MEChA History

Introduction

In 1972, the first Chicano students arrived at the University of Pennsylvania, recruited from South Texas. That group began an extensive recruitment program and formed an organization which functioned as an umbrella organization for those who found it difficult to adapt to a vastly different way of life. The need for a support network for Chicano students was the impetus for the creation of MEChA de Penn. The recruitment of Chicano students to Penn became a top priority, with Yale, Harvard and Princeton leading the way in recruiting Chicanos to Ivy League Institutions. (Left: MEChA de Penn's Original Logo)

Early Years

Formed under the leadership of Louis R. Escareno, MEChA embarked on its strong presence on campus, joining the Student Activities Council and working to establish strong Chicano recruitment and academic presences on campus. Later in 1979, and the early 1980s, MEChA would be at the forefront of establishing ethnic studies and the Greenfield Intercultural Center at Penn, with MEChista Marc Rodriguez C ’83 leading a sit-in of then President Martin Meyerson’s office in College Hall. MEChA, ACELA(Associacion Cultural de Estudiantes Latino Americanos), Black Student League and the United Minorities Council would be instrumental in establishing the GIC and the development of resources for students of color on campus. Rodriguez would serve as Chair of the United Minorities Council in 1983.

MEChA was active for much of the 1980s, heavily active in the United Minorities Council, and continued its recruiting efforts. MEChA was a partner with Asociacion Cultural de Estudiantes Latino Americanos (ACELA) in coordinating Festival Latino, a week long celebration of Latino cultural in the spring, beginning in 1982.

MEChA development in the 90’s

In the 1990s, under leaders such as Liz Cedillo, Sam Rivera, MEChA hosted such leaders as Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and hosted an East Coast Chicano Student Forum (ECCSF) Conference in 1991. In 1994, MEChA Vice President Liz Melendez would serve as Chair of the United Minorities Council.

Both MEChA and ACELA were long member groups of the United Minorities Council. In 1998, that changed, as Chicanos and Latinos voiced a common concern that their issues were being ignored within the UMC, they asked that the body reform its voting procedures to create a more balanced voice between Black, Asian and Latino students. This change was overruled and both MEChA and ACELA withdrew from the UMC. Quoting then MEChA Vice President, Jonathan Cantu, "We as Latinos are the best representatives of Latino issues. By remaining in the UMC, we were allowing the administration to see all minority issues as a big lump."

Leading a protest on April 21, 1998, MEChA along with members of the Latino Coalition presented a new list of demands for improving Latino student life to President Judith Rodin. A request was made to create a new resource center based around Latino culture. La Casa Latina, The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Hispanic Excellence was born on September 21, 1999, first located in the Tabernacle Church and later moving to the ARCH Building. La Casa, one of the few free standing Latino-based student resource centers in the East Coast would be the focal point of MEChAs activities going into a new millennium.

MEChA Today

MEChA members would be instrumental in the leadership of the Latino Coalition, with MEChA members, Randy Quezada and Nancy Calderon serving as Spokesperson and Internal Projects Coordinator, respectively in 2000-2001.

MEChA has helped coordinated Scholars Weekend and hosting the Central California Ivy League Leadership Project to encourage Latino High School students to attend college and Penn most all. MEChA has worked with MEX@Penn to celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) building altars for our heroes and friends past. MEChA has also brought Chicano artists, spoken word artists, acclaimed authors like Ilan Stavans, comedian Marga Gomez and actor Edward James Olmos.

In the early 2000s, MEChA would help the Latino Coalition bring full-time Director, Adminstrative Assistant and Program Coordinator positions to La Casa Latina and would be involved in the formation of Latino Studies. MEChA continues today to work within the Latino Coalition and other student coalitions to create a better environment for academic and social enrichment for not only Chicano and Latino students, but all students in general. MEChA continues to work hard to bring about dialogue and understanding throughout campus, Philadelphia and the Northeast.

 


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