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A group of Latinos known as MEChA believes that a large swath of the American Southwest should separate from the United States to form the country of Aztlán.

If you have never contemplated what the United States would look like if it hadn’t been for the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, and the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, you would be in for quite a shock if you saw a map with the nation’s borders minus the land encompassed by those treaties. The nation that we know today as stretching from sea to shining sea would still be clustered around the northeast seaboard, little more than the original thirteen colonies. The United States, as we know it, had to be purchased or won by treaty in order to become the expansive nation that we know today.

There is no record of any serious French movement to reclaim much of the southern and Midwestern states, but in the late 1960s a Hispanic separatist organization was formed to reclaim the lands of Aztlán. While Aztlán is a land that never existed, as MEChA defines its mythical borders it would include the present states of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, California, Oregon, and parts of Washington. MEChA, its official symbol depicting an eagle clutching a machete and a stick of dynamite in its talons, stands for “Movimiento Estudianti Chicano de Aztlán” or “Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán.” Members of MEChA refer to themselves as “Mechistas” or “La Raza” (the Race), and their proposed goal is to liberate the lost lands of the Southwest.

According to many educators and others monitoring the movement, MEChA groups or clubs exist on as many as ninety percent of Southwestern public high schools and college and university campuses. The mystique of Aztlán is delineated in The Mexican American Heritage by Carlos Jimenez, an East Los Angeles high school teacher who portrays the mythical land in a recreated map of Mexico in which the Hispanic nation is depicted with the “lost” U.S. states attached to it. Jimenez predicts that soon Latinos will realize that they have the power to bring Aztlán under their control.

Some observers of the movement have been concerned about evidence of growing communist or socialist philosophy infiltrating the groups. At the MEChA National Conference on Marcy 15 to 18, 2001, the official philosophy of the movement was adopted; it urged all Mechistas to work for the liberation of Aztlán. All Chicano and Chicana students were instructed to take it upon themselves to promote Chicanismo within their communities. An emphasis was placed on politicizing Raza consciousness and struggling for self-determination. Capitalistic America was depicted as a nation controlled by greed whose goal was to hold Latinos in a kind of serfdom.