MEChA de USC Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
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Aztlan is the mythical homeland of the Nahua people and an idea used widely by the [email protected] movement. Uses within the activist realm vary greatly. For example some believe that this is a physical place (present day southwestern United States) which thus justifies nationalist interpretations of indigenous teachings, (these being inherently incongruent with each other as indigenous people did not believe in imperialist notions of “owning” land). MEChA de USC prefers to believe that Aztlan is a symbolic homeland, representing the importance for all gente to take pride in and vigorously defend their personally constructed identities. Aztlan is not a place but an idea that fuels the struggle for human dignity and social justice.
Prior to 1969, there were various Mexican and [email protected] student organizations throughout the United States. In March 1969, students, teachers, and community activists met at the University of California at Santa Barbara and drafted El Plan De Santa Barbara, a Chicano Plan for Higher Education. At this meeting, it was agreed upon that all participating student organizations from here on shall be known as MEChA. We formed at USC in 1971 as a subset of that original movement, when USC students saw the need for culturally resonant resources and programming on campus. These students thus formed MEChA as a vehicle to form El Centro [email protected] and the [email protected] Student Assembly and to continue to work independently all in the interests of meeting these needs.
The stylized "@" replacing the male dominant endings of "chicano" among other words, is used to embrace the complexity of the construction of gender and sexual identity. The norm is to observe gender binaries, in the case of our society, a recognition that only male and female and corresponding masculine and feminine characteristics exist and anything other is to be looked upon as abnormal. We recognize that this is an inherently oppressive construction and does not conform to the reality that human identity construction is more fluid and complex and thus represses human choice and inherent gender/sexual dynamism. The @ is there to include everyone.
The term “Hispanic” was promoted during the Nixon Administration to label Spanish-speaking people in the U.S. without regard for their cultural roots or identities. Due to their being imposed by the U.S. government, most people accept this as “politically correct”. The etymology of “Hispanic” ties people labeled as such to their conquerors, i.e Spain or the Iberian Peninsula thus diminishing the value of the indigenous and African heritage of these people. Latino became popularized in the 90s (although it originates much earlier) and similarly denies indigenous and African heritage through its etymology as it is rooted in western civilization (“latin”). In the midst of this, communities began to search for way to self identify instead of internalizing oppressive labels . The term [email protected] was thus created. The term originates from indigenous American etymology, precluding an understanding of identity that is inclusive and respectful of the legacy of our indigenous ancestors. Being [email protected] means being conscious and proud of our and/or this continent's indigenous legacy, and fighting for social justice in the spirit of that legacy.
Is "[email protected]" meant exclusively for people of Mexican descent?
No, the term [email protected] is inclusive to all people. As detailed in one of our founding documents “The Philosophy of MEChA”, one is not born [email protected], one becomes such through the conscious decision to acknowledge the indigenous legacy of this continent and embraces the struggle for political and social awareness and ultimate freedom from the oppression.
Is MEChA de USC a Mexican/[email protected] exclusive space?
No. We place primary importance on the struggle for social justice, human dignity, and equal rights. MEChA de USC welcomes anyone with interest and commitment to these principles.
No. MEChA de USC does not carry the same prejudices against the greek community that you will find in other activist organizations. We believe that you can find people passionate about social justice issues in the greek community as in any community and we take pride in our greek members' endeavors.
No. Not only do we provide an opportunity to become politically aware & active, we also offer a broad experience of cultural, historical, social programs, and activities. The struggle towards a more just world cannot happen in the political realm alone.
MEChA is a national network of affiliated groups with the same general goal of working towards a more just world through the practices of self determination and use of culture and history as the driving force of this work. However, each chapter is autonomous with different strategies for working towards these goals and different interpretations of the overarching MEChA philosophies. MEChA de USC takes a communal approach that emphasizes egalitarian principles and inclusiveness. Thus MEChA de USC includes and welcomes people of a myriad of national, political, racial, gender, sexual, religious, and ethnic identities and takes action based on the collective decisions of our members.
MEChA can assist you in providing a space for you to develop your social consciousness alongside people who wish to do the same and help give our on-campus community empowerment through cultural awareness. On a individual level, MEChA fosters leadership skills, personal/professional development, self and group respect, and of course new friends and a home away from home! Most important, MEChA can help us keep our education in focus and help answer that big question, “Why are we here?”