Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

National Chicano student conference held in Southwest

First Published: Unity, Vol. 3, No. 9, April 25-May 8, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Albuquerque, NM – “Creciendo unidos – Self-determination through unity” – this was the theme of the second National Chicano Student Conference held here April 17-20. The conference, held in the heart of the Chicano nation, was attended by more than 600 students and community activists from throughout the Southwest and other parts of the country.

The conference was the product of almost a year’s effort on the part of Chicano students from the University of New Mexico (UNM), New Mexico Highlands University, the University of Albuquerque, Western New Mexico University and Eastern New Mexico University.

Through a lot of hard work the conference organizers worked out a substantial program of workshops and speakers with the aim of addressing both student concerns and the overall concerns of the Chicano Movement.

The conference was organized in conjunction with the annual “Spring Fiesta” organized by the Los Estudiantes por la Cultura from UNM. The Fiesta included music, theater, arts, dancing and Chicano cuisine of different types. Conference organizers also worked together with students from California and Colorado, and did outreach throughout the U.S.

Liberation through unity

Liberation and unity – these two sentiments ran strongly throughout the conference. The desire for unity was reflected in the wide range of schools which travelled to New Mexico to attend the conference; in the steps taken to try to develop stronger Southwest-wide linkups among the students; and in the strong interest the students showed in issues such as the youth, the labor movement, technology and its effect on the Chicano people and police repression.

The profound sentiment for self-determination was expressed throughout the workshops, around issues from the land struggle to the status of Chicanos in higher education. The students saw that they need to both build their campus struggles and develop mutual support for all Chicano struggles in order to push forward the cause of Chicano liberation.

Resolutions from over a dozen workshops hit at the major issues facing Chicanos, including the demand for the return of Chicano lands and the development of local self-control as a step towards achieving self-determination in the Chicano nation. The concrete experiences shared by the students helped give guidance to the building of stronger Chicano student organizations to fight the elimination of Chicanos anywhere on campus – in reversing the sharp decline of Chicano students in college; ensuring the survival of Chicano studies, bi-lingual programs, financial aid and other programs; and in fighting for office space and funding for student organizations.

Also important for the building of Chicano student unity was a proposal for an inter-state liaison committee to maintain communications and jointly plan for next year’s national conference.

CWP wrecks conference

Unfortunately, the conference participants were not able to finalize these resolutions due to the wrecking activities of the Communist Workers Party (CWP). The CWP had come to the conference, not to help build the Chicano student movement, but to promote itself and split the movement. CWP members continually belittled and sneered at the conference participants’ national sentiments and demands, and gave lectures about “smashing the state” and their “vanguard” role. They also tried to draw students into a wild sectarian attack against the League of Revolutionary Struggle and the August 29th Chicano Moratorium Coalition.

CWP was only interested in trying to get the conference to endorse CWP campaigns. But the people did not vote for them.

On the final day, fewer than 125 students met to finalize the resolutions. Many had left to make the long drive home, but many were also frustrated and confused by CWP’s splitting actions.

At the final assembly, when CWP’s resolutions were consistently defeated, CWP launched a hysterical tirade and blocked the students from finishing the business of the conference. Once they realized they could not use the conference as their private promotional vehicle, they decided to destroy it.

CWP is going to learn a hard lesson: the Chicano student movement cannot be stopped by a few chauvinist wreckers. The movement will dust itself off, link arms in unity, and walk right over CWP and anyone else who tries to stand in the way of the struggle for Chicano self-determination.