MEChA co-founder keynotes Chicano/Latino Awareness Week

The first week of March is more than a sign that spring is near. It is also celebrated as Chicano/Latino Awareness Week. Here at Portland State, the week’s celebrations culminated Thursday evening in a keynote address by alurista, co-founder of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Aztlan (MEChA) in 1967.

PSU’s chapter of MEChA sponsored the address, along with the Chicano/Latino Studies department and the Rearguard.

In his speech, alurista detailed how the Chicano/Latino people are distinguished more by language, and not by race.

“We are neither black, nor are we white. We are not red. We are not yellow. We are all of those things,” he said. “We are a rainbow of people. We are all colors.”

The idea behind Aztlan, which he helped form, is that Chicano/Latino people have a place to call home. It is a mythological place, with roots similar to the lost city of Atlantis.

alurista said he wanted to create Atzlan for the Chicano/Latino people “to assert ourselves,” especially after the southwestern United States was “literally stolen from Mexico,” he said, during the U.S.-Mexican War in the mid-1800s.

He criticized U.S.-centered views on this war, which often call for people to “remember the Alamo.” He noted that President James Polk was one of the few American presidents to keep a campaign promise, claiming that the president made good on his pledge for Mexican blood and Mexican land.

Chicano/Latino Awareness Week kicked off Monday, March 1 with a group of folkloric dancers from Woodburn and featured a variety of events hosted or sponsored by different student groups on campus.

The final event will be held this Thursday, March 11, from 4 – 5:30 in the Multicultural Center. “Dying to Live: the HIV and AIDS Epidemic Among Latina and African American Women” is being sponsored by Las Mujeres and the PSU chapter of NAACP.

– Sara Gundell