TUSD’s Mexican American Studies appeal leads to scrutiny of MEChA

According to testimony in the appeal of the state’s finding that TUSD’s Mexican American Studies classes, auditors only reviewed 9 out of 180 possible lesson units. This 5% of the curriculum could not be a representative sample from which to draw any conclusions, however 3 of the 9 units contained “an overabundance” of political material.”

TUSD’s schools have MEChA chapters and not even the district’s Superintendent knows if they are sanctioned by the district. If you don’t know what MEChA is, you are among hundreds of thousands of Tucsonans, including this author, who didn’t know and didn’t care.

The group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán came under scrutiny as a result of the Tucson Unified School District’s appeal of the finding by Superintendent of Public Instruction (SOPI) that TUSD’s Mexican American Studies classes violate state law. In violation of state law, the classes are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, promote resentment towards a race or class of people, and advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

Not until the district’s superintendent testified at the hearing as to an email he received from Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lupita Cavazos-Garcia was much attention paid to the TUSD group in and out of the district. In the email, Dr. Garcia expressed her concerns regarding MEChA’s efforts to recruit students for an “occupied peoples” conference at which Palestinian and TUSD students would be sharing their experiences living in “occupied” territories.

Dr. Garcia wrote that at the time of Pedicone’s hiring she had expressed to him, “my deep concern” about MEChA at TUSD. She pointed out the organization’s “anti-Semitic tone and tenor on our campuses.” She went on to state that the some of the district’s students have little emotional support and “our Raza students are ripe for this kind of influence.”

Concerns arose about the conference in the district when word went out that Homeland Security would be in attendance. Some of the more responsible adults in the district questioned the wisdom of allowing TUSD students to be put in a situation in which they might innocently come under scrutiny, suspicion, or harm.

In the past MEChA has been linked to the anti-Semitic website/publication, La Voz de Aztlan which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group. There is some evidence that MEChA has also disavowed that organization, however others very familiar with the organization claim that La Voz de Aztlan is still a popular newsletter with MEChA members. Dr. Rudolpho Acuna, author of Occupied America upon which much of the TUSD MAS curriculum is based, once wrote that there was a “thin line” that separates “Mandela from Adolf Hitler.”

Local Raza propagandist the Three Sonorans, otherwise known as David Abie Morales, writes that some of Tucson most prominent leaders were formerly members of MEChA. He list among them controversial Congressman Raul Grijalva, who was instrumental in the Mexican American/Raza Studies class development when he was on the TUSD Governing Board. His daughter Adelita, who currently sits on the TUSD Governing Board. City Council member Regina Romero, who finds herself in a very close primary this year against local Tucson Businessman and anti-Grijalva establishment democrat Jose Flores and her highly controversial husband Ruben Reyes, who is a staff member of the elder Grijalva’s congressional staff, among others.

So, who is MEChA? In their own words, from their website…..

“Essentially, we are a Chicana and Chicano student movement directly linked to Aztlán. As Chicanas and Chicanos of Aztlán, we are a nationalist movement of Indigenous Gente that lay claim to the land that is ours by birthright. As a nationalist movement we seek to free our people from the exploitation of an oppressive society that occupies our land. Thus, the principle of nationalism serves to preserve the cultural traditions of La Familia de La Raza and promotes our identity as a Chicana/Chicano Gente.”

“In March of 1969, at Denver, Colorado the Crusade for Justice organized the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference that drafted the basic premises for the Chicana/Chicano Movement in El Plan de Aztlán.”

“The following month, in April of 1969, over 100 Chicanas/Chicanos came together at University of California, Santa Barbara to formulate a plan for higher education: El Plan de Santa Barbara. With this document they were successful in the development of two very important contributions to the Chicano Movement: Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) and Chicano Studies.”

“The adoption of the name Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan signaled a new level of political consciousness among student activists. It was the final stage in the transformation of what had been loosely organized, local student groups, into a single structure and a unified student movement.”

“Adamant rejection of the label “Mexican-American” meant rejection of the assimilation and accommodationist melting pot ideology that had guided earlier generations of activists. Chicanismo involves a crucial distinction in a political consciousness between a Mexican-American (Hispanic) and a Chicana/o mentality. El Plan de Santa Barbara speaks to such issues of identity politics by asserting:

“The Mexican-American (Hispanic) is a person who lacks respect for his/her cultural and ethnic heritage. Unsure of her/himself, she/he seeks assimilation as a way out of her/his “degraded” social status. Consequently, she/he remains politically ineffective. In contrast, Chicanismo reflects self-respect and pride on one’s ethnic and cultural background. Thus, the Chicana/o acts with confidence and with a range of alternatives in the political world. She/he is capable of developing an effective ideology through action” (El Plan de Santa Barbara).

“MEChA played an important role in the creation and implementation of Chicana/o Studies and support services programs on campus. Chicana/o Studies programs would be a relevant alternative to established curricula. Most important, the Chicana/o Studies program would be the foundation of MEChA’s political power base. Today many Chicana/os Studies Programs would have difficulty operating if it were not for the enthusiasm and dedication of Mechistas to Chicana/o Studies.”

“We, as Mechistas, see the process of Chicanismo as evolutionary. We recognize that no one is born politically Chicana or Chicano. Chicanismo results from a decision based on a political consciousness for our Raza, to dedicate oneself to building a Chicana/Chicano Nation. Chicanismo is a concept that integrates self-awareness with cultural identity, a necessary step in developing political consciousness. Therefore the term Chicano is grounded in a philosophy, not a nationality. Chicanismo does not exclude anyone, rather it includes those who acknowledge and work toward the betterment of La Raza.”

“Chicanismo involves a personal decision to reject assimilation and work towards the preservation of our cultural heritage. Recognizing that all people are potential Chicanas and Chicanos, we encourage those interested in developing a total commitment to our movement for self-determination for the people of Aztlán to join Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán.”

“Finally, as Mechistas, we vow to work for the liberation of Aztlán, leading to socioeconomic and political justice for our Gente. MEChA then, is more than a name; it is a spirit of unity by comadrismo/carnalismo, and a resolution to undertake a struggle for liberation! Tierra y Libertad!”

MEChA chapters are at Tucson High School and Pueblo High School. The following is a list of chapters:*

Alta Califas Norte

California State University, Chico

California State University, Sacramento

California State University, Sonoma

Chabot College

San Jose State University

Santa Rosa Junior College

Stanford University

University of California, Berkeley

Alta Califas Sur

California Polytechnic University, Pomona

California State University, Fullerton

California State Univeristy, Los Angeles

California State University, Northridge

California State University, San Marcos

Central de Los Angeles County

Central de San Diego

Cerritos College

Chapman University

Cypress College

La Jolla High School

Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC)

Pasadena City College

Rio Hondo College

San Diego State University

Santa Ana College

University of California, Irvine

University of Southern California

Sur Calpulli Montañas de Norte

Colorado College

University of Colorado, Boulder

University of Colorado, Denver

Centro Aztlan

Arizona State University

Central Arizona College

Northern Arizona University

Pueblo High School

Rio Grande High School

Tucson High School

University of Arizona

University of New Mexico

University of Texas, El Paso

Centro Califas

Bakersfield College

California State University, Hayward

California State University, Monterey Bay

Modesto Junior College

Sequoia College

University of California, Santa Barbara

West Hills College, Kings County


Brown University

Cornell University

Dartmouth College

Georgetown University

Pennsylvania State University

University of Pennsylvania

Vassar College

Yale University

Massachusetts Institue of Technology (LUChA)

Mitlampa Cihuatlampa

Eastern Washington University

Seattle University

University of Washington


St. Cloud State University

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

University of Illinois, Chicago (MeSA)

Pacific NorthWest

Oregon State University

Pasco High School

Portland University

University of Oregon

Western Oregon University

SouthEast Tejaztlan

University of Texas, Austin

University of Houston

University of Texas, Pan American

*From the MEChA La Universidad de Arizona website