Supports open borders, amnesty for illegal aliens, and U.S. recognition of Spanish as an official national language
Founded on a platform of racism and revanchism
Sees university as “agency” to fulfill political goals
Founded in 1969 at a conference at the University of California at Santa Barabara, MEChA is an acronym for El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (the Chicano Student Movement), an umbrella organization of radical Chicano student groups. Aztlán refers to the territory in the Southwestern United States -- including California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, as well as parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado -- that Mexico ceded to the United States in 1848 but which Mexican separatists consider part of a mythical Aztec homeland that rightfully belongs to them. One of MEChA's more notable co-founders was Lawrence Estrada, who is currently a tenured associate professor at Fairhaven College.
MEChA’s core philosophy is set forth in its founding manifestos, “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán” and “El Plan de Santa Barbara.” In the former document, MEChA declares, “We do not recognize capricious frontiers on the bronze continent [the United States],” and vows to repeal the “brutal ‘gringo’ invasion of our territories.” MEChA further states: “Where we are a majority we will control; where we are a minority we will represent a pressure group; nationally, we represent one party: La Familia de Raza [the Family of Race].” MEChA’s mission finds additional expression it the organization’s slogan, “Por la Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada," which translates to “For the race, everything. Outside of the race, nothing.”
Although MEChA has claimed that the aforementioned documents no longer represent its beliefs, this defense is belied by the organization’s more recent documents. MEChA’s current constitution, for instance, instructs chapter leaders to “[o]rient all members by discussing and reading historical documents of our Movimiento including: El Plan de Santa Barbara, El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán …” Accordingly, MEChA member groups, such the UC Berkeley chapter, cite these documents and explain that “MEChA understands that our founding documents are the fundamentals to MEChA.“
By supporting continued high levels of Mexican immigration to the United States, MEChA hopes to achieve, by sheer weight of numbers, the re-partition of the American Southwest. Toward this end, the organization endorses a host of pro-immigration policies. These include open borders, government benefits (including the right to vote and obtain drivers’ licenses) for non-citizens, amnesty for illegal aliens, dual citizenship, state recognition of Spanish as an official language, and racial set-asides in education and corporate hiring.
MEChA espouses what it calls an ideology of “Chicanismo,” wherein Chicano purity is held up as a supreme virtue while assimilation is denounced as a betrayal of ethnic heritage. Those Latinos who fail to adhere to MEChA’s ideological platform are condemned as “race traitors.” In 1995, the Voz Fronteriza, the University of California San Diego's official MEChA publication, published an editorial on the death of a Latino INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) agent. Describing him as a traitor to his race who deserved to die, the editors of the Voz concluded that "all the migra [a pejorative term for the INS] pigs should be killed, every single one."
As a student organization, MEChA has concentrated its political activism on American higher education. According to MEChA, the “university is a critical agency in the transformation of the Chicano community.” Historically, the organization has pursued two aims. On the belief that American universities engage in pro-capitalist political indoctrination, MEChA has sought to popularize its own belief about the evils of the capitalist system -- the ethic of capitalism is, in MEChA’s view, an “ethic of profit and competition, greed and intolerance” -- while at the same time promoting the “ancestral communalism” of the Mexican people.
Toward this purpose, MEChA has played a frontal role in the creation of Chicano Studies programs. A direct challenge to the traditional university curriculum, these programs are intended to “serve the interests of the Chicano people.” As a result, Chicano students are expected not merely to enroll in these programs but to “insure dominant influence of these programs.” In the words of MEChA’s national constitution, “Chicano and Chicana students of Aztlán must take upon themselves the responsibilities to promote Chicanismo within the community, politicizing our Raza with an emphasis on indigenous consciousness to continue the struggle for the self-determination of the Chicano people for the purpose of liberating Aztlán.” Students also have a duty to “constantly remind” Chicano faculty and administrators “where their loyalty lies.”
Actively involved in political causes, MEChA originally protested against the Vietnam War and rallied on behalf of Chicano labor unions such as the United Farm Workers Union. In recent years, MEChA has become a leading campus advocacy group for illegal immigration -- supporting amnesty, welfare outlays, and taxpayer-funded education for illegal immigrants. Moreover, the organization has opposed the enforcement of immigration laws on the American border with Mexico. MEChA regards both of the main political parties in the U.S. as hostile to its interests, characterizing the two-party system as the “same animal with two heads that feed from the same trough.”
MEChA has today established itself as a potent force on campuses nationwide: the organization boasts upward of 300 chapters in universities across the U.S., some 100 them of in California alone. Chicano Studies programs and departments have proliferated in recent years, many being administered by faculty who were themselves former MEChA activists and who remain sympathetic to the organization’s politics. Despite its radical agenda, MEChA has been able to generate revenue through mandatory student activity fees. MEChA has also focused recruitment on public high schools, establishing high-school chapters and encouraging its young supporters to participate in protests and marches.
While MEChA’s radicalism has been largely rhetorical, the organization has occasionally resorted to violent measures. In 1993, when UCLA denied the group’s demand that the Chicano Studies Program be accorded departmental status, MEChA activists responded by rampaging through the campus and vandalizing the university’s faculty center, reportedly causing $500,000 worth of damage. In 1996, Mecha activists, who call themselves “Mechistas,” were videotaped assaulting demonstrators protesting illegal immigration.
MEChA also has a history of intolerance toward criticism. In 2002, MEChA members stole the press run of the California Patriot, the conservative newspaper at the University of California at Berkeley, for likening MEChA to a neo-Nazi movement. The loss of the newspapers was valued at $2,000. In May of 2006, MEChA activists destroyed 5,000 copies of the Campus Courier, a student newspaper at Pasadena City College, because of what they considered the paper’s inadequate coverage of a MEChA-sponsored event.
MEChA has in the past been associated with anti-Semitic sentiments and groups. A 1998 MEChA youth conference at California Polytechnic State University featured a printed program that introduced the school as “Cal Poly State Jewniversity.” The program also referred to New York as “Jew York.” When the Anti-Defamation League objected to the program, the university’s MEChA chapter issued a formal apology. MEChA has also been linked to La Voz de Aztlán (The Voice of Aztlan), a Chicano webzine that regularly publishes articles attacking Jews, Zionism, and Israel.
Several prominent politicians have emerged from MEChA’s ranks. Among them are the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, who served as President of a MEChA chapter at UCLA. Cruz Bustamante, the lieutenant governor of California and a former gubernatorial candidate, was a member of MEChA as a student at California’s Fresno State College.
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