use of the identity: Chicanx. At first seen as a negative word, now taken for a badge of honor. In adopting their new identity, the students committed themselves to return to the barrios, colonias, or campos and together, struggle against the forces that oppress our gente. Lastly, the affirmation that we are Indigenous people to this land by placing our movement in Aztlán, the homeland of all peoples from Anahuak.



     On campuses across Aztán, MEChA and Mechistas are often the only groups on campus Raza and non-Raza alike that seek to open the doors of higher education para nuestras comunidades and strive for a society free of imperialism, racism, sexism, and homophobia. An inspirational statement in El Plan Santa Barbara that speaks to this notes:

     "MEChA must bring to the mind of every young Chicana and Chicano that the liberation of her/his people from prejudice and oppression is in her/his hands and this responsibility is greater than personal achievement and more meaningful than degrees, especially if they are earned at the expense of her/his identity and cultural integrity. MEChA, then, is more than a name; it is a spirit of unity, of sisterhood and brotherhood, and a resolve to undertake a struggle for liberation in society where justice is but a word. MEChA is a means to an end" -El Plan de Santa Barbara


What does Chicanx mean?


     The word Chicana/o is derived from the Mexica (me-SHI- ka). The Mexica migrated from Aztlan, from the present-day Western United States, to Tenochtitlan, or present-day Mexico. The word means "people of the earth. The word Chicanx as an identification that can be assumed by all peoples of all colors; all people are born of the earth and innate dignity of history and culture. Chicanx is also an identity many Americans of Mexican or mestizo descent have assumed in order to recognize their indigeneity in the United States. Chicanixmo is the bond experienced by all members of M.E.Ch.A. Chicanixmo is the responsibility and commitment to all Chicanx brothers and sisters throughout the university and community regardless of their age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or nationality. Chicanixmo further implies having respect for Chicanx history, culture and values. Therefore, the term Chicanx is grounded in a philosophy not nationality. To be Chicanx is not a birthright; rather it is a state of mind.

What is Aztlán?

     
     Aztlán was the homeland of the Mexica. Geographically it is the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Today we understand Aztlán not as a defined territory. Instead, it is an idea that unifies all Raza as a sacred place of origin, to which Raza espouse a physical connection. Aztlán is the common homeland and is the place of the collective experience and social praxis. Raza communities, barrios, and colonias, share similar problems such as poverty, a need for bilingual and culturally-relevant education, and constant vigilance against racism, amongst others.

What are MEChA's goals?


  • To affirm and celebrate diversity amongst M.E.Ch.A. members. This affirmation and celebration is significant in the development of positive and strong cultural identity among Raza students. 
  • To involve students in discussing and acting on social-political issues relevant to our communities. Political activism is significant in producing civic-minded youth and leaders in our communities. 
  • To develop leadership among students. Opportunities for group dynamics, planning, staging of organizational activities, leadership development shape our collective success, while skills obtained are transferable to other environmental settings. 
  • To promote academic achievement and completion. M.E.Ch.A. strongly believes that the self-determination of our community is based on an educated community. 
  • To build a sense of carnalixmo among Chicanxs and all students on our campus and in the community. 
  • To provide opportunities for local, regional and national high school and college students to share and be connected 
  • To educate ourselves and others about Chicanx culture, history, traditions and accomplishments. 
  • To build relationships with youth and serve as a bridge between high school and college-aged students 


Why should I join MEChA?

  • Become a leader 
  • Connect and learn about your Chicanx identity 
  • Be involved in your community 
  • Become socially/politically conscious


What are MEChA's guiding documents, and how is MEChA organized?

Each chapter is governed by its respective, central, regional, state wide, and National M.E.Ch.A. constitutions as well as the Philosophy of M.E.Ch.A. Guiding documents are El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán and El Plan de Santa Barbara.


The structure of M.E.Ch.A. is:
  1. Mechista - An individual who adopts the philosophies of M.E.Ch.A. 
  2. Chapter - The group of Mechistas at a particular campus that work together. 
  3. Central - A collection of chapters in a particular area or community. 
  4. Region - A collection of Chapters/Centrales in a particular area or state/s. 
  5. National - The ten different regions compose our National M.E.Ch.A.