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The Road to Aztlan By: David Orland
Boundless.org | Monday, September 22, 2003

Radical politics have been part of the game on American campuses since at least the mid-1960s but have recently taken a new and disturbing turn. At colleges and universities across the country, the Movimiento Estudiantil de Chicanos de Aztlan (The Student Movement of Aztlan Chicanos) — better known by its acronym, MEChA — is calling for the surrender of wide swaths of American territory to Mexico. Worse yet, in doing so, it has the support of university administrators, elected officials, and — thanks to the mandatory student activity fees on which the organization depends — tuition-paying students. 1

Founded in the late 1960s, MEChA has spent the last three decades indoctrinating Latino students on American campuses in the ideology of reconquista (reconquest). According to MEChA propaganda, the Southwestern United States — including California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, as well as parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado — sits on the territory of the ancient (and mythical) “Nation of Aztlan.” Supposedly the cradle of Aztec civilization, MEChA charges that Aztlan was unjustly seized by the United States following the Mexican-American War. Now MEChA wants this territory given back to its alleged rightful owners: the people and government of Mexico.

As a matter of fact, the American Southwest was not, as MEChA claims, “stolen” from Mexico. Following the Mexican-American War, the government of Mexico legally ceded this territory to the United States (by the Treaty of Guadalupe de Hidalgo, 1848). Nor has there ever been any place called “Aztlan” on American soil, much less a “Nation of Aztlan.” Invented 30 years ago by radical Latino activists, the Nation of Atzlan has more in common with Atlantis than with Israel.

But MEChA is not a group to let facts get in the way. There are today more than 300 MEChA unions in existence, with more than 100 in California alone. While the group is concentrated in the Southwest and along the West Coast, it can also be found farther East: It’s got chapters at MIT, Yale, Cornell, George Washington University, and Brown, among other East Coast universities. On the West Coast, where MEChA is to be found in nearly every institution of higher education, the movement is spreading so quickly that it has set its sights on the public school system, establishing high school chapters and encouraging its young supporters to participate in its numerous (and sometimes violent) protests and marches.

The revolution that MEChA plans for the American Southwest is to be a peaceful one — at least for the time being. By supporting continued high levels of Mexican immigration to the United States, MEChA hopes to achieve by sheer weight of numbers what the U.S. government long ago achieved by force of arms: the re-partition of the American Southwest. To this end, MEChA endorses a cocktail of pro-immigration policies. These include open borders, government benefits (including the right to vote and obtain drivers licenses) for non-citizens, amnesty for illegal aliens, dual citizenship, state recognition of Spanish as an official language, and racial set-asides in education and corporate hiring.

MEChA is hardly alone in promoting these policies. The National Council of La Raza and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), two of the better known Latino advocacy groups, also support them (as does Mexican President Vicente Fox). What distinguishes MEChA from its more mainstream counterparts, however, is its explicit and virulent calls for reconquest. While organizations like La Raza and MALDEF may harbor irredentist dreams, MEChA has made the reconquest of the American Southwest the central platform of its program.

As one of MEChA’s founding documents, El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan (The Spiritual Plan of Atzlan) puts it: “In the spirit of a new people that is conscious not only of its proud historical heritage but also of the brutal ‘gringo’ invasion of our territories, we, the Chicano inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztlan from whence came our forefathers, reclaiming the land of their birth and consecrating the determination of our people of the sun, declare that the call of our blood is our power, our responsibility, and our inevitable destiny.”

El Plan Espiritual is typical, not just for its atrocious prose, but also for its violent racial overtones. Indeed, to judge by the numerous Web sites and student publications sponsored by MEChA, life after the reconquest is going to be a pretty dreary affair. Just beneath the surface of the Marxist-inspired “union of free pueblos” imagined by MEChA visionaries runs a rich vein of race hatred and conspiratorial anti-Semitism. As an editorial addressed to “capitalist whites” in the University of California Irvine’s La Voz Mestiza (The Mestiza Voice) concludes, “You’ve spilled enough of our blood, now it’s your turn to bleed you [expletive] sub-human beasts.” Or, as one of MEChA’s many charming slogans has it, “por la Raza todo; fuera la Raza nada”: for those of our race, everything; for those outside of it, nothing.

Such statements don’t leave much to the imagination. In calling for the re-partition of the American Southwest, MEChA is not just seeking the overthrow of the American government but the overthrow of its people as well. Only in this way will it achieve “the bronze continent for the bronze people” of which it dreams. This is strong beer, indeed. As a number of recent cases indicated, however, MEChA is not just tolerated on our supposedly multicultural campuses. It is encouraged:

1) In 1995, the Voz Fronteriza, the University of California San Diego’s (UCSD) official MEChA publication, ran an editorial on the death of a Latino INS agent. Describing him as a traitor to his race who deserved to die, the editors of the Voz concluded that “all the migra [a pejorative term for the Immigration and Naturalization Service] pigs should be killed, every single one.” In the controversy that followed, UCSD Vice Chancellor Joseph W. Watson defended the publication’s right to free expression. Watson also refused to officially condemn the sentiments expressed in the Voz Fronteriza article, arguing that “the university is legally prohibited from censuring the contents of student publications.”

2) Late last year, two student reporters from the UCSD satiric publication, The Koala, attended and attempted to photograph an open meeting of MEChA. In response to complaints from MEChA, the UCSD administration charged them with violating the student code’s catch-all prohibition on “obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures, or other UCSD or University activities.” Watson — the same man who, six years earlier, had defended the Voz Fronteriza’s “right to free expression” and refused to condemn the contents of the publication — issued a statement to “condemn Koala’s abuse of the constitutional guarantees of free expression and disfavor their unconscionable behavior”.

 Watson then brought the staff of The Koala before an administrative court. When it appeared the court was likely to find in The Koala’s favor, the administration annulled the proceedings and ordered that the trial be re-held, this time in secret. The Koala was saved from Watson’s kangaroo court only after the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) stepped in, reminding the UCSD administration of the constitutional protections of due process and freedom of expression and calling media attention to the case.

3) In February of this year, The California Patriot, a publication of the University of California Berkeley College Republicans, ran an article critical of MEChA. Before the journal could be distributed, a number of people — apparently MEChA activists — broke into the Patriot’s campus offices and stole the entire print run, valued at $2000. When Patriot staff members lodged a complaint with the university police department, they received death threats. The university, meanwhile, quietly dropped the case. It continues to supply Berkeley MEChA with $20,000 in yearly student activity fees.

Something is clearly wrong with this picture. While MEChA has as much right to free expression as the next hate group, one would like to think that, left to its own devices, “el Movimiento” would wither and die. The problem is, it hasn’t been left to its own devices. In each of the cases mentioned above, MEChA has not only not been discouraged — it has in fact been accorded special protection denied other student groups. What’s more, MEChA chapters often benefit, as at Berkeley, from lavish grants of student activity fees. If MEChA has successfully spread through the American university system, it is only because university administrators and faculty — the guardians of the system — have opened all the doors.

In doing so, they no doubt comfort themselves with the idea that it is all for the greater good of “diversity.” After all, in contrast to the “gringos” against whom the organization spends most of its time railing, MEChA can claim to represent a recognized ethnic minority. In the hyper-simplified, two-tone world of contemporary academia, that’s all it takes to count as a victim. MEChA advocates the overthrow of the U.S. government, the seizure of large swaths of U.S. territory, and the expulsion (or worse) of those presently living there. For this generation of college administrators and left-wing faculty, however, MEChA is a victim group deserving protection. Such is the logic of diversity. The road to Aztlan, at any rate, will be paved with good intentions. 


1 California politicians who have never renounced their membership in the organization include Lieutenant Governor and current ex-officio UC Regent Cruz Bustamente, former State Assembly Speaker and Los Angeles mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, State Assemblyman Gil Cadillo and State Sen. Joe Baca.

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