Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

MEChA Leader Endorses Diverse Education

*The 2008 American Community Survey, an ongoing survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, estimated almost 47 million Latinos lived in the United States, making them the largest minority population in the country. According to 2007 statistics on Georgetown’s Web site, approximately 6.4 percent of Hoyas identify themselves as Hispanic – yet many students remain in the dark on Latino issues. The Hoya sat down with Frances Dávila (SFS ’10), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Atzlán co-chair and a member of the University President John J. DeGioia’s Diversity Initiative, in order to learn more about the Latino community both here on the Hilltop and throughout America.*

**What is MEChA?**

EChA, translated into English, means “Student movement to reclaim Aztlan.”  Aztlan is basically the West Coast region that used to be part of Mexico. MEChA developed out of a lot of movements in that region that had to do with the Chicano labor movement, workers’ rights and having Latinos in higher education.

**What are some of the things that MEChA does at Georgetown?**

EChA has cultural, social and political components. Chapters incorporate those things in whichever way they like. Here at Georgetown, we have, for example, Posada, which is a religious event that represents when the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph went searching for shelter. Another event we cosponsor is Reventón Latino, the Latino cultural showcase.  This year, we had a really big conference where we were host to all of the MEChAs of the Ivy League schools and other schools on the East Coast. We had a conference on the effects of drug trafficking on the border and the violence and how that affects Latino communities. We had some people from the Woodrow Wilson Center [of Princeton University] come and talk about that. We also had Secretary [of Education] Arne Duncan come to our dinner to talk about education and Latinos in education.  We co-sponsor a lot of events with other Georgetown groups. We’re strong allies with Georgetown Solidarity Committee with worker rights because a lot of the workers here on campus are Latinos. This year we’re focusing more on immigration – that’s what’s next on the national agenda.

**Can you talk a bit about the U.S. Latinos Studies program that is being discussed on campus?**

This initiative is called the Georgetown University Latino Studies Initiative, and it’s been going on for 10 years. There has been a lot of talk among the MEChA leadership and other allies about establishing a Latino studies program that focuses on U.S. Latinos and not Latin America. Both Josh Guzman (SFS ’10), the other MEChA co-chair, and I are on the academic working group, and what we’re pushing for is a program through the PDI [president’s Diversity Initiative]. [We] are working with the African-American program and Asian-American Studies and pushing for a diversity requirement. Right now, the only professor who has ever been hired to teach anything about Latinos specifically has been professor Ricardo Ortiz, and that’s only literature in the English department. We feel it’s kind of ironic for Georgetown to say that we talk about all these issues. We’re a world-class university, but we’re not teaching about one of the largest minorities in the country. We’re pushing for it to either be a minor or [a] major. 

**Can you talk about your work with the president’s Diversity Initiative?**

Beyond the academic importance of teaching about U.S. Latinos . as a U.S. Latina, I feel like a lot of us don’t really know about our history. Period. We know about the history of our parents but not about movements here in the United States. So we feel like we’re missing that part of understanding of where we come from – who we are. Talk about Latino issues on this campus is miniscule. We have the lowest retention rate – a lot of Latino students are dropping out or just leaving. There are not enough resources given to minorities. The Latino studies program would provide an avenue for students to come and learn about that history. Part of that program we’re pushing forward through the student life working group of the [Diversity Initiative] is to have a center that gives more resources to Latinos. That’s one of the main reasons I’m pushing for it – to have a better sense of who you are, not just as a student or a graduate, but as a Latino graduate.

**What are the biggest issues facing U.S. Latinos?**

One of the main things we’re focused on is immigration reform. It’s going to be the next issue after health care is done with; that’s what Obama promised. I feel like a lot of Latinos do have a relationship with an undocumented immigrant. Another issue is the DREAM act, which allows for immigrants who came to the United States and have studied here through high school to be allowed to go into a higher education. They cannot afford to go to a university without a scholarship. Every child should have a right to a higher education. It’s pretty unfair and unjust [not to] give these kids an opportunity just because of their illegal status, which most of them didn’t have a choice over.

**What do you perceive as the biggest flaw in the U.S. immigration system?**

It incriminates immigrants. The fact that you cross the border makes you be seen as a criminal. What happens in the detention system is, whether you’re an asylum seeker, a refugee or an illegal [immigrant], you’re treated like you’re not a human being. Politicians don’t separate the drug trafficking problem and the immigration problem. When you put them together, the dialogue centers on “illegal immigrants are bringing drugs,” when really a lot of the illegal immigrants are coming here because of drug warfare in their countries.  People just don’t understand why immigrants [are] coming here. It is not that they’re not taking your jobs – there’s a demand for them, otherwise they wouldn’t come here in the first place. It’s also that employers in this country want to take advantage of a cheap labor force. How can they be criminals when they’re trying to make some money that they couldn’t in their countries?

**How can society change to promote Latino equality?**

There needs to be a movement to bring Latinos into higher education. I feel it’s only by giving Latino immigrants, whether undocumented or documented, the chance, the opportunity, to receive a higher education, to support a sense of empowerment. Education is a way out of our situation. We’re able to expand our horizons. We’re getting a higher education, but we’re not forgetting about our community. We’re going back. That’s the main problem in how immigrants are treated in this country, because we’re just not giving them the opportunity for education.

**How can the average Hoya increase his [or her] awareness of the Latino community?**

In the social atmosphere of Latino culture, I feel like there is an interest. I think maybe seeing more of a presence at Latino events … [or] just [having] that conversation with people about the issues affecting our community. I think GU students are active in a lot of fields off campus. If you extended that to the Latino community, you can engage in that dialogue, but I think it has to come from both ways, because, like I said before, there’s a lot of problems that Latino students face on this campus and it can’t be left up to us to create that discussion, it has to come from both sides. Simple things: coming to events. For the U.S. Latino studies program, there has to be an interest from a lot of students, not just from Latino students. Sign a petition. Just putting your name down and being like, `Yes, I support the U.S. Latino studies program,’ I feel like that would be very beneficial.”

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