MEChA de UW hosted the 24th annual national conference at Seattle Central College last weekend, bringing together chapters of el Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Astlan from across the country. The three day event consisted of workshops, keynote speakers and screenings of films related to the themes of the conference.
MEChA Conference is an annual conference for organizations that celebrate and educate people on Hispanic and Latino cultures, intersectionality in those identities and the issues surrounding them in the present day.
“The annual national conference is one of the few times that chapters from across the country gather to collectively learn, support the struggles in the communities of the host city, and discuss as a national organization the direction of our movement.” said Nicolás Cruz, junior Biology/ Sociology double major and chair for MEChA de SU.
The national MEChA conference opened with presentations from Mexican transgender rights activist Jennicet Gutiérrez and Seattle mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver. Gutiérrez heads the organization FAMILIA: TQLM (Trans Queer Liberation Movement) and travelled to the conference to advocate for transgender immigrant women and bring attention to the challenges they face.
She is also known for organizing against the deportation and incarceration of immigrants, a subject that would seen in other parts of the conference as well. Oliver, who has been recognized for her socially-conscious art, poetry and education efforts in the community, has also been involved in opposing unjust incarceration, as well as racial disparities in schools.
The speakers’ presentations were followed by workshops on a variety of social issues, which in turn lead to the Direct Action Workshop. This program expanded the discussion on incarceration and spoke in opposition to the prison industrial complex, both on a local and national scale. The conversation was framed around the new youth jail in Seattle and how it is representative of a much larger institutional movement that profits from putting people of color in prison. MEChA de UW, with the help of Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, led this program in an effort to educate other attendees and involve them in their efforts to challenge the Seattle youth jail. As the name suggests, the event called for direct action, but did so in a way that was meant to be accessible, safe and mindful of the individual’s personal needs.
The 2017 MEChA Conference’s direct action workshops focused specifically on the No New Youth Jail movement in Seattle, as workshops and stations educated people on the issues surrounding the juvenile detention facility not far from campus.
The 24th national conference provided a variety of avenues for education, involvement and activism, but also served as a forum for the future of the movement. The chapters of MEChA brought forth proposals on how the organization should move forward, bringing to the table drastic changes from the original policies conceived in the 1960s. Their vision of the future would reimagine areas such as the way in which they organize, as well as their strategies for self-determination and liberation. Another area that was focused on in these discussions was doing away with discriminatory elements in the movement’s philosophy and centering their efforts on the community’s most marginalized members.
“Two of the proposals put forward were that we hold national calls to discuss the changes we wish to make to the organization and to prepare a national political education curriculum to teach our members thephilosophiesandstrategiesofour organization.” Cruz said “There was wide support for these proposals and my hope is that members and chapters will continue in these discussions following the national conference.”
The conference’s location in Seattle gave many students who had never been able to attend the opportunity to do so for the first time. This year also marked MEChA de SU’s first appearance as an active chapter of the region Alto Pacifico de Aztlan, which includes chapters from Washington and Idaho.
“I was very fortunate to have attended my first ever National Conference so close to home,” said Crystal Magaña, sophomore finance major and member of MEChA de SU “The next national conference will be hosted by the MEChA at the University of Utah so that limits our participation in next year’s National, but MEChA de SU is working hard to one day perhaps hold an APA Regional Conference.”
Students that were not able to go to the event or want to expand upon the material covered in the conference are encouraged to attend a MEChA meeting, held on Thursdays at 6pm in STCN 322.
“I would say that the next step to those who wish to get involved is to come to a meeting,” Magaña said. “We are still new and evolving but we welcome those who wish to learn more about the struggles and learn what we can do as individuals to move for and with the movement.”
For more information on MEChA de SU, contact email@example.com.
Carlos may be reached at