Raza Hosts Intercollegiate Chicano Conference

Students from 18 colleges converged on Harvard this weekend to participate in the East Coast Chicano Students Forum (ECCSF) fall conference.

The 230 guests stayed with members and friends of Raza, the undergraduate Mexican-American/Chicano organization which sponsored the two-day conference. The Harvard Foundation also assisted the students in obtaining rooms and food for weekend.

While in Cambridge conference participants had the option to participate in a variety of workshops which fit under the theme of "We're here, now what?"

Topics included "Selling Out", a discussion of whether or not Chicanos have an obligation to identify themselves as such; a student-led discussion on machismo and the distinctions between Chicanas and Chicanos; "Religion and Cultural Catholicism", a discussion of whether or not Catholicism affected the attitudes and dispostions of Chicano student groups; and "Politicalismo" which questioned the responsibilities of the Chicano elite.

During the Politicalismo debate, facilitator Marti Garza, organizing director for the Center for Campus Organizing, asked the students how they have formed successful campus groups and support networks for Chicano students.


The students responded that groups often have difficulty distinguishing the social from the political roles of organizations. One said that students who have succeeded often think they do not have to continue to advocate Chicano interests.

"People don't know the history of their own organization," said another participant. He emphasized that the political interests which most Chicano groups originally addressed still exist.

The students encouraged each others' efforts to "make a decision" about Chicano activism.

"It's O.K. to go out with a plan," one student said.

Several students complained that upon reaching college, many students focus exclusively on their personal success. Garza emphasized the importance of recognizing the strength of a community rather than individual voice.

A. Lizbeth Alatorre '99, the director of the conference, said that because many Chicano students come from the West Coast, which has a large. Chicano community than in the East, the community created by ECCSF plays an important role in the students lives.

"People are here because they share a common ethnic background," Alatorre said. "Along with that comes some cultural ties and political stands."

"[The conference] is something that I've been looking forward to for a long time," said Allegra Eroy-Reveles, a first-year at Amherst College. She added that she has met people she "can really relate to."

Moises Cascante, a Brown first-year, who is a Dominican, said that the debates and concert organizers have used a broad race definition for the conference, which he feels addressed all Latino concerns.

"I feel embraced in this Chicano community...I'm here supporting my Chicano friends," Cascante said.

In addition to the discussions the conference provides opportunities for the participants to socialize.

On Saturday night the participants attended a semi-formal dinner and performance by the Ballet Folklorico de Aztlan.

"At dinner we will have authentic Mexican food, something which is hard to find," Alatorre said.

About 20 members of Raza also participated in the weekend's activities. Raza members often attend the four ECCSF conferences held each year