El Plan de Santa Barbara, April 1969


In April 1969, student leaders from around California formed MEchA, the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (Chicano Student Movement of

Aztlan – an Indian name for the Southwest). What follows are excerpts from its Manifesto.


     For all peoples, as with individual, the time comes when they must reckon with their history. For the

Chicano the present is a time of renaissance, of renacimiento. Our people and our community, el barrio and la

colonia, are expressing a new consciousness and a new resolve. Recognizing the historical tasks confronting our

people and fully aware of the cost of human progress, we pledge our will to move. We will move forward toward

our destiny as a people. We will move against those forces which have denied us freedom of expression and human

dignity. Throughout history the quest for cultural expression and freedom has taken the form of a struggle. Our

struggle, tempered by the lessons of the American past, is an historical reality.

     For decades Mexican people in the United States struggle to realize the ''American Dream''. And some, a

few, have. But the cost, the ultimate cost of assimilation, required turning away from el barrio and la colonia. In the

meantime, due to the racist structure of this society, to our essentially different life style, and to the socio-economic

functions assigned to our community by Anglo-American society - as suppliers of cheap labor and dumping

ground for the small-time capitalist entrepreneur- the barrio and colonia remained exploited, impoverished, and


     As a result, the self-determination of our community is now the only acceptable mandate for social and

political action; it is the essence of Chicano commitment. Culturally, the word Chicano, in the past a pejorative and

class-bound adjective, has now become the root idea of a new cultural identity for our people. It also reveals a

growing solidarity and the development of a common social praxis. The widespread use of the term Chicano today

signals a rebirth of pride and confidence. Chicanismo simply embodies an ancient truth: that man is never

closer to his true self as when he is close to his community.

     Chicanismo draws its faith and strength from two main sources: from the just struggle of our people and

from an objective analysis of our community's strategic needs. 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 recognize the

central importance of institutions of higher learning to modern progress, in this case, to the development of our

community. But we go further: we believe that higher education must contribute to the information of a complete

man who truly values life and freedom.

     The destiny of our people will be fulfilled. to that end, we pledge our efforts and take as our credo what

Jose Vasconcelos once said at a time of crisis and hope: "At this moment we do not come to work for the

university, but to demand that the university work for our people.''

Political Action

Commitment to the struggle for Chicano liberation is the operative definition of the ideology used here.

Chicanismo involves a crucial distinction in political consciousness between a Mexican American and

a Chicano mentality. The Mexican American is a person who lacks respect for his ethnic and cultural heritage. Unsure of himself, he seeks assimilation as a way out of his “degraded” social status.  Consequently, he remains politically ineffective.  In contrast, Chicanismo reflects self-respect and pride in one’s ethnic and culturel backgrouond.   Thus, the Chicano acts with confidence and with a range of alternatives in the

political world. He is capable of developing an effective ideology through action.

     Mexican Americans must be viewed as potential Chicanos. Chicanismo is flexible enough to

relate to the varying levels of consciousness within La Raza[1]. Regional variations must always be kept in mind as

well as the different levels of development, composition, maturity, achievement, and experience in political action.

Cultural nationalism is a means of total Chicano liberation.

     There are definite advantages to cultural nationalism, but no inherent limitations. A Chicano ideology,

especially as it involves cultural nationalism, should be positively phrased in the form of propositions to the

Movement. Chicanismo is a concept that integrates self-awareness with cultural identity, a necessary step in

developing political consciousness. As such, it serves as a basis for political action, flexible enough to include the

possibility of coalitions. The related concept of La Raza provides an internationalist scope of Chicanismo, and La

Raza Cosmica furnishes a philosophical precedent. Within this framework, the Third World Concept merits


Campus Organizing: Notes on M.E.Ch.A.

     M.E.Ch.A. is a first step to tying the students groups throughout the Southwest into a vibrant and

responsive network of activists who will respond as a unit to oppression and racism and will work in harmony

when initiating and carrying put campaigns of liberation for our people.

     As of present, wherever one travels throughout the Southwest, one finds that there are different levels of

awareness on different campuses. The student movement is to a large degree a political movement and as such

must not elicit from our people the negative responses that we have experienced so often in the past in relation to politics, and often with good reason. To this end, then we must re-define politics for our people to

be a means of liberation. The political sophistication of our Raza must be raised so that they do not fall prey to

apologists and vendidos [sellouts]  whose whole interest is their personal career of fortune. In addition, the student movement

is more than a political movement, it is cultural and social as well. The spirit of M.E.Ch.A. must be one of

hermandad [brotherhood] and cultural awareness. The ethic of profit and competition, of greed and intolerance, which the Anglo

society offers must be replaced by our ancestral communalism and love for beauty and justice. M.E.Ch.A. must

bring to the mind of every young Chicano that the liberations of this people from prejudice and oppression is in his

hands and this responsibility is greater than personal achievement and more meaningful that degrees, especially if

they are earned at the expense of his identity and cultural integrity.

     M.E.Ch.A., then, is more than a name; it is a spirit of unity, of brotherhood, and a resolve to undertake a

struggle for liberation in society where justice is but a word. M.E.Ch.A. is a means to an end.


[1] La Raza, literally, “the Race.”