Pushing Change

Celebrating 50 years of making a home, and fighting for change

Pushing Change
The Chicano Club founders, pictured here, took SCU President Thomas Terry, S.J., on a tour of East San Jose—though Fr. Terry declined an offer to cruise in a low rider./Chelsea Alan ’18

Esau Herrera ’72, J.D. ’76 and Antonio “Tony” Estremera ’72, remember their first year at SCU as “Culture shock. Culture shock for all of us,” Herrera says.

A sea of mostly white faces, SCU didn’t reflect the two Chicano men in background, skin tone, or heritage.

Aided by their East San Jose community and Black Student Union classmates, Herrera and Estremera held sit-ins in the Dean of Student’s office to protest racism, including a Santa Clara newspaper article calling them “functionally illiterate.” They founded the Chicano Club and demanded the creation of an ethnic studies department.

The department and club, now MECh-A El Frente, still exist. “We wanted an ethnic studies department, so people understood our history, why we were here,” says Estremera.

It is a way to combat racism based on miseducation and unwitting ignorance. Both men are thankful then-president Fr. Thomas Terry listened.

“SCU responded. Treated us with respect,” they say. “Way back then, it was as new to them as it was us. But they were saying, ‘Let’s talk.’”

Despite racism, or maybe because of it, El Frente persevered. This year, MECh-A El Frente celebrated its 50th anniversary. Over that time, it remains a second home for Latinx students.

As a first-year student, Andrea Peña ’20 found SCU’s campus “very isolating for students of color, but MECh-A is a place where I found partnership and family.”

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