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Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

MEChA and Chicano Student Organizations 1967-2012

by Josue Estrada

Most social movement organizations last only a few years and that is especially true for student run organizations. But MEChA has been active on some campuses for nearly fifty years and the organization continues to grow, with more than 500 chapters as of 2012. MEChA was founded at a conference in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969 when students from a dozen campuses adopted “El Plan de Santa Barbara.” The manifesto called for the unification of all student organizations into one umbrella organization, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan which would become known by the acronym MEChA. By consolidating student’s political power, MEChA became and has continued to be a significant on-campus political force for change. From 1969 to 1971, MEChA grew rapidly in California with major centers of activism on campuses in southern California, and a few chapters opened along the East coast at Ivy League schools. By the 1980s, MEChA’s growth occurred predominately in California where community college chapters joined those that had previously started on university campuses. During the 1990s, MEChA experienced a decade of slow growth yet in the 2000s the organization saw an incredible upsurge of new chapters particularly at the high school level. Researched by Josue Estrada with special thanks to Roberto Tijerina Cantu, MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy & Organizational Strategy (2007). Other sources below. The maps are hosted by Tableau Public and may take a few seconds to respond. If slow, refresh the page. 

Move between seven maps and charts below

Sources: Annual MEChA Statewide Conference, Evergreen Valley College, San Jose, 1977-1983. Herman Baca Papers. MSS 0649. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego. List of conference participants by state and organization. “1969-1979 Ten Year of Chicano Student Progress,” National Chicano Student Conference. Denver, Colorado, 1979. Herman Baca Papers. MSS 0649. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego. Conference Participants. “Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano: Past, Present, and Future-A Time of Action,” National Chicano Student Conference. San Diego, California, 1983. Herman Baca Papers. MSS 0649. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego. Cantu, Roberto Tijerina. MEChA Leadership Manual: History, Philosophy, and Organizational Strategy. Riverside, California:  Coatzacoalco Publications, 2007.  Caballero, Cesar., and Delgado, Susana. Chicano Organizations Directory. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1985. Echeverría, Darius V. Aztlan Arizona: Mexican American Educational Empowerment, 1968-1978. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2014. Licon, Gustavo, "!La Unión Hace La Fuerza!" (Unity Creates Strength!): M.E.Ch.A. and Chicana/o Student Activism in California, 1967--1999, 2009, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Valenzuela, Monica. “M.E.Ch.A: A Brief Southern California Chicana/o History, 1969-2010. Masters Thesis. California State University, Northridge, August 2011. United States. Cabinet Committee on Opportunities for Spanish-Speaking People. Directory of Spanish Speaking Organizations in the United States. Washington, 1970.

Research and data compilation: Josue Estrada

Additional Chicana/o movement maps and charts

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League of United Latin American Citizens 1929-1977

LULAC has represented Mexican Americans since 1929, making it the nation's oldest surviving Latino civil rights organization. Founded in Corpus Christi in 1929, LULAC expanded first in Texas. Victory in a precedent-setting 1945 lawsuit challenging segregation of Mexican American students in Orange County, California, helped the organization grow. By 1977, LULAC had chapters in 21 states.

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UFW strikes, boycotts, campaigns

When ethnic Mexican farm workers led by Cesar Chavez joined with Filipino American workers led by Larry Itliong in 1965 to strike grape growers in Delano, California, the modern farm workers' movement was born. Here we map more than 1000 strike actions, boycotts, and other UFW related events showing the movement's support across the United States and Canada.

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Chicano Newspapers and Periodicals 1966-1979

Here are more than 300 newspapers and newsletters associated with the surge in Chicano activism in the 1960s and 1970s. Some were published by movement organizations, others served local communities.

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Raza Unida Party 1970-1974

Following the so-called “Chicano takeover” of Crystal City’s school board and city council in 1970, activists launched Raza Unida Party, running candidates in local and state elections in Texas and several other states. These maps show the growth and decline of RUP chapters and electoral campaigns.

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Brown Berets 1967-1972

In the barrios of Los Angeles, Chicano youth founded the Brown Berets in 1967, modeled after the Black Panther Party. The organization was dedicated to combatting police brutality and racism but some chapters also demanded education, job, and housing equality. By 1969, there were 29 chapters mostly in California but units developed in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Washington.         


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Chicano Movements: A Geographic History

By Josue Estrada

Scholars have paid some attention to the geography of Chicano activism but not in the detail that now becomes possible with the maps this project provides. This essay offers important observations while introducing the key organizations of the Chicano movement.