The history of TUSD’s MAS curriculum and pedagogy

“The creation of MAS, and the Mexican American/Chicana/o educational struggle in Tucson is part of a larger legacy of the Mexican American/Chicana/o quest for educational justice . . .” Augustine Romero

The social justice element of the program is rarely discussed, however as the ideological  foundation of the classes it is an important issue.

“In the spring of 2002, Dr. Julio Cammarota from the University of Arizona’s Mexican American Studies and Research Center and I (the then Director of TUSD’s Mexican American Studies Department) proposed a course that would use the Arizona State Standards, Critical Pedagogy, Critical Race Theory, and authentic caring as the foundation of an equitable educational experience to the District’s leadership. We believed that given the appropiate structures and an authentic culture of caring historical marginalized and underserved students could reach their intellectual capacities (Cammarota & Romero, 2006 a; Cammarota & Romero, 2006b; Romero, 2008). With this in mind, I recruited Lorenzo Lopez Jr. to be the teacher that would be our lead teacher. Two years previous, Mr. Lopez was my student teacher, and over the four months we shared together, I found him to be a highly talented educator would firmly understood and effectively administered the politics of authentic caring.”

As noted earlier, “In the early summer of 2002, Dr. Rebecca Montano, Deputy Superintendent gave approval for The Social Justice Education Project. Dr. Cammarota, Dr. Romero, and Lorenzo Lopez Jr. established the Project in the Fall of 2002.

“….. the Project required that students engage in participatory action research that focuses on the social realities of our students. We helped students develop the skills needed to implement the methodologies needed to assess and address the everyday injustices limiting their life chances, their freedom, and their ability to pursue happiness. Proudly over the course of the last eight academic years we have designed and developed courses that offer students an advanced level social science curriculum from the fields of critical race theory, critical pedagogy, and social theory. Simultaneously, our students have developed the anthropological skills needed to name, assess, and engage the injustices of their social realities (Cammarota & Romero, 2006; Romero, 2008; Cammarota and Romero, 2009).”

TUSD’s Mexican American Studies and MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán)

According to, TUSD’s Director of Mexican American Studies, Sean Arce, was involved with MEChA when he attended the UofA. Excerpt from Arce’s bio (emphasis added):

“After playing football at San Jose State, Arce came to the University of Arizona. At his wife’s suggestion he began to take Mexican American studies classes, and his world changed. “It was highly engaging for me,” he says. “I began to make connections and to establish a greater understanding of my history. It really inspired me, along with a lot of my peers who were at UA at the time. We were Mexican American Studies majors but we were also part of MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) and we began planning for this thing.”

“In short time they created the current Ethnic Studies program at Tucson Unified School District at the K-12 levels. . . .”

The Philosophy of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán

According to MECHA’s website:

“The Chicano Movement of the late 1960’s helped spark cultural and historical pride in our people. Chicanas/Chicanos demanded to be treated as equals and denounced acculturation and assimilation. Brown pride began to express itself through poetry, literature, art and theater. The contributions of the Chicano Movement are numerous and continue to be very valuable to our society.”

“Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) is a student organization that promotes higher education, cultura, and historia. MEChA was founded on the principles of self-determination for the liberation of our people. We believe that political involvement and education is the avenue for change in our society.”

“In March of 1969, at Denver, Colorado the Crusade for Justice organized the National Chicano Youth Conference that drafted the basic premises for the Chicana/Chicano Movement in El Plan de Aztlán (EPA). A synopsis of El Plan stipulates: 1) We are Chicanas and Chicanos of Aztlán reclaiming the land of our birth (Chicana/Chicano Nation); 2) Aztlán belongs to indigenous people, who are sovereign and not subject to a foreign culture; 3) We are a union of free pueblos forming a bronze (Chicana/Chicano) Nation; 4) Chicano nationalism, as the key to mobilization and organization, is the common denominator to bring consensus to the Chicana/Chicano Movement; 5) Cultural values strengthen our identity as La Familia de La Raza; and 6) EPA, as a basic plan of Chicana/Chicano liberation, sought the formation of an independent national political party that would represent the sentiments of the Chicana/Chicano community.”

“In April of 1969 over 100 Chicanas/Chicanos came together at UC 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 fundamental principles that led to the founding of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán are found in El Plan de Santa Barbara (EPSB). The Manifesto of EPSB sees self-determination for the Chicana/Chicano community as the only acceptable way for our people to gain socioeconomic justice. El Plan argues that a strong nationalist identity is a necessary step in building a program of self-determination. Self-determination, in this regard, challenges those involved in principle struggle to respect the rights of all Chicano and Chicanos. EPSB stresses that in organizing MEChA every opportunity must be taken to educate Raza. At the same time, El Plan exhorts Mechistas to preserve Chicana/Chicano culture in this culturally diverse society, both in community and on campus. Thus, a Chicana/Chicano Nation is a necessity defined as an educational, socioeconomic, and empowered Chicana/Chicano community. The Manifesto of EPSB warns us in part:

We recognize that without a strategic use of education, an education that places value on what we value, we will not realize our destiny. Chicanos [and Chicanas] recognize the central importance of institutions of higher learning to model progress, in this case, to the development of our community. But, we go further: we believe that higher education must contribute to the formation of a complete man [and woman] who truly values life and freedom.” (p.10) EPSB

“Both El Plan de Aztlán (EPA) and El Plan de Santa Barbara (EPSB) served as the historical foundation for the establishment of a viable Chicana/Chicano Movimiento and are therefore fundamental to the MEChA Philosophy.”

MEChA’s Philosophy

“The Chicana/Chicano student movement has been plagued by opportunists that have sought to rechannel the energies of our people and divert us from our struggle for self determination. The educational plight of Chicana and Chicano students continues to be ignored by insensitive administrators. Overall, Chicana/Chicano junior high, high school and college pushout rates have risen since 1969, forcing many Chicanas and Chicanos to a life of poverty. These factors along with a growing right wing trend in the nation are combining to work greater hardships on Chicanas and Chicanos. New repressive and racist immigration laws are continuously directed at our Gente. Along with this, the current administration has started the process of dismantling Affirmative Action and Civil Rights protections. Just as Hispanics seeks to deny our indigenous heritage, so does Latino. The terms Hispanic and Latino further ignore our unique socioeconomic and historical aspects of our Chicana/Chicano Gente. This cannot be ignored. We cannot coin terms for unity sake when these terms fail to fully represent our diverse communities. Chicanismo does not seek to use the word “Chicano” as an umbrella term when representing all of “La Familia de La Raza”. Rather, Chicanismo seeks to educate our barrios and campos about our history y cultura to further create a movement of self-determination for the Liberation of Aztlán, something that Hispanic and Latino has yet to represent or recognize. These factors have made it necessary for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán to affirm our philosophy of liberation (i.e. educational, socio-economic, and political empowerment) for our Chicana/Chicano Nation.”

“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.”

“Thus, by all means necessary, We Chicana/Chicano estudiantes of Aztlán, dedicate ourselves to taking our educational destiny into our own hands through the process of spreading Chicanismo, in the spirit of carnalismo.”

“MEChA is committed to ending the cultural tyranny suffered at the hands of institutional and systematic discrimination that holds our Gente captive. We seek an end to oppression and exploitation of the Chicano/Chicana community.”

“As Mechistas, we proclaim that we are the people of Aztlán and that we recognize our indigenous unity with our brothers and sisters of Ixachitzlan (Alaska to Tierra del Fuego). We declare that we are the descendants of El Quinto Sol. Our fundamental drive is to organize and challenge Chicana/Chicano estudiantes to maintain self-respect and dignity to overcome historical prejudices and discrimination against the Chicana and Chicano Gente. The historic mission of MEChA involves an educational plan of action that builds an educational ladder for the advancement of our people. Recognizing that the strength of our movement is rooted in our barrios, MEChA pledges itself to reach out to the community and schools, to establish new educational opportunities. We also recognize that our MEChA chapters are much stronger when they are rooted in and accountable to the Chicana/Chicano community. Consequently, We, Mechistas commit ourselves to return to our community and contribute to the development of the Chicana/Chicano Nation.”