M.E.Ch.A. brings community and culture to students

by Juniper Perkins, Staff Writer

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The Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A) supports Chicanx and Latinx students in achieving their educational goals by teaching cultural backgrounds, traditions and heritage. 

M.E.Ch.A was originally founded in 1969 during a conference at the University of California at Santa Barbara where attendees drafted El Plan de Santa Barbara. The plan called for inclusion of ethnic studies in higher education with Chicanx faculty. Participants also agreed to consolidate several Mexican student organizations, including the Mexican American Student Conference and United Mexican American Students, into M.E.Ch.A. 

This organization can be found on several campuses, including UC Berkeley, Michigan State University, Yale and various high schools. 

At San Diego State, M.E.Ch.A is one of many student organizations dedicated to supporting Chicanx and Latinx students. The organization’s website details its goals, history, current directive and Raza graduation. 

M.E.Ch.A de SDSU is currently headed by business administration senior Bryana N. Pérez, who was elected chair in April. 

“(The organization has) three main focuses: higher education, cultural awareness and political consciousness,” Pérez said. 

She also said the organization is going to begin focusing more on serving the local San Diego community. 

“We’ve kinda disassociated from the national chain,” Pérez said. “We’re focusing on the San Diego area and being more involved here. The founding documents say each student should feel like they have a home on campus. We’re able to meet friends that turn into family and stay in contact with each other even after leaving San Diego State.” 

The organization celebrated its 50th anniversary at an event on April 27. Several founding members and activists attended the event, and Pérez shared her fascination with meeting people from previous movements. 

“I feel like M.E.Ch.A in the ‘90s had a big impact on campus because a lot of people in (the organization) were also in Associated Students, and having our voices heard during that time period helped a lot,” she said. “It was cool for me because I met and spoke to people from my hometown. One was a congresswoman.” 

This year, the organization is focusing on its 49th Annual High School Conference which will be held on Nov. 10 in Hepner Hall. 

According to the event’s website, the purpose of the high school conference is to “promote higher education to underprivileged youth through cultural consciousness, political awareness and community involvement.” 

M.E.Ch.A reaches out to students as well as parents to share information about financial aid, life as a college student and how to get involved with the community. 

“It’s important to keep that constant intergenerational contact between people that are elders and the young people as well,” Pérez said, emphasizing the importance of high school outreach and mentoring. 

Journalism sophomore and external representative Al Ayala is one of the members organizing the event and networking with local high schools. 

“We actually do all of it through students,” Ayala said. “It’s all student funded by our organization. We bring in different groups to resemble the culture and to educate the students we’re inviting to campus. We always get very good feedback and (the students) feel more educated about issues. During the event we have some speakers and include workshops from other groups.”

Ayala said the high school conferences usually attract around 600 students. 

“A lot of the times kids will start their own M.E.Ch.A which is really cool,” Ayala said. “Our primary goals are to give this knowledge to younger generations, to have radical knowledge be dispersed throughout and make it well known that our presence is a beneficial thing to society. With the political climate right now, it’s necessary to have people of color speaking out.” 

Pérez said she’s excited that M.E.Ch.A is celebrating 50 years on campus. 

“But there’s still more to be done,” she said.“There’s constant growth within the organization itself and within people in the organization.” 

M.E.Ch.A meets every Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Pride Suite of the Aztec Student Union. 

 

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