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Tuesday, April 25, 2017


LIBERATION OR SOCIAL JUSTICE: Was the early Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s involved with social justice issues? That is what one of my students excitedly wanted to know, after returning from a national conference in which the primary theme was social justice.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


I have long wanted to have this debate... so on my part, here is the opening salvo. Comments are welcome:

In Chicano Manifesto (1971), Armando Rendon made the radical claim that the United States and Mexico were technically still in a state of war (1846-1848) because the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was violated prior to even its signing, and that therefore, a state of war continues to this day.

Rendon’s claim was based on war having been waged against Mexico; half of its territories were illegally seized via war or threat of war during the 1830s through the 1850s; and several of the articles (Article VIII and XI) from the treaty were altered and one (Article X) was outright deleted​. These articles had to do with land rights and the human rights of the peoples that remained in the former Mexican territories.

Here, I am not agreeing or disagreeing, but actually positing something even more radical: that people of Mexican descent (including Chicanos/as) that live in this country, live in a permanent state of dehumanization and thus also part of a permanent state of insurrection that has been ongoing since the days of Columbus, Cortez and Pizarro and other “conquistadors,” one that never ended, and technically, can never end.
For rest of the column,please go to:

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Do All Lives Matter? inShare Email

by Roberto Rodriguez
April 10, 2017

The question at the Cesar Chavez lecture at a packed auditorium at Sierra College was, do all lives matter?
It was a great forum and a great dialogue, but in a sense, it was the wrong question. The reason is that each time the answer will invariably mischaracterize, misdirect, or at best, deflect. In case there is any doubt regarding this answer, one only need examine Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent ordering of a review of dozens of existing consent decrees between the Justice Department and police departments nationwide. For the rest of column, go to:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Beware of Poisoned Orange Tree

by Roberto Rodriguez

The White House appears to be an ethics-free-zone. And it appears to be intentional.

The reason there are few ethical guidelines designed specifically for presidents is because it has always been assumed that the person at the helm of the most powerful nation on Earth would have little incentive to abuse the office of the presidency of the United States of America, precisely because he would be the most powerful person in the world. For rest of column, go to:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Re-indigenization is Underway

by Roberto Rodriguez

Fleshing the Spirit: Spirituality and Activism in Chicana, Latina and Indigenous Women’s Lives is a book that I regularly teach. As I was going through my students’ papers this past week, I came to the realization that something radical is happening within these communities alluded to in this book. It is a process referred to as re-indigenization.

This is a huge development, not simply in the history of this country, but on this continent. I venture to say that this process has been going on for at least a generation, though with the rise of this administration, this process appears to be accelerating now even faster. In addition, it is greatly accelerating precisely because of the hostility of the current administration, which actually rises to the level of a full-scale immigration war against these communities.

For the rest of the column, go to:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


by Roberto Rodriguez

It appears that an all-points bulletin has been issued in search of this nation’s soul. It is no secret that the current administration’s policies, including its budget priorities, have triggered a profound questioning of this nation’s beliefs and ethos.
In effect, it is war, over people.
This is not metaphorical, but actual choices being made by the current administration: the Pentagon, Wall Street and the Border Wall versus Meals on Wheels and Sesame Street. Translation: Bombs, prisons and profit versus the needs of human beings, seniors, children, and education.
And yet, it is not so much these anti-human policies and choices, but the very existence of this administration that has caused people to profoundly question everything regarding the roots and foundation of this nation, including what it means to be an American.
For rest of column. please read (and share)

Thursday, March 16, 2017



The Smiling Brown Play/presentation/performance was historic. It was nothing short of amazing. Below is the schedule for March 12. I can say it was intense. The good news is that it was taped. This project is akin to the Vagina monologues. The most important aspect of Smiling Brown is the dialogue. From the discussion held at the end, it was decided that we may do it again for 5 de Mayo in Tucson, but also in Phoenix in April and possibly in San Antonio before the actual premiere in Los Angeles. It will also make for great curriculum. With the footage from Jason Aragon of Pan Left, we will produce, perhaps a mini-documentary and perhaps a 10-12 minute version that can be used in schools and other educational settings. The topic of color and light-skin preference is very powerful and in many cases is taboo. The project is ongoing. Feel free to send in writings/poems, recordings or videotaped testimonios. March 12 at the Tucson Festival of books barely scratched the surface. But also, that is a reminder; Smiling Brown will also be a book. Send to: More details later. At the moment, a huge thank you to all participated in the Tucson preview and all those who have sent in testimonios to different parts of the country. In the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2018, there will be a Smiling Brown tour. The hopes are for the premier in the Spring of 2018 in Los Angeles. Will keep everyone posted re this.


Light skin preference and the denial of Indigeneity.
by Roberto Rodriguez.

What this project/book/play examines is light-skin preference in the Mexican, Central American and Andean communities of this nation, particularly in relationship to indigeneity and denial of indigeneity. Perhaps counter-intuitively, this is a taboo topic in these communities. The reason for that is because the play primarily examines the internal dimension to this phenomenon; i.e. how it plays out within family/relatives/friends. The external of course manifests as racial profiling in all of this society's institutions. Part of what the play chooses to examine are the earliest memories when children become conscious of their color and that there is meaning attached to their color, and of course, most of these memories are negative.


Somos Mas Americanos – Tigres del Norte

Dulce Juarez (tape)

Why am I so Brown? By Trinidad Sanchez

SMILING BROWN 2:30-4:30pm

Opening Poem: Susana Sandoval 7 min (live)

Susana is a poet, human rights and Indigenous rights activist. She recently spent 3 months at Standing Rock.

Sarah Gonzalez MC
Sarah Gonzales is an artist, community organizer and educator living in Tucson.

Roberto Rodriguez Dr. Cintli: Genesis of the Smiling Brown Project:
Associate Professor in Mexican American Studies at the UA, founder of the Smiling Brown Project and a life-long writer. Currently writes for Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
Mictlani Classroom powerpoint re color preference.
As a critical educator my objective has been to interrogate colonization through a decolonizing curricular and pedagogical focus in a K-5 classroom setting; the most decolonizing experience that I’ve provided my students is the opportunity to love their humanity, contrary to the dehumanizing goal of colonization. This self love objective is rooted in the study of this ancient energy of Tezcatlipoca as experienced by my students’ love for the color of their skin, expressed through art and poetry. 

The Vai Se Voi family: Presentation on raising their family right (and importance of Indigeneity to family/community).
Chanequeh Vai Sevoi, Tetaviecti, Cajeme, Sewailo, Gigi Naamu, Tuituli, Marisella Kurues, Chucho, and Maria. Calpollequeh of Teoxicalli Pueblo Tlamanalco. Maria and Chucho are the proud parents of 6 beautiful children, instilling self-love and self-worth through cultura.

Anabel Aguayo: Morena Color de Llanta:
Anabel is a social worker and a graduate of the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.

Alexandria Partida; live testimonio
Alexandria is a University of Arizona graduate and an aspiring doctora.

Monica Contreras - live testimonio
Monica Contreras is a recent graduate from the University of Arizona's Mexican American Studies program. She is a former MEChista, proud Chicana and was born in Arizona.

*Diana Diaz - videotaped testimonio
Diana Díaz was born in Fresno, CA to Mexican and Salvadoran migrants. She graduated from the University of Arizona with my Bachelor's in Art with an emphasis in Linguistics.

Eva Alcalde & Mictlan Alcalde testimonies
Eva (mother) and Mictlan (son) were both born in Tucson. Mictlan is aspiring to be a warrior artist, and his mother is a visual artist. Eva has received her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from Arizona State University School of Social Work. Mictlan attends Roskruge Middle School and is in the 6th grade.
Alfred Chavez taped testimonio
Alfred, a graduate of Northern Arizona University was born and went to school in Tucson. He has dedicated his testimonio to his Nana Nellie.

Timo Padilla poem
Timoteio is a public health educator, poet and emcee working within the anti-violence movement. Timoteio organizes, educates and works to end violence against women, and build solidarity with LGBTQ identified folks, while considering intersections of privilege and power as they relate to masculinity. Timoteio pursues this work through a decolonizing framework, dismantling systems of oppression, while building towards indigenous resilience. 

Ruben Botello: Anglolocation:
Ruben is retired and works at Americas and Caribbean Islands Union & American Homeless Society  

Susana Sandoval & Karizma Blackburn: testimonios
From Chicago, Susana was our opening poet. Her daughter: Karizma Blackburn is a writer, vocalist, activist who has traveled to Kenya and Standing Rock, North Dakota to fight for water rights. 

Juvenal Caporale:
Juvenal is a PhD candidate in the Mexican American Studies Department at the University of Arizona. His research interests include street gangs, criminalization, and youth identity and resiliency.

Tara Truddell: poetry and performance of her works and the works of her father, the late John Truddell. 

Armando Bernal:
Armando, born in Tucson, is a long-time Tucson educator and a retired librarian.  

Leilani Clark poem
Leilani is a Tucson native, long time immigration, human and Indigenous rights activist.She currently lives in Las Vegas.

DIALOGUE WITH AUDIENCE: Moderated by Sarah Gonzalez

Piel Canela
By Anna NietoGomez

“I grew up believe everyone’s skin color was some color brown.  Perhaps that is because I am brown, and people in my family were either lighter or darker than I. It’s rather funny that of those who are some color of brown, I do not know who is darker or lighter.  I don’t even describe what color of brown I am.  I think it is because it changes from season to season, and it seems to be a different color now that I am older.  But when I see a picture of myself it is a smiling brown, but not the color of a brown crayon… “

For an article on this topic, please go to Nakum Journal:…/smiling-brown-gente-de-bron…

Thanks to all who have assisted in this process, including everyone presenting on March 12, and also: Evelina Fernandez, Jose L. Valenzuela, Andrea Romero, Cathy Gastelum, Marc Pinate, Milta Ortiz, Jose Garcia, Anna Ochoa O’Leary, Ada Wilkinson-Lee, Kyle Peterson, Anahi Herrera, Elizabeth Soltero, Jason Aragon and Brillana Barraza.

Because it is an ongoing project, we are still looking for stories, written, recorded or videotaped: Inquire or send to:

You can support this project with a tax-deductible donation to the University of Arizona Foundation.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Something radical is happening in this country, and whatever is happening here, is actually also affecting the rest of the world. That’s the macro view. Whatever is happening is also happening at a personal level. Fear is taking hold and gripping entire communities.

For the rest of the column, go to:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Time for Brown Berets to be Seen in Court?

The Brown Berets have a storied history in this country, somewhat akin to the Black Panthers. But for this story, what concerns us is their recent history in Tucson, Arizona. Two weeks ago, two members were assaulted and arrested, charged with aggravated assault against police officers, while part of a protest against the Trump administration’s immigration policies. And it was not the first time they had been singled out, assaulted and arrested. For the rest of the column, please go to and share: Time for Brown Berets to be Seen in Court?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Aztecas del Norte: We can not be illegal on our own continent

“In the academy, [American Indian scholar] Jack Forbes created a path to bring Chicanas/os and others “home.” By this, I mean that Forbes provided historical knowledge about understanding that our legacies have always been deeply rooted in this hemisphere.” — Melissa Moreno, professor, Woodland Community College
Scholars in Chicano studies and related disciplines, since the 1960s, have long debated the idea of when Mexican Americans as a people(s) came to be. This is something that the discipline has grappled with since its creation in the late 1960s. Yet, it is a debate that has been rekindled both by the extreme anti-Mexican climate in this country, and also by the work of a pre-eminent American Indian scholar from a generation ago, who posited a seemingly controversial proposition: that these peoples, rather than foreigners, in fact are native or indigenous to these lands. For the rest of the column, go to:

Light skin preference

Lately I have been asking myself how anyone can do work during this extraordinary and dizzying time we are living in? And I am thinking in the philosophical realm as opposed to logistically.
And yes, I actually can work. I’m just thinking that it is a very distracting time for most anybody attending or working at a university. I say this because I’m in the midst of some incredible research — on color and color consciousness — and yet, it is difficult to ignore the unprecedented doings of this nation’s new president and his administration.
And yet I stop to think that whether the new president is impeached or not, the need to research what I am researching — light-skin preference — will remain. What I examine is light-skin preference in the Mexican, Central American and Andean communities of this nation, particularly in relationship to indigeneity and denial of indigeneity. Perhaps counter-intuitively, this is a taboo topic in these communities. The reason for that is because I primarily examine the internal dimension to this phenomenon; i.e. how it plays out within family/relatives/friends. The external, of course, manifests as racial profiling. Part of what I choose to examine is the earliest memories when children become conscious of their color and that there is meaning attached to their color, and yes, most of these memories are negative. For rest of column, go to:

The Indigenous and Black Roots of Mexico

by Roberto Rodriguez

A generation ago, while living in Mexico, I came upon the works of Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran regarding the African presence in Mexico, managing to interview him, shortly before he passed away. While Mexico is a nation with deep Indigenous roots, his work from the 1940s revealed a part of Mexico that had been previously unfamiliar to its school children and to the national narrative; its rich multi-racial history.
This is especially true when we examine the relationship in this country between Black and Brown peoples, who are often, not taught their shared histories, or even their own histories. One part of that history also includes Mexico, which had abolished slavery in 1829, providing refuge to Blacks during the time of U.S. slavery. It also includes the history of palenques or maroons — free territories of runaway slaves, such as the one established by Gaspar Yanga in 1529, in the mountains of Veracruz, considered Mexico’s first free (Black) city. In the United States, it also includes both peoples fighting against lynchings during the 19th and 20th centuries and Blacks being at the forefront of the desegregation and anti-discrimination struggles, with all people of color benefiting, including Mexicans, who waged their own struggles. For rest of column, go to:

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


When I teach the history of Mexican people at the University of Arizona, going back to the era of Spanish colonialism in the Americas, I teach two concepts that seem to be applicable to the United States of America today. One of them is called “primary process” and the other “principio...” For the rest of the column, go to:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Como hacer un Dios... Or the Making of a God.

By Roberto Rodriguez

Como hacer un Dios... Or the Making of a God.

That is where we find ourselves today, on a divine path to the White House. While this may sound hyperbolic; it is not. Somewhat metaphorical perhaps, but an exaggeration it is not. This is much more ominous than simply giving a con artist, with a juvenile delinquent mentality, the keys to the White House.

The nation is on the verge of installing its next president, not simply a mentally unstable and narcissistic charlatan – who is not simply a failed and vindictive businessman, with lots of unresolved conflicts of interests – but who in his own mind, is a God-in-waiting. Perhaps the only real question is what kind of God?

An ethically-challenged God of money, greed, fraud, debt and Other Peoples’ Property and Other Peoples’ Money?

A God of obfuscation, smoke and mirrors, mis-education and mis-Information?

A racial supremacist, xenophobic, misogynist, materialistic, megalomaniac and vainglorious God?

A tyrannical, all-knowing, all-seeing and omnipotent God?

An arrogant God that humiliates and demands and rewards 100% loyalty and delights in never-ending exaltation?

A pompous, deceiving, pathologically lying, jealous, judgmental, vengeful, punishing and wrathful God?

A petty, discriminating, angry, hateful, bullying and violent God?

A fear-mongering, God of war, conquest, ethnic cleansing, profit, exploitation, subjugation and domination?

Oddly, these qualities seem very familiar, and yet, he himself has no actual God-like qualities that would make even his own admirers think of him as such, unless we indeed are talking about a god of evil.

To be remembered is that his DNA requires that he be constantly praised in public. Without doubt, he is a mentally deranged man who craves adulation and who would not be satisfied with simply being a strongman president. Even dictator, King, Pharaoh or Emperor would not suffice for his delusional designs.

While some people think he is a Godless dyed-in-the-wool materialist, the truth is, he actually believes in God… when it serves his purpose and wallet. Professing his mediocre book as second only to the Bible, as the greatest book ever, that was blasphemy, though really but show, but also very telling of his delusional self-aggrandizement. Remember, he knows not even one Bible verse, except maybe the one about 2 Corinthians. Yet, he believes in destiny, his own, and that of the unfinished business of Manifest Destiny… of taking all the land from the savages, Providence really. Heaven on Earth. He is surrounded by religious doomsday fanatics that have encouraged him to believe that he alone will bring it about, and thus, he gets to enrich himself, while they get their doomsday. Oh… and his cosmovision, he sees savages everywhere, from Standing Rock to the U.S./Mexico border… that’s why he has lent his support for the pipeline and why he has called for the building of the Wall… and for the uncivilized nation to the south to pay for his wall.

There is something about walls and towers that give us a clue about his God-complex. He doesn’t believe that he is doing God’s bidding, but that he himself is an infallible God. A Supreme God. Simply being the ruler of one nation is not enough. Even his designs for his own Mexican wall would have to eventually come down in favor of towers across the globe. Tall ones, huge ones, located everywhere; all bearing his name and perhaps even his likeness too. Towers and walls equal power and strength, and yet, even using the presidency to create the largest corporation in the world would not suffice.

That he received some 3 million votes less than his opponent, which reportedly gets under his skin, means he will never have what is minimally required to run a country: the ability to say that the American people chose him, and legitimation. Though that is not what he seeks. Arguably, what he seeks is legitimation as Lord.

To simply see him as another money-grubbing, war-mongering Dick Cheney is to not understand that he seeks more than money, power and domination. He wants adulation from his subjects, and more than anything, he wants his “enemies that he defeated” to bow down and effusively praise him, always.

We may never get to see his wall – as he envisions it – go up, despite the fact that he sees it as his consummate Tower. But actual towers, yes. He needs to see more of them across the globe with his name in bright lights and will probably continue to make such deals, unless Congress checks him. Also, unless Congress checks him, perhaps we will soon be seeing oversized portraits of him everywhere, perhaps even huge statutes of him. And temples? Those indeed are his towers. What is missing is a name for this new God.

For him, God is money and money is God, and thus, perhaps from that equation his name will arise (MOOLAH?). Getting Congress to put him on Mt. Rushmore or his face on a $100 bill; probably a good bet, though not sufficient for this man with an oversized and overinflated ego.

Anyone wanting to oppose him simply as a potential ruthless and self-enriching dictator will miss the entire point, and thus will be ineffective. More than control, power and money, he wants to be worshipped. Our recent election shows us that he indeed has many worshippers, though not quite enough to his liking.

Someone please give him a name: The Swamp God works for me.

Rodriguez is an associate professor at the University of Arizona and can be reached at: