With the immigration symposium (“Where Are We Now? Immigration Policy and Its Impact from a Wyoming and a National Perspective”) approaching next month, we thought it would be timely to share some background information on one of the organizations that has been involved in the planning of this event, the UW student group, MEChA. Here, one of the members of the UW chapter talks about the history of the group and its involvement on the University of Wyoming campus.
Nationally, MEChA was born out of the Chicano rights movement and other civil rights movements across the U.S. Founded in Denver in 1969, MEChA slowly began gaining momentum within the Southwestern states where there was a heavy influx of Mexicans or descendants of Mexican immigrants, eventually becoming nationally recognized at universities across the nation. More importantly, this group also helped give birth to programs of Chicano Studies within universities. In order to resist oppression and hold on to cultural ties, members of MEChA, as seen in the name, identify as Chicanos. This was used in place of “Mexican-American”, which implied one had lost respect and ties of their mother culture. MEChA’s purpose is to “encourage pride, dignity, and unity among all students; to further our educational standards and opportunities; to establish an awareness and sensitivity of the value of Chicanos to the entire student body.”
MEChA has been a student organization at UW for more than 25 years. They are involved in social, political, and educational actions and events to help build Chicano/Latino pride, confidence, and identity. And they encourage and support their gente in attaining higher education. One of our primary objectives is to bring forth cultural awareness and its importance to the University of Wyoming and the Laramie community.
Members of MEChA have attended national conferences that benefit the advancement of Chicana/o people, one conference being the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS). MEChA holds an annual Cesar Chavez Blood Drive every spring to honor his activism within the Chicano Movement and they contribute to UW Diversity Week. In 2013, we had Cheech Marin as our guest during his visit to UW. This year we also had the opportunity to organize a successful event on the UW campus—Fiesta Primavera. MEChA members have volunteered for numerous student activities on campus as well as communal services and we collaborate with other student organizations to promote cultural awareness on campus.
-Norma Lira-Perez, UW student and member of MEChA