M.E.Ch.A showcases Hispanic heritage

Hispanic Heritage Month officially kicked off nationwide on September 15 and will last until October 15. Multicultural Student Services (MSS) at Washington State University is celebrating through a variety of different activities.

Erim Gomez, a Ph.D. student in environmental studies, serves as an advisor to Movimiento Estudiantil Chicono/a de Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A.), a club that is part of MSS.

M.E.Ch.A. is an organization that serves marginalized Latino, Mexicano and Chicano students at WSU and has been present on campus since 1969.

Gomez has researched WSU archives and conversed with faculty and students, gathering history of WSU’S Chicanos and Latinos. Gomez helped kick off the festivities on Tuesday by showing a PowerPoint presentation of his findings to students and faculty.

According to the Gomez’s research, the first Latino student was documented by the Chinook Yearbook and came to WSU in 1911.

Gomez said that many of the first Latinos and Chicanos came to WSU when farm hands came to the university to complete the High School Equivalency Program (HEP). Many of the students who completed the high school program stayed and continued their education as undergraduate students.

Maria de Jesus Dixon, a retention counselor for MSS, says that this year’s freshman statistics revealed that of the 4,000 new freshmen, 700-800 are Latinos, many of whom are also first generation students.

Retention counselors work one-on-one with students, and provide academic advising and some teaching. All of this assistance is offered with the ultimate goal of graduation from WSU.

“In a perfect world, people would strive daily to embrace cultural awareness,” Dixon said. “In the reality that we live in we have to provide the framework for it to occur.”

Jose Manuel Acevedo, director of MSS, has been working for the university for 25 years.

In 1991, Acevedo had been working at the center for around a year and two percent of the student body had a Hispanic background. By 2014, that number had risen to 30 percent. But to him, the biggest change is the rise in involvement from these students.

“(MSS) provides opportunity and a space that celebrates and understands the Chicano culture for the benefit of those students specifically, but also for the benefit of any student who wants to engage and build on his cultural competency,” he said.

Throughout the month, WSU will be holding numerous events in celebration of Hispanic culture including poetry readings and showings of films. A full calendar of events can be found on M.E.Ch.A’s website.

These events are supported by MSS, whose offices are located on the fourth floor of the Compton Union Building.