The Xicano Paradigm
Some twenty years after having participated in the birthing stages of the Chicano student movement of the 60’s and 70’s, some of the original MEChA activists gathered at the occasion of the California State Wide MEChA conference in 1994 held in Bakersfield. MEChA - Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan. The veteranos and veteranas had come together in a sort of elders council to share and evaluate the history of the movement which they had helped to build in their younger days. Looking back, sitting in a circle with sacred eagle feathers, tobacco and copal, the perspectives of each were expressed. In the background, the younger generation of college Mechistas were involved in the conference workshops.
Nearly all of them were professionals. Lawyers, administrators, community leaders, teachers, etc. All representing an unspoken but understood testimony to the sacrifices and efforts of the Movement to open up the educational opportunities for our peoples, fruit of a generation of struggle.
Some of the words were hard. Betrayal. Betrayal of the movement. Was not one of the objectives of the movement to develop the intellectual defense of La Raza? How had it come to pass that the professional class had found it so easy to return to the assimilationist Hispanic syndrome being promoted by Washington?
It was not a new discussion. When El Veterano spoke now what he said came after many previous platicas con la gente had brought clarity to the question.
What it was, was the paradigm. We as a people had been struggling to achieve access to education: higher education at the college and university levels. The paradigm that was put before us, which many of us bought into, was that:
EDUCATION would open up ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES which would lead to SUCCESS which would then translate to POWER.
What is education? Community based economics or individual windfalls? Who defines success? Can one own the power of the sun, the land, the wind, or the waters of the earth?
Perhaps, he said, it would be better if we determined our own paradigm instead of blindly following one which has been imposed upon us. One which is really only working for a very few of us. Perhaps we might even adopt the principles which our ancestors used to guide the development of our culture and civilization for thousands of years. Education is not just book learning, especially not from books which do not reflect our Peoples’ perspective and contribution to humanity. Let us, he said, consider pursuing:
KNOWLEDGE which can lead to
WISDOM, which will develop
STRENGTH, that we may achieve
HARMONY within and without.
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