M.E.Ch.A marches through Chico on Cesar Chavez Day


Martin Chang

Marchers marching to honor Cesar Chavez and others begin their march on campus on March 31.

Students took to Chico streets Saturday, chanting to both celebrate the life of César Chávez and remind their fellow students that cultural appropriation is not okay.

“When I say viva, you say Chávez!”

Marchers gathered in Trinity Commons at 2 p.m. and were led by Chico State’s M.E.Ch.A group, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan, a club committed to advancing the civil and human rights of Chicanx students on campus. M.E.Ch.A participants marched through Downtown Chico to cap off a week-long campus celebration of the life and remembrance of the struggles of César Chávez.

Josh Cozine
Jessica Godinez and Eric Ureña, co-presidents of M.E.Ch.A. helped organize and coordinate an “Art for Chavez” event last Wednesday to prepare signs for the march.

“This day is something we have to respect,” said Eric Ureña, co-president of M.E.Ch.A Wednesday night during “Art for Chávez.” That night, the group hosted this event to create posters and art for the Saturday march.

Josh Cozine
Chico State students prepare artwork Wednesday for the Cesar Chavez Day march Saturday.

“Chávez is a man to honor. He fought for civil rights, got water for workers and bathroom breaks,” Ureña said.

“We’re a culture, not a costume!”

As the march progressed down Ivy Street, an area where many fraternities and sororities reside, the group began a chant about cultural appropriation.

“We heard there’s a big frat party on Hazel, so we’re changing our route to incorporate it,” said Jessica Godinez, the other co-president of M.E.Ch.A.

Martin Chang
Adela Gutierrez-Diaz (left) and Isaac Morales Vazquez (right) chant on the front lines of the march Saturday.

Godinez and Ureña stressed that the group is not at odds with Greek life culture. They’re more concerned about partiers who praise Chávez’s name for getting the school day off while wearing sombreros and drinking tequila sunrises or margaritas all day.

Both co-presidents believe that celebrating the holiday without knowing why or showing why it’s important crosses into latinx cultural appropriation.

“We’re not telling people not to party… We’re all adults we can do what we want,” Godinez said. “Just don’t mention Chávez in your event (and don’t wear a sombrero).”

Martin Chang
A group of marchers react to drivers honking in support from during the Cesar Chavez march on March 31.

As the group crossed Broadway Street and entered the City Plaza, marchers started a chant that dates back to Chávez’s time working with the United Farm Workers of America when his struggle for workers’ rights began.

“Sí se puede!”

Translating directly to “Yes, it can be done,” M.E.Ch.A and many other latinx groups still use the chant that originated from a 25-day fast performed by Chávez and others in the labor rights movement. The chant reminds them of how far they’ve come, and that when it comes to making future progress, “it can be done.”

Martin Chang
Diana Castellanos shares her feelings on Cesar Chavez Day celebrations with participants in the City Plaza Saturday.

After a break for water, those still at the plaza formed a circle to discuss the importance and their appreciation of the event. Some also shared their continued struggles before heading back to campus capping off the week of César Chávez appreciation.

Josh Cozine can be reached at [email protected] or @joshcozine on Twitter.