In April 1969, Chicana/o students, community activists, and faculty met at the University of California, Santa Barbara to formulate a Chicana/o plan for higher education known as El Plan de Santa Barbara.
It was at this conference that proposals were outlined for the development of Chicana/o Studies throughout the California educational system.
Chicana/o Studies represented community control and came to symbolize the Chicano Movement’s conceptualization of the struggle to achieve representation in academia.
El Plan de Santa Barbara is also the founding document that unified the Chicana/o student movement. The United Mexican American Students (UMAS), the Mexican American Student Confederation (MASC), and the Mexican American Student Association (MASA) all agreed to adopt the name Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA).
The adoption of the new name signaled a new level of political consciousness that strengthened the commitment towards addressing a century of Chicana/o exclusion in higher education as well as responding to the Chicana/o push-out rate in the K-12 system.
MEChA became “more than a name, it is a spirit of unity, of community and a resolve to undertake a struggle for liberation in a society where justice is but a word, MEChA is a means to an end.”
Through the efforts of UMAS and the Chicana/o community, California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) established the first Chicana/o Studies Department in 1968. UMAS had also been active in the community and assisted during the East Los Angeles Blowouts.
When UMAS transitioned to MEChA it continued as a student pressure group that fought for equitable access to education and academic resources as well as representing the academic needs of Chicana/o students at CSULA.
MEChA de CSULA is an educational, political, cultural, and social organization on campus, which utilizes all of its resources to take a position and support through action the different issues that affect Raza students on campus and in the community.
Between 2010-2012, however, MEChA de CSULA became virtually inactive as an organization on campus. Several students in early 2012 did make a valiant effort to return MEChA to the forefront of the movement, including staging a protest to demand an end to racist educational cuts that severely impact the Chicana/o community and called for “Free Education for All.” If there’s money for war then there is money for schools.
For the most part, however, Chicana/o students were left without an advocacy organization during the period of inactivity.
In the Summer of 2012, several Chicana/o Studies majors realizing the historical significance of MEChA, saw the vital need to reorganize MEChA de CSULA from the bottom-up so that it could become once again the leading voice of Chicana/o students on campus.
MEChA de CSULA was completely restructured. A new constitution was written, goals were established, a new academic advisor was chosen, new officers were elected, several historical Chicano Movement documents were studied, and the original framework of MEChA was once again grounded in community and student campus activism.
In an effort to begin establishing community networks and group political analysis, MEChA decided to hold its first retreat or ENCUENTRO. The purpose of the Encuentro was to develop political consciousness through dialogue and study of historical and current issues.
The Encuentro was held off campus at Corazón del Pueblo in Boyle Heights in November 2012. Workshops and platicas were organized around the history of the Chicano Movement, Chicana feminism, community organizing, and the Dream Act.
By building group unity and community solidarity, the new members of MEChA de CSULA have committed themselves in the struggle for self-determination and in the advancement of the Chicano student movement.
What is MEChA de CSULA?
Movimiento was chosen in recognition that we are more than an organization, more than just a network, much more than a coalition, we are a MOVEMENT, whose main aim is self-determination, whose ideas and actions cannot be stopped until that aim is accomplished.
Estudiantil is appropriate because we realize that we as students are only part of a much larger movement of a whole people that includes farmworkers, packinghouse workers, factory workers, professionals, and others that are daily fighting for equality. Estudiantil was also chosen because our primary struggle is for educational representation.
Chicano is our identity. It at once rejects the old notion that we are merely a minority group that is a part of the White-Anglo-Saxon Protestant melting pot. It is a symbol of resistance as well as an assertion of the pride we have for our unique history and culture. It is a clear expression of our national consciousness.
Aztlán expresses our deepest feelings that we were one people that belonged to this land. It boldly exposes the historic fact that this region, which was once the northern part of México was brutally stolen through a coldly calculated war. It proudly claims our indigenous past as the root of our history and culture. It marks our becoming conscious of our own history and identity as a people.
MEChA has consistently fought for the right to a quality education. MEChA has worked on campaigns to keep education affordable, fought for more and better student services and put forth proposals to reduce the Chicana/o push-out rate.
MEChA is the basic foundation in which Chicana/o students will never again feel isolated or segregated in a university or college setting.
MEChA is a year round program of student empowerment that is based on the ideals of Raza students helping Raza students.
MEChA believes in being responsible for promoting the educational and general well-being of Raza students and community. It is important that university students continue to keep the doors to higher education open for the young men and women of the Chicana/o community.
MEChA de CSULA has planned some exciting events for 2013, including a Noche de Cultura y Resistencia and a Raza High School Youth Conference.
If you’re a student at CSULA and are interested in joining MEChA de CSULA, contact the group at: