[Marxism] Right Wing Pressure on High School MEChA Chapters

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Sun Apr 16 17:25:46 MDT 2006

I went to Beaumont High School in the 1950s, when there were 3,000  
residents. Today the Beaumont/Banning Pass is one of the fastest  
growing areas in California, with a population of 20,000 and expected  
to reach 100,000 within a generation.

Excuse my copying the whole article, but I thought that the issues  
were important enough to relieve those who may not want to subscribe  
to the Press Enterprise, but who should look at the whole article.

BTW, in light of my differences with Jose Bustelo regarding issues of  
state power and the Latin American radicalization and its prospects,  
at this point I agree with him, Walter, and others about the need for  
self-education, solidarity, and comradely aid in the place of  
“revolutionary” leaflets and slogans.

Brian Shannon

MEChA youth groups review purpose

The Press-Enterprise

MEChA advisers at Jurupa Valley High School are reviewing the Chicano  
student club's constitution after the group was criticized by anti- 
illegal immigration activists.

A student called on the Jurupa Unified School District board to ban  
MEChA following last month's school rally on immigration legislation  
by the U.S. House of Representatives that would make it a felony to  
be in the United States illegally. Senior Josh Denhalter called MEChA  
a separatist group that advocates a Mexican takeover of the Southwest.

Jurupa Valley is not the only MEChA chapter that is examining itself.  
Students in the Beaumont High School chapter are debating whether to  
change their name to avoid any historical baggage.

MEChA advisers at Jurupa Valley plan to review the national  
constitution with the chapter's officers, and might develop a  
separate constitution tailored to the high school club, said adviser  
Enrique Velásquez, an economics teacher at the school.

Name Causes Conflict

MEChA stands for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, or Chicano  
Student Movement of Aztlán. Aztlán is the legendary home of the  
indigenous Mexican people. The people who founded MEChA in 1969 used  
the term to describe the southwestern United States.

"Aztlán belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields and  
gather the crops and not to the foreign Europeans," says El Plan  
Espiritual de Aztlán, one of the documents outlining the early goals  
of MEChA.

Rudy Acuña, a professor of Chicano studies at Cal State Northridge,  
said critics distort the idea of Aztlán. "It's pride. It's saying,  
'I'm here. I'm not going away. I'm proud of being a Mexican,' " he said.

Some Beaumont High School students said they would rather avoid any  
misunderstandings by simply changing the name of their club.

"We don't want to be a club that has to sit there and explain itself  
all the time," said the Beaumont chapter's adviser, Julio Martinez.  
The club talked about a name change early in the year, and debated  
the idea again after the issue cropped up in Jurupa.

Some students also want a name that reflects a range of Latino  
cultures, not just Mexican culture, Martinez said.

Carolina Tamayo, a teacher at John W. North High School in Riverside  
who was president of MEChA while a student there, said some people in  
MEChA's early days believed in the idea of a homeland, but the  
group's main goal was to improve prospects for Mexican-Americans.

Aztlán is "not just about a physical place. It's talking about being  
a successful people, and that we as Latinos can be successful,"  
Tamayo said.

Seventeen-year-old Cynthia Garcia, vice president of the North High  
MEChA chapter, said, "A lot of people have this idea that the people  
in MEChA are the ones that are thinking that California was taken  
from the Mexicans, and they're hanging on to that grudge. "I hear it  
a lot. They're stuck in their own ignorance," she added.

MEChA Helps With Rally

Jurupa Valley set up a microphone in its football stadium to keep  
students from walking out on March 27, when thousands of other area  
students left school. MEChA chapter president Estela Rubio read part  
of the proposed legislation, HR 4437, and urged the crowd of about  
1,500 students to show each other respect.

But the largely Latino crowd booed the few students who spoke for  
tighter immigration restrictions. Friends' accounts of the rally  
prompted Denhalter to call for getting rid of the club.

In an interview, Denhalter said he would not object to a Mexican- 
American cultural club, but he said he believes MEChA has no place on  
high school campuses.

Jurupa Valley Principal Ron Shecklen said school administrators  
turned to MEChA for help in organizing the rally to let students take  
the lead. He said he was proud of how Rubio handled the rally.

Rubio, the chapter president, said she sees the references to Aztlán  
and the "bronze continent" in the documents from the 1960s as a part  
of the past. "It was very radical in those days. What we've been  
doing at school is completely different."

Focus Isn't Politics

Area high school chapters spend little, if any, time on politics,  
MEChA members and advisers said. Instead, they work on helping Latino  
students go to college, and exposing all students to the cultures of  
Mexico and Latin America.

Other Inland-area high schools with MEChA chapters include ones in  
Perris, Redlands and San Bernardino.

Student officers of the MEChA chapter at Jurupa Valley spent their  
lunch period Wednesday talking about scholarship awards, an assembly  
and dance for Cinco de Mayo, and end-of-the-year parties. The chapter  
hosts weekly presentations on historical figures, such as Diego  
Rivera, Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr.

Advisers at other area MEChA clubs said they focus on education and  
culture, too. Many members will be the first in their families to go  
to college, so some meetings at North focus on applications and  
getting recommendation letters, said Jacqueline Campos, a chapter  
adviser there.

The immigration demonstrations have come up for discussion lately,  
but Campos said she tries to steer the club away from politics.

That's a switch from just over a decade ago, when the MEChA chapter  
at North demonstrated against Prop. 187, which would have denied  
education and social services to illegal immigrants, and successfully  
pushed for a Chicano studies class.

Shecklen, Jurupa Valley's principal, said he's gotten more than 50 e- 
mails and letters over the past few weeks criticizing his support of  
MEChA. He said critics should take a look at how MEChA operates on  
high school campuses.

"I think it's unfair to judge my students when you haven't met my  
students," he said.



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