By Bryon Wells
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 10, 1997

Anniversary sparks MEChA reunion

They had long hair, wore military fatigues and brown berets and were angry and confrontational.

Fists in the air, Chicano student activists in the late 1960s marched on high school and college campuses throughout the American Southwest with voices so loud it was impossible for history to forget them.

This is what alumni of Movimiento Estudiantil de Chicanos de Atzlán told their younger brethren at MEChA's 30th anniversary celebration Friday.

"It's not about nostalgia, not about being angry," said Raul Grijalva, chairman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors and former MEChA member.

He added the reunion was more about concentrating on matters which still need attention in the Chicano community, then recapturing the past.

"We were about change. These kids are also about change, but they have more to worry about than we did, such as the intense issues of violence in our communities and immigration," Grijalva said.

Old and new members gathered at the El Rio Neighborhood Center to remember their contributions to the movement, and encourage the newer MEChA members to continue to carry the torch.

Grijalva told the 300-odd MEChA and former MEChA members that newer generations still face some of the same problems as they did in the 1960s and 1970s, adding that while the older members can offer moral and even financial support, it is up to current members to be aware that what was won can be lost just as easily.

MEChA chapters at Cholla High School, Pima Community College and the University of Arizona provided artistic murals and a time-line with biographical information about heroes of the movement.

There were huge banners depicting Mexican revolutionary war hero Ernesto Zapata and Che Guerva, a Cuban revolutionary, hanging from the walls along with black-and-white photos of Tucson demonstrations from when the movement was young.

MEChA member Omar Murrieta sold attendees imported items from Mexico, such as ties, artistic tiles and Cali Toci coffee from the state of Chiapas. All proceeds went to raise funds for scholarships and other club activities of the UA chapter.

Murrieta, a Latin American studies senior, said the UA chapter holds youth conferences on campus for Chicano high school students.

"Bringing them to the UA broadens their horizons," he said.

UA MEChA President Josueacute; Limón said it is important for Chicano students to move on to college after high school.

Clubs like MEChA will help to keep them there, he added.

"Our first and foremost goal is to graduate," he said. "You're more of a service to the community if you graduate."

After dinner, speakers ambled up to an open microphone and reminisced about the movement's original passionate spirit and the accomplishments of the younger generation of MEChA members.