Student movements have played an important role in diversifying colleges, changing policies and affecting politics. One of the most notable student movements is the Chicano Movement, which started in the 1960s and still affects schools today.
The Chicano movement addressed workers’ rights, education, political rights and stereotyping against Latin Americans. In schools, students walked out of classes because of the lack of Latin American history taught and unequal quality of education.
In spring 1968, the Black Student’s Union at the University of Washington Seattle met with the president of the university. Their four-hour meeting advocated for the broadening of student diversity on campus.
Their meeting resulted in multiple grants and scholarships for Latin American students. A group of 35 Latin American students began attending the university during the fall of ‘68.
The self-pronounced Chicano students formed the United Mexican-American Group.
“The goal of UMAS is to achieve the liberation of the Mexican-Americans, both psychologically and economically,” the UW Daily said in 1969.
Led by Jose Correa, Antonio Salazar, Eron Maltos, Jesus Lemos, Erasmo Gamboa and Eloy Apodaca, UMAS was closely connected to the Yakima Valley, which according to the UW M.E.Ch.A website, has one of the largest group of Latin Americans in Washington state.
Because of their connection with the Yakima farmers, the UMAS students worked to boycott the sale of grapes farmed in non-union companies. This was followed by the start of Calmecac Project, a statewide mission to inspired Chicano high school students to embrace their heritage.
According to the UW Daily, the Chicano movement grew at the university. The UMAS worked with the college to create a Mexican-American Studies class through the College of Art & Sciences.
The Chicano movement in Washington remained peaceful, but outside of Washington, the movement turned violent. On Aug. 29, 1970, more than 20,000 activists marched through Los Angeles as part of what is now called the National Chicano Moratorium March.
The march protested the perceived large numbers of Latino soldiers being killed in the Vietnam War.
What started as a peaceful protest turned violent when the Los Angeles Police Department fired tear gas into a bar where an armed man had reportedly been seen. The canister hit KMEX News Director Ruben Salazar in the head and killed him instantly.
Two other men died that day when the mass turned violent.
The Chicano movement hasn’t ended. Across the country, Latin Americans are still embracing their heritage.
UW Seattle students are still part of UMAS, renamed Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán. Since their establishment in 1969, Chicano art, music and culture have become important parts of the Seattle and greater Northwest culture.
A testament to the student involvement of the Chicano movement, M.E.Ch.A. remains active in many colleges across the nation. It’s a memorial to the power students can have when united together for a cause.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
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