MEChA’s National Board Statement About Its Decision to Change the Student Organization’s Name

Apr 17, 2019
3:30 PM

Editor’s Note: On April 4, the national board of MEChA contacted Latino Rebels via email to let us know that they would like us to run the board’s collective statement from April 3. We agreed to do it, and asked for the statement at the time. We received the April 3 statement via an April 16 email, so we are running it below. The statement has also been published earlier by Remezcla.

By: National Board Kat, Emilio, Gabriela (y la comunidad)
April 3 2019

In light of recent events at the National MEChA —formerly known as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán— Conference this past weekend (3/29-31/19) in Los Angeles, hosted by UCLA’s MEChA chapter, we come forward as a collective to write a statement. We make this statement to address the many misconceptions following the decision to permanently change MEChA’s name. During this conference we held a Resolution Circle where votes totaled to 29 in favor, 3 against, and 2 abstaining to move forward with The University of Oregon’s motion to replace “Chicanx” and “Aztlan” from the name in order to reflect our restructuring of the guiding philosophies of MEChA.

We first want to acknowledge the labor and sacrifices that Chicanxs and MEChistxs of the past had to do to get us to where we are now. We are by no means erasing those struggles; on the contrary, we are acknowledging and addressing the oppressive history and nature of MEChA. So in reality, we are honoring the history of our elders by bringing to light MEChA’s flaws and improving our organization. We are not abandoning the constructive and empowering lessons of our forerunners; we will continue the movement, work to right the wrongs of the past, and look forward to a future of liberation and radical love.

We are not trying to take away anyone’s “Chicanx” identity. People are free to identify with the specific political and real implications of that identity. We are moving away from “Chicanx” being the sole representation of those within MEChA because it does not reflect the makeup of MEChA chapters across the U.S. We encourage individuals to continue to celebrate their Chicanidad within the organization, but without the exclusion of our other Latinx hermanxs who don’t identify with that. Since MEChA must be a place for Latinx people to find community in higher education, we wish to use our name to reflect that.

Furthermore, we have been disappointed and truly hurt by the disrespect shown by some members and alums, both at the Resolution Circle and on social media. This has caused divisiveness in the Chicanx and Latinx community and real harm to students. All we are asking is for us to redirect our attention to the opinions of students directly involved in MEChA who organize, campaign, educate communities, etc. After all, MEChA is a student-led movement. If we hope for unity, we must listen to those with real stakes in El Movimiento. Trust that we have rational, critical, and independent thought; we have not made this decision hastily. The reasons for removing “Chicanx” and “Aztlán” from MEChA are as follows. Chicanx, which directly translates to Mexican-American, is exclusionary. Although some identify with the political connotations Chicanx can have, it has not traditionally been used in that way.

We recognize that it would be wrong to force non-Mexican-Americans, Indigenous Mexicans who cannot identify with this term, and Black Mexicans whom this term has historically excluded to use this term to describe their political philosophy. As it is, MEChistx members who are not Mexican-American are often victims of xenophobia from Chicanx MEChistxs, and Indigenous and Black MEChistxs are often subjected to anti-Indigenous and anti-Black violence by Mestizx Chicanx MEChistxs.

As a collective, we recognize that the term Aztlán reflects MEChistxs’ appropriation of Aztec cultures and traditions; however, many of our ancestors were not Aztec but rather Maya, Purépecha, K’Iche, Guaryani, Garifuna, among others. The use of the term “Aztlán” also influences us to take part in the erasure of Indigenous peoples who are the true ancestral stewards of the U.S. Southwest. We voted to remove “Aztlán” because although Aztlán was created as a philosophical ideology, it has had geographical consequences in claiming the land that was taken by the U.S. on February 2nd, 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Chicanxs from the 60s claimed the Southwest part of the United States as “Occupied Mexico” and our rightful land; however, this is not our land. The reality is this land belongs to the many Indigenous people who were here before the Mexicans and Chicanxs, e.g. the Diné people, the Tongva people, etc.

The name change is one of many nationwide initiatives and represents a call to action under the newly elected National MECha Board —which has representation from historically marginalized members who are Mexican, Central, and South American— to look for ways to improve our organization. Many of the chapters feel that the name and its connotations have led to disunity within the chapters of this organization who have often felt separated from the Movimiento as a whole for too long. Several MEChA chapters and regions have already started the work of archiving the old Papeles and creating new ones, as well as changing their names and making efforts to connect with our Black, Indigenous, Central American, South American, and Caribbean hermanxs to reflect a truly anti-colonial politic. We believe that working as an entire collective will harness our strengths to continue working towards a unified goal of true liberation.

According to the votes, the majority of MEChA wants to ensure that we not only create a name that truly reflects everyone in our organization but also to formulate a constitution that reflects our current values. We acknowledge Los Papeles, the founding documents of the organization, for laying the groundwork for us in fighting for our rights in higher education and we are grateful for the creators and the activists who worked for it. Although we share some of its values, in the current moment we must strongly condemn White Supremacy, Anti-Blackness, Queer-antagonism, Trans*-antagonism, ableism, Anti-Indigenous Sentiment, Mexican-centrism, anti-Central American sentiments, and the colonial concept of Aztlán. We must continue to evolve as a national organization in light of our ever-changing political reality in order to better serve Latinx students.

Thus, our logic is clear for why we students decided to change the name of our Movimiento. Chapters across the country are represented in the Name Change Committee.. In an effort to undo our exclusionary and cis-heteropatriarchal past, we are holding a gathering this month to revise our guiding documents, called the Encuentro. The Encuentro is a closed space for LGBTQIA+ folx and mujerxs within the organization to express their thoughts on how to move forward with trans, queer, and mujxr- inclusive Papeles. This will be followed by another conference to get the input of all MEChistxs to revise the Papeles yet again and check the edits from the Encuentro.

Some current and former MEChistxs who disagree with our decision have accused us of falling into the trap of liberal inclusivity politics. On the contrary, our decision does not reflect the values of liberalism, but rather our commitment to an anti-colonial politic that fights for the liberation of ALL oppressed people, especially those that MECha has historically excluded. We recognize that our movement for the liberation of Chicanx people (meaning Mexican-American, which is how the term is used) means nothing without a commitment to the liberation of our Central American, South American, Caribbean, and/or Black and Indigenous hermanxs. We reject both the empty promises of liberalism and the attachment to an oppressive past that weakens El Movimiento. We are beginning the process of fixing our Movimiento’s colonial, regressive mistakes. We are committed to freedom for all of us, not freedom for some of us.

On the reverse side, many have noted that a name change by itself will do nothing unless we address the problems at our Movimiento’s root. We repeat our commitment to true solidarity with our Central American, South American, Caribbean, and/or Black and Indigenous hermanxs; our actions going forward will make this commitment clear.

Note: we are moving forward from the past while remembering its lessons and working towards
a better, more compassionate future. From el barrio to la universidad and beyond, we vow to take part in this greater struggle for liberation. Our comunidad is in our minds, always.

Con fuerza,
Katherine Chiu (National MEChA Co-Chair)
Emilio Balderas (National MEChA Co-Chair)
Gabriela Guillén (National MEChA GIS Chair)