MEChA

From Academic Kids

MEChA is an acronym for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (Chicano Student's Movement of Aztlan), an organization dedicated to the promotion of Chicano history, education, and political action. In Spanish, the word mecha means fuse.

MEChA was born from the result of two conferences in the late 1960s: the First National Chicano Liberation Youth Conference, held in March 1969 in Denver, Colorado, and which produced the document entitled El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán; and a symposium held at the University of California, Santa Barbara the following month, which produced the document entitled El Plan Espiritual de Santa Barbara. Both of these documents outline the goals of the Chicano movement and are foundational to the MEChA organization.

MEChA's constitution was officially ratified in 1995.[1] (http://soar.ucsc.edu/mecha/constitution.html) It outlines four organizational objectives:

  • Educational, cultural, economical, political, and social empowerment of Chicanos.
  • Retention of Chicano identity and furthering of cultural awareness.
  • Raising Chicanos through higher education.
  • Implementing plans of action concerning Chicanos.

MEChA exists as over 400 loosely affiliated chapters within a national organization. Typical activities of a MEChA chapter include academic tutoring, mentorship, social events, folklore and poetry recitals, lobbying high school and university administrators for expanded ESL programs and Chicano-related curricula, celebrations of Mexican holidays (such as Mexican Independence Day), Columbus Day protests, sit-ins, hunger strikes and other political activism relating to civil rights, affirmative action and immigration.

MEChA generally eschews violence, following in the spirit of Latino labor activist César Chávez. However, on a small number of occasions, MEChA members and chapters have been involved or implicated in violent or criminal disturbances. In the largest such instance, on May 11, 1993, Chicano students at UCLA caused between $35,000 and $50,000 worth of damage to the Faculty Center during a riot which ensued following the university administration's rejection of the creation of a Chicano Studies program. [2] (http://www.bruinalumni.com/antonio/villar3.html) (Some accounts mistakenly report this as $500,000 worth of damage). [3] (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,95871,00.html). In 2002, MEChA members were implicated in the theft of an entire press run of a conservative newspaper at UC Berkeley, in which an article ran labeling MEChA a "neo-Nazi"-like organization. [4] (http://www.academia.org/campus_reports/2002/march_2002_3.html)

Early MEChA rhetoric was highly steeped in the politics of racial identity, with frequent reference to such terms as "la Raza de Bronze" (the Bronze Race). Although the significance of "la Raza" is still prominent within MEChA ideology, in 1999 the group adopted a document entitled The Philosophy of MEChA, which affirmed the more moderate view that "all people are potential Chicanas and Chicanos", and that "Chicano identity is not a nationality but a philosophy".[5] (http://soar.ucsc.edu/mecha/Philosophy.html) According to MEChA, no one is born "Chicano". MEChistas (or members of MEChA) consider themselves neither Americans nor Mexicans in terms of ethnicity, but descendants (either genetically or spiritually) of the indigenous pre-Columbian nations—hence, the Chicano Student's Movement of Aztlán.

The motto of MEChA is La Union Hace La Fuerza, or "Unity Creates Strength".

MEChA is often characterized as a racist and separatist organization, with a primary goal of returning the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas back to Mexico. These criticisms are based largely on the controversial language in El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán. However, the current goals of the group cannot be seen as favoring the creation of a new nation, or the reconquest of the southwestern states. MEChA leaders also counter that these statements from El Plan are not part of the MEChA constitution, and have been pulled out of context and misinterpreted. Leaders affirm that MEChA is opposed to oppression in all forms, including racism.

In August 2003, the Democratic candidate for the 2003 California recall election, Lt. Governor of California Cruz Bustamante, was condemned by various commentators (including Bill O'Reilly and Michelle Malkin among others) for his involvement with MEChA during the 1970s. The organization drew criticism for alleged ties with the racist group Voz de Aztlán, although no link was ever established.

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