In Defense of the Earth, Sun & Moon

MEChA is an evolving idea, borne of a people & a movement

By Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: October 17, 2003

In Defense of the Earth, Sun & Moon

It's long been said that all's fair in love and war. Maybe so. However,
during California's recent recall love-fest, a great disservice by the nation's
media was unfairly visited upon the national student organization MEChA, or
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan.

During the recall, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante was excoriated by both politicians and the media because he refused to denounce MEChA, an organization he was part of in the 1970s. For a decade MEChA has raised the ire of extremist organizations such as Voice of Citizens Together/American Patrol. That they would label MEChA as racist or separatist, yet find themselves listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, should have ended this discussion. But it didn't.

Such targeting should be a badge of honor for MEChA, arguably the nation's premier human rights student organization (300 chapters nationwide). However, to be harangued by careless media practitioners is shameful. Rather than having to distance itself from them, MEChA should be honored and praised, and those who have slandered it should apologize.

Founded in 1970 (generally coinciding with the founding of ethnic/women's studies, which have been similarly attacked), its primary mission was to uplift its community. For many, this meant fighting for access to higher education; for others, only liberation and a total societal transformation would suffice. Its genius was that it was conceived as a grouping of autonomous chapters united by a philosophy of resistance. Often at great peril, its members, along with other students of color (and conscience), have valiantly combated the forces of racial supremacy, inequality and exploitation.

Regarding the matter of "Aztlan" and the "Reconquista" of the U.S. Southwest, those charges should be filed away in the archives. Interestingly, MEChA's detractors claim that Chicanos invented "Aztlan as the Aztec homeland" myth in the 1960s. The truth is that tucked away in most major U.S. libraries are countless maps, chronicles and codices from the 1800s back to the 1500s that point to several ancient sites associated with the ancestors of Mexicans/Central Americans in what is today the United States. Pre-Columbian codices and oral traditions also do the same.

The notion that MEChA is separatist or that it advocates self-segregation is akin to saying that Jim Crow segregation was self-imposed.

In the 1960s, there indeed was an ideal of "taking back Aztlan" -- lands that were formerly a part of Mexico. Shortly thereafter, in dialogue with the continent's indigenous peoples, Chicanos began to rethink that idea (though not everyone discarded it). As a result, another idea streamed forward, one closer to the original plan of the oft-misquoted 1969 "El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan" -- that Mexicans/Chicanos, a people with primarily indigenous ancestry, are part of a "bronze (red) continent" that recognizes "no capricious borders."

In the past generation, many politically active Chicanos/Chicanas have moved in this direction -- seeing themselves as part of an indigenous continent. For extreme right-wingers, this is perhaps a more worrisome development than the U.S. Southwest as Aztlan. Not because of the browning of the nation, but because with it comes a philosophy -- the sacredness and connectedness of all life. Those values are antithetical to everything that unrepentant bigots represent. Little wonder that this development is disparaged. (In his book "The Crusade for Justice: Chicano Militancy and the Government's War on Dissent," Ernesto Vigil shows that a generation ago, the government considered the unity of Chicanos and American Indian peoples as the "greatest threat" to national security. Presumably, it was afraid of the ramifications of Chicanos attaining an indigenous consciousness.)

In this continent re-envisioned, there are no illegal human beings nor room for subservience or exploitation. Here, people and the Earth come before corporate exploitation, and there's no place for mindless wars. Everyone belongs, men and women are equal, youths and elders are respected, and all are worthy of peace, dignity and justice.

MEChA is a grouping of organizations, but it's also an evolving idea, borne of a people and a movement. It's even bigger than a continent. It's actually a cosmovision -- in defense of the Earth, the sun and the moon -- and about the universe and creation itself.

Can't find anything frightful about this.


About Roberto Rodriguez:
Gonzales & Rodriguez can be reached at 608-238-3161or For speaking availability, bios, publications and other info, call/write us or visit:

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