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Friday, June 25, 2010

Ipalnemoani: That For What We Live For

Ipalnemoani: That For What We Live For

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
As we prepare to get arrested as a result of the passage of a new anti-ethnic studies law in Arizona, several attorneys explain to about 30-40 of us in Tucson’s state building the consequences of getting arrested. As such, the numbers are winnowed down to 15 due to legal reasons, parental authority, age, etc. Many of those making these decisions are middle and high school and college students.
All of us who remain on the 2nd floor have thoughts racing through our minds. As I think about why I will get arrested, all I can think of is the Nahuatl concept of Ipalnemoani: That for what we live for – or the Maya concept of Hunab Ku.
We can summons all the linguists and all the great philosophers of the world, but in the end, their translations will not suffice. It is meaning that I am looking for, not words. This is about who we are and about what makes us human. At this time, it boils down to one question: What in life is worth getting arrested for?
For those of us here, the right to our own narrative – the right to memory – is one of them.
The decision to get arrested is a collective one. These youngsters are courageous and determined to defend that which is theirs: a department (Ethnic/Mexican American Studies) that affirms who they are as full human beings – as peoples with a thousands-of-years culture, history and philosophy on this very continent.
Perhaps another 200 protestors on the first floor are also subject to arrest because they are also participating in a boisterous demonstration inside the state building. It is here where the state superintendant, Tom Horne – who spearheaded this law – has taken refuge after he failed to show up at Tucson Unified School District headquarters where perhaps 1,000 students surrounded that building.
Now in the heat of summer, that question – as to what triggers a decision to get arrested – is foremost on peoples’ minds, especially here in Arizona. It has come to that.
Several weeks before the racial profiling law (SB 1070) was signed, nine students and community members chained themselves to the state capitol and got arrested (The charges have since been dropped). After the 15 of us got arrested for criminal trespass, the week after that, five Dream students and community organizers staged a sit-in at Sen. John McCain’s office in Tucson. All subjected themselves to historic arrests – exposing themselves to deportation. Then a week later, a dozen members of the statewide O’odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective took over and occupied the Border Patrol Headquarters in Tucson ( Six were arrested for Disorderly Conduct and Criminal Trespass.
This flurry of arrests highlights and brings to the fore what is happening in this insane asylum called Arizona, including the forthcoming attempt to void the 14th Amendment, which guarantees birthright citizenship to all those born in this country. This is also happening amid the constant arrival of racial and political extremists to this state.
As Arizona gets more insane, we have arrived at a moral precipice. Soon, others will face the same question; beyond protesting, people will ask: what am I willing to get arrested for?
In other countries, and at other points in history, this has triggered a different question: What am I willing to fight and die for? Here, that question has been inverted: What am I willing to live for? That such a question is being contemplated tells us that many people here are not content with simply sending emails or blasting text messages to our senators, etc.
And thus, as the anti-Mexican/anti-Indigenous and anti-immigrant hate-and-fear drums continue to increase in volume, the Obama administration capitulates by continuing to further militarize the border. This Arpaioization of not simply the border, but the nation, continues to elicit an unprecedented response. Human rights activists nationwide have united to boycott the state, while more than 100,000 recently protested in Phoenix.
As July 29 fast approaches, the date when the racial profiling law will take effect, people in Arizona, but also nationwide, will face a life-changing decision (We will also face that decision on Jan 1, 2011, the date when the anti-ethnic studies law goes into effect). Will we commit to mass civil disobedience or will we lack the courage as happened when Americans sat idly by as their fellow Japanese American citizens were illegally and inhumanely marched off to camps during World War II?
This is when history calls upon all of us to make that momentous decision. This time around, hopefully, the right decision will be made.
Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the university of Arizona, can be reached at:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010



As a result of several recent draconian laws, Arizona's image has taken a drubbing internationally. And yet, Arizona is but the spear. In reality, its politics are not dramatically different from those of other states, or from Washington's. More than a dozen states are waiting in the wings with copycat legislation, and the Obama administration continues to view migration through the prisms of law enforcement and military might.

Fueled by hateful and cowardly politicians and the hate-radio universe, these new and emerging laws are undeniably anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant, but most of all, they are anti-indigenous. In effect, they are an extension of Manifest Destiny. Its modern expression is Manifest Insanity - an attempt to maintain, amid the "browning" of the nation, the myth of America as the pristine home God promised to English-speaking, white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

The new Arizona laws are part of a spasmodic reaction to the demographic shift that immigration sets in motion; they are an attempt to maintain a political and cultural dominance over indigenous peoples, who are seen as nonhumans from defeated nations. The laws seek to maintain the narrative of conquest, an archetype dictating that the deaths of some 5,000 primarily indigenous Mexicans and Central Americans in the Arizona/Sonora desert in the past dozen years mean little in this clash. It is the same narrative used to rationalize the recent killings of two Mexicans by US agents along the US/Mexico border.

For those who are attempting to uphold this dominance, the browning of America represents a time reversal - a cultural and political turnabout of the so-called triumph of Western civilization. This is what Arizona represents: a civilizational clash, and a clash of narratives over the myth of America itself - nothing less.

Rodolfo Acuña, author of "Occupied America," came to Arizona last week offering a stark reminder about this clash. His book - along with Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" - has been at the center of the anti-ethnic-studies firestorm that culminated when Gov. Jan Brewer signed HB 2281 last month. (She had signed SB 1070 - the racial profiling law - the previous month.)
The controversy surrounding Acuña's book has been fueled by an extreme Eurocentric ignorance. For several years, State Superintendent Tom Horne has been pushing an "Americanization" agenda, insisting that Arizona students be exposed only to "Greco-Roman" knowledge. Knowledge centered elsewhere, including the Mesoamerican, or Maize, knowledge that is indigenous to this continent, is generally considered subversive and un-American. This knowledge is at the philosophical heart of Mexican American, or Raza, studies. Arizona is not alone in this insanity; Texas education officials recently banned the inclusion of labor leader Dolores Huerta in the state's school curricula.

Horne has long claimed that Raza studies preach hate, result in segregation, and promote anti-Americanism and the violent overthrow of the US government. Truth is, he has had a vendetta against Raza studies since Dolores Huerta proclaimed at Tucson High in 2006 that Republicans "hate Latinos." Horne (who constantly denigrates Huerta as "Cesar Chavez's former girlfriend") and his allies have spent the past several years trying to prove her right.

As Acuña found out in Arizona, the mere act of embracing a different philosophical center constitutes a threat to those invested in the cultural and political domination that would negate inclusive worldviews in education. More than that, it threatens the national narrative of taming a wild, savage and empty continent and conquering, exterminating and civilizing "the Indians."

Occupied America upsets the carefully crafted myth of the United States as the land of freedom and democracy or Paradise on Earth.

Raza studies' critics in Arizona - including media professionals - are barely familiar with Acuña's book. (He matter-of-factly tells them to read his book before attacking him.) At best, they spar over its title and a few catch phrases (mistranslating "La Raza" to mean "The Race" as opposed to "The People") and attempt to denigrate an entire discipline on the basis of their ignorance. Yet, at the core of their argument, the critics are correct. Ethnic studies is indeed a threat to the mythical America where the genocide, land theft, slavery and dehumanization that are the foundation of this nation are denied, or are mere footnotes. (Unchallenged, this glossed-over view permits US citizens to view permanent war as a God-given birthright.) Such complete denial - accompanied by the complementary myth of an empty continent - renders the concept of occupied America completely unfathomable.

Raza studies' critics attempt to dehumanize Mexicans/Chicanos. In the critics' conjured narrative, Mexicans/Chicanos are neither legitimate Americans nor legitimate human beings, neither are they afforded the status of indigenous peoples. At best, they are mongrels, undeserving of full human rights. The survival of this narrative is dependent upon the process of deindigenization and dehumanization. Those of us that cannot be deported (it remains to be seen what's in store during next year's battle in Arizona over the 14th Amendment and birthright citizenship) are welcome here - as long as we participate in our own assimilation - or ethnic cleansing - and accept this nation's mythologized narrative.

That's the definition of Manifest Insanity.

Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at:

Tolteka has converted this column into hip hop. Go to:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Arizona: Rushing Toward the Wrong Side of History


By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Before the Dream students made their historic stance in Tucson, Arizona last week—to stage a sit-in, in Sen. John McCain’s office, and thereby subjecting themselves to deportation proceedings – this sun city had already been in the eye of the storm. The perfect storm.

And yet, they were not the only ones to take a powerful stance that week; several hundred Indigenous peoples from throughout the world rallied at the Tucson Immigration Department Headquarters, protesting Arizona’s new racial profiling law; it was followed by the dramatic takeover of a Border Patrol station in Tucson by more than a dozen members of the statewide O'Odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective. They were protesting the state’s draconian and nation’s anti-Indigenous immigration policies. Six were arrested (

That law confirmed that Arizona is governed by extremist politicians. On the day it passed in April, nine human rights activists chained themselves to the capitol building. The anti-ethnic studies law, which was signed in May – resulting in 15 arrests as a result of the takeover of the state building – proved that the state has returned to the Dark Ages as this law sets up a mechanism to censor books and curriculums (It was preceded by a siege of the Tucson Unified School District Headquarters by middle and high school students).

Two days before the racial profiling law passed, 800 military-clad federal agents swooped into South Tucson looking for human smugglers. This unprecedented action, along with the two laws had precipitated protests, walkouts, marches, community forums, boycotts, vigils and runs in both Tucson and Phoenix.

Now, as Dream students gathered in Tucson – something even bigger was about to happen. Dream students from throughout the country – students deemed to be without U.S. legal documents, in this country since they were children – had decided to intentionally turn themselves in so as to bring awareness regarding the approximately 65,000 Dream students who graduate annually and cannot continue their higher education. In the realm of civil disobedience, subjecting themselves to deportation was unfathomable.
But as they spoke of their proposed action, they stated that their historic action was to be taken because they could no longer wait for others to act for them; the leadership of their movement would hereafter be in their own hands. And if they did enter deportation hearings, they believed they might be able to remain in the country between 3-5 years – enough time to bring about passage of the Dream Act.
The Dream Act, in its original form, was first introduced in 2001. The logic of the act is that children are not responsible for the acts of their parents, etc… meaning, that to break a law, one must be conscious that one is breaking a law. Many of the Dream students were brought to this country as infants, thus, incapable of breaking any law. The Dream Act permits such students to continue on with their higher education.

The calculated gamble by the Dream Students has paid off (see: Since then, other dream students have stepped forward nationwide. Just but a few weeks ago, the true identity of Dream students was a closely guarded secret. Now, they are confronting Sheriff Arpaio himself (June 3) and are leading marches nationwide… including the massive march and rally in Phoenix last week (Filming from a fixed point – a 4-lane street – it took 1.5 hours to film the march. The media is notorious for underreporting numbers, but the travesty in this case is that the media made the number of counter-protestors -- a few hundred – appear to be comparable to the more than 100,000 marchers).
The dramatic developments these past two months in Arizona – along with an international boycott of Arizona – reveal that resistance has entered a new phase. And with the addition of Indigenous peoples sending the world a dramatic message – regarding who is legal on this continent – it is clear that indeed, Arizona is rushing toward legal Apartheid.

Despite more than a dozen copycat states, those who fear a brown nation have decided to make their stand in the Arizona desert. Next year, legislators will attempt to revoke the 14th Amendment in Arizona, which guarantees citizenship to all born in this country. The state’s undocumented [unelected] governor, Republican Jan Brewer, is one of those with this fear. Appealing to the nation’s anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant sentiment, she has established a nationwide fund to support her legal retrenchment into the Dark Ages.
Morally, Brewer -- akin to George Wallace of a generation ago -- is on the wrong side of history.
Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at: