In the midst of the civil rights movement throughout the United States, the United Mexican American Students (UMAS) group was form. The main objective of the group was to promote unite amongst mexicanos on campus and ensure graduation. The group was one of the first to spur in southern california along with San Fernando Valley State College (SFVSC).
From UMAS to MEChA
The antiwar sentiment amongst the mexicanos was growing as well as with the student movements that began to occur in East Los Angeles, UMAS began to mobilize on campus. In March of 1969, Various Mexican American student groups across the southwest were invited by Corky González to the Chicano Youth Liberation Conference in Denver, Colorado weherestudents gain the philosophy and the identity of being a Chicano through Alurista poem El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán.
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.
"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).
MEChA de UCLA
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) is a student organization that promotes higher education, cultura, and historia. MEChA was founded on the principles of self-determination for the liberation of our people. We believe that political involvement and education is the avenue for change in our society.
At UCLA, MEChA became the official voice of all Raza students on campus. The student Organization took upon many of the unfair conditions on campus, such as funding allocations, adequate and relevant counseling, and ensure graduation for all Raza. Throughout the 1970's and 1980's MEChA was a influential and strong coalition that worked in conjunction with other student of Color organizations such as Afrikan Student Union (ASU), Samahang Pilipino (SP) and many others that brought consciousness to the student body and administration of the conditions of students of color. In the Early 70's ASU and MEChA pushed for a program to diversify the campus, this program was called the High Potential program. The program granted different community organizers to have the chance to access the university for a degree after the successful completion of a quarter. This program brought many individuals to the table that had connection with diverse organizations throughout the nation. One of them being the Black Panthers. The program was infiltrated by FBI agents that led to the assassination of two Black Panthers in Campbell hall and the shut down of the High Potential program. MEChA and ASU were confined to any further access attempts for several years, wile administration took the program and transformed it. The original attempt of the program was to carry out the vision of MEChA and ASU however with the passage of time, this faded away.
During the 1980's MEChA entered an era of internal dispair and disaster, as well as gendered conflicts. that resulted in the burning of many bridges. As well during the same time, MEChA was undergoing a closed process to prevent infiltration, since many other campuses were infiltrated by LIGA. Later in the late 1980's MEChA joined ASU in the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. As well these two organizations worked together to push for a new initiative at the time: Student initiated-Student-run. The foundation of two retention projects were approved and started in 1988 (ASU's Academic Supports Program) and 1989 (MEChA Calmecac).
The 1990's were characterized by several attacks on race, access and immigration. The turmoil surrounded the issue of having undocumented students pay for instate fees, such is the case of Alicia Vs. UC Regents and CSU System, which was overturned in 1992. As well prop 209 was voted on the election of 1996, where Affirmative action became illegal in the state of California. That Same year Raza Youth Empowerment Project broke away from Raza Youth Conference. The following class coming in to UCLA, there was a decrease in the admission of black and brown students to the institution. In 1998 La Escuelita started, to address the issues regarding access to Higher Education. in 2000, the program re-mane it self to MEChA Xinachlti.
During the same decade the fight for the departmentalization of Chicano Studies was brought up to Chancellor Young. The Proposal was shut down in 1993, soon after the death of César E. Chávez. This was followed by a 14 day hunger strike that brought national attention, and the agreement to start the departamentalization of the program. The Department was fully established by 1998.
In 1998, MEChA de UCLA hosted the National MEChA conference. In the 2000, AB 540 was passed and MEChA worked with several other advocacy groups on campus to pass the approval and adoption at the UC and UCLA.
Current MEChA Today, MEChA is still committed to the development of self determination for all Raza people in the university and outside in the community. We are comprised of a general body and 11 associated committees, each specializing in a distinct area of El movimiento. MEChA is committed to fighting against the diverse struggles that the Chican@/Latin@ community faces through education, political organizing, and direct action. We recognize that we are a diverse community of people, Indigenous to these continents. The oppression that we as Chican@s/Latin@s have endured since 1492 continues to affect our people must stop. We demand change and believe this can only occur through the efforts of people united in struggle.