Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

1969

Chicano students launch MECha 

In March of 1969, hundreds of Chicano student activists met on the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara to draw up a course of action committed to Chicano cultural nationalism, self-determination, and education of Chicano youth. This plan came to be known as, El Plan de Santa Barbara and from it MEChA--El Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicano de Aztlán (The Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán)--was formed.

The establishment of MEChA marked a significant shift in Chicano youth activism and the Chicano movement at large in the late 1960s. By fusing such prominent Chicano student organizations as UMAS (United Mexican American Students), MAYO (Mexican American Youth Organization), and MASC (Mexican American Student Confederation) under one unified organizing body, Chicano youth voices and vigor finally had a sounding board through which to operate on a national level in the United States. Soon Chicano youth's militancy and commitment to el movimiento , or the Chicano movement, would electrify the struggles taking place in Chicano communities while simultaneously politicizing the university sphere.

MEChA is a student organization first and foremost. It's fundamental purpose is to offer a space through which Chicano and Chicana students can organize around issues central to the needs of their community both on and off campus. MEChA has also historically served as a leadership training ground for Chicano students wherein the strengths and talents of each member of MEChA are recognized and fostered toward the self-fulfillment of the individual as well as an ongoing revitalization of el movimiento. Within the text of El Plan de Santa Barbara itself, MEChA's founders envisioned MEChA as an organization

To socialize and politicize Chicano students on their particular campus to the ideals of the movement. It is important that every Chicano student on campus be made to feel that he has a place on the campus and that he/she has a feeling of familia with his/her Chicano brothers and sisters. Therefore, the organization in its flurry of activities and projects must not forget or overlook the human factor of friendship, understanding, trust, etc.

As the authors indicate, MEChA functions a place where Chicano students can develop a sense of family within school settings. This purpose has been especially relevant at the university level, where Chicano students often feel ostracized from the dominant culture of the academy as well as distanced from their own community. MEChA often provides a safe haven in such turbulent waters.

MEChA's name itself sheds lights on the political stance of the organization. While MEChA's membership primarily includes undergraduates of universities and colleges in the United States, its focus is not on academia alone. Rather, MEChistas (members of MEChA) recognize their place within the larger Chicano movement--hence the relevance of the "M" for "el Movimiento" in the organization's name. The "E" in MEChA stands for "estudiantíl" or "student," highlighting the ongoing struggle for education within el movimiento and the centrality of students within this struggle. MEChA is a student movement within the larger Chicano movement. At the heart of MEChA lies the "Ch" which stands for "Chicano." MEChistas identify themselves as Chicanos, or Mexican-Americans who fundamentally align themselves within a political struggle for self-determination of their community, as well as with a sense of pride for their indigenous ancestral roots. Finally, the "A" refers to MEChA's location in Aztlán, or the spiritual birthplace of the Mexica nation, the ancestors of the Aztecs. Aztlán physically occupies the United States southwest, the land upon which MEChA was born.

Nearly thirty years after MEChA's founding, the organization is now represented on hundreds of university, college, junior college, high school, and junior high school campuses across the United States. MEChA frequently plays a key role in the recruitment and retention of Chicano students to colleges and universities, has a strong voice in curricular decisions within Chicano Studies and Mexican-American Studies departments, and frequently participates in community activism. In the state of California, for example, MEChistas represented a central voice in the opposition to Propositions 187 and 209 (which are highlighted on this web site). Each year MEChA coordinates regional, state-wide, and national conferences to bring together Chicano student activists for educational and organizing purposes. For more information about a MEChA chapter near you, or to find out about the next MEChA conference, visit any of the following web sites:

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http://gladstone.uoregon.edu/~mecha/

http://gladstone.uoregon.edu/~mecha/national.html

http://www.serve.com/Impacto/mecha.html

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La Union Hace la Fuerza!

Prepared by Alison Kreider (UCLA)

Citation: Author (2002). Title. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available:  http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~daniel_schugurensky/assignment1/ (date accessed).

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  Number of visits to the 1960s