MEChA in the city: club plans Cinco de Mayo with City of West Linn



MEChA meets in D204 during lunch, where Melissa Reyes, junior, discusses an upcoming event with fellow members.

On an early—release day in September 2022, students gathered on the football field to listen to music and try catered tacos and dance lessons, all part of an event put together by the MEChA club. Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) is an organization that focuses on uniting Hispanic, Latino, and Chicano high school students. MEChA is a club that promotes Hispanic and Latino culture and creates a safe place at school for students to celebrate each other’s culture and heritage. Students can come to the club’s meetings every Wednesday during lunch, where club leaders Melissa Reyes and Vanessa Partida, juniors, facilitate important conversations about culture and nationality.

“Our main goal is to connect with the Hispanic students of the school, and build community in the school for those who are of Hispanic heritage in a majority white school,” Partida said. “It allows us to share our experiences and have solidarity.”

During their meetings, club members discuss relevant topics, plan events, and play games related to their work.

“We have discussion related games where we ask questions and then we move to a certain side of the room and then see where we agree and where we disagree,” Reyes said.

While the members of the club are mostly Hispanic students with families who speak Spanish, they still communicate primarily in English. MEChA does their best to include anyone and everyone who wants to participate. 

“I think sometimes when our advisers or guest speakers speak in Spanish, other club members that don’t speak Spanish may feel a little bit left out,” Partida said. “We do our best to translate and include everyone at every meeting.”

Their adviser, Lisa Rodriguez, mainly speaks Spanish with them.

“We all understand [Rodriguez] and respond with some Spanish and English, but I think it’s more that English is just the main [form] of communication,” Reyes said.

The Spanish club is a group with a similar function to MEChA, so an important distinction to make is between the two. 

“Spanish club is really open to anybody who just wants to practice their Spanish,” Rodriguez said. “Whereas MEChA, while everyone’s welcome, it’s more of a group for those that identify as Latino and [who] have Hispanic heritage and background.”

MEChA has seen several accomplishments since it began around 2019, whether it be hosting school events or just expanding their influence. It has changed with time, as COVID—19 created a challenge when it came to holding meetings and hosting events.

“That was when I first heard about it,” Reyes said. “At that point, there wasn’t very much going for the club.”

MEChA has gained a considerable amount of members since then. Their progress showed during their Unidos en Corazón event for Hispanic Heritage month, which included music, dance lessons, games, and food on the football field for students and staff to enjoy. 

“It was kind of small, but we actually threw it together in like three weeks so we were really impressed with the turnout,” Rodriguez said. “We’re hoping to kind of beef it up next year, maybe have a little bit more interactive stuff.”

The event was a display of MEChA’s purpose and potential, and moving forward they want to improve it even more, and host similar events.

“Race should be a comfortable issue,” Reyes said. “Something that we can comfortably talk about and share within ourselves and each other.”

— Melissa Reyes

“This year was more of a breakthrough,” Reyes said. “I think that [event] had a big turnout and has really improved our club. I mean, we’re all teenagers, so we all love food and music and something entertaining, and that’s what we want to be engaged by. I think that’s how we get other people to care.” 

They are currently working on a Cinco de Mayo celebration with the city of West Linn, and plan to help create the existing tradition in Old Town Willamette more informational for all that attend.

“We don’t want to culturally appropriate anything,” Rodriguez said. “We want to make sure this is factual and historic and real, not just kind of what people think of when they think of Cinco de Mayo.”

The club and its leaders have stuck to their objective of unity, and have played a big role in normalizing discussions about race and nationality in school.

“Race should be a comfortable issue,” Reyes said. “Something that we can comfortably talk about and share within ourselves and each other.” 

Going forward, the club hopes to improve future events and collaborate more with the city, going even broader than the community they’ve built at school.

“I liked this collaborative idea with the city,” Rodriguez said. “Like we could do our own thing here on campus, but I liked the idea of having our representation at a community event.” 

MEChA’s reach has had an effect within itself as well.

“[The club has] had a big impact on me and my friends as well, I’ve met a lot of nice people through there,” Partida said. “Just being able to connect with people who share the same culture has been really great and beneficial, in school especially.”

Having a club that gives students of a certain heritage a space and a platform can be educational for peers and faculty alike.

“I’ve really loved actually sitting in and listening to their discussions, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot,” Rodriguez said. “Not only as a teacher, but just as a white teacher in this building. I’m just really grateful, I guess, that I’ve had that opportunity.”

Keep up with updates on their contribution to the city’s Cinco de Mayo event and more opportunities by checking out their Instagram account.