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Monday, September 27, 2010


photo by Layla Marie Hernandez

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Part 1 of a II Part Column

The lines have been drawn. Or rather, the date has been set and the countdown has begun. If Arizona State Schools Superintendent Tom Horne has his way, after Dec 31, 2010, Tucson Unified School District’s highly successful Mexican American Studies K-12 department will cease to exist.

Despite Gov. Jan Brewer having signed HB 2281, the anti-Ethnic Studies measure – in May of this year – supporters have good reason to feel confident that on Jan 1, Raza Studies will be alive and well.

The measure bans schools from teaching hate, anti-Americanism and the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Horne, 2281’s “intellectual author,” claims that Raza Studies advocates these things, and promotes “ethnic solidarity” and results in racial segregation in schools.

The Draconian measure and Orwellian effort does not call for the outright elimination of Raza/Ethnic Studies. Instead, it calls for the withdrawing of 10% of district funds every month that a program is found to be out of compliance. For TUSD, that would amount to  $3 million per month, a sum it can ill-afford to lose.

The day after 2281 was signed and after Horne threatened to show up to TUSD headquarters to do a victory lap – hundreds upon hundreds of K-16 students and community activists laid siege to both TUSD headquarters and then later the state building, resulting in 15 arrests. During this siege, TUSD’s Board of Governors issued a May 14 statement from the acting superintendent. In its entirety, it reads:

“TUSD proudly supports our Ethnic Studies classes. We have no plans to eliminate or reduce course offerings. We believe these courses are relevant, engaging, meet state standards and are in full compliance with the law. Additionally, they are part our unitary status plan. We stand firmly behind our Ethnic Studies Department, staff members and students.”

The statements are a clear indication that if the program is ruled out of compliance, it will be the anti-thesis of local control and the epitome of foreign [state] intervention. His goal – as he has repeatedly stated – is to rule Raza Studies out of compliance and to eliminate it by the end of the year.

As a result, a historic lawsuit against Tom Horne is forthcoming. The consensus amongst Tucson’s Mexican American community is that come Jan. 3, Raza Studies will be fully operational – continuing to educate and inspire minds and continuing its successful mission of preparing its students to attend colleges and universities nationwide. This program is virtually an anti-dropout program (more than a 90% graduation rate) and more than that, it is now virtually a college student factory (upwards of 70%). But Horne doesn’t care about that. Instead, his primary concern is ensuring that only Greco-Roman knowledge – the purported basis for Western Civilization – is taught in Arizona schools.

Raza Studies grounds students in Critical Thinking, and in  Indigenous Pedagogies – on maiz-based or Maya-Nahua knowledge(s) that is thousands-of-years old and that originates on this very continent. Despite this, Horne and his legislative allies claim that Raza Studies is un-American. In court, Horne will have his hands full in defining these terms. Can things that originate in Greece and Rome be considered American, while knowledge that originates on the American continent be considered  un-American and not part of Western Civilization?

The measure makes a clumsy attempt to isolate Raza Studies; it allows for the teaching of the Holocaust and purportedly exempts both American Indian Studies classes [required by federal law] and African American Studies classes [that are open to everyone). These are false exemptions because all Ethnic Studies classes are open to everyone and there are no American Indian Ethnic Studies classes required by federal law.  Despite this, the measure appears to be a clear discriminatory effort to eliminate Raza Studies.

In the realm of definitions – will maiz-based knowledge also be ruled as not Indigenous or not “American Indian”?

The forthcoming lawsuit will be historic in nature. Think Monkey Scopes Trial or Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. What happens here in Arizona will set a legal precedent of not simply what can be taught in public schools – but also whether states have the right to restrict, censor, dictate, intimidate and overrule what  districts and educators can teach in local schools.

HB 2281 is the epitome of [cultural] mind control or forced assimilation. Ultimately, the struggle -- as depicted in the forthcoming Precious Knowledge documentary ( ) is about the inherent right – also enshrined in treaties and international laws – of children to learn about their own histories and cultures. At TUSD, it is about the right of all children to learn about these histories and cultures and thus the forthcoming lawsuit ( 

Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona and a member of the Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board, can be reached at:

·      A national mobilization in support of TUSD’s Raza Studies is currently underway and the primary focus of National Ethnic Studies Week. For more information, go to:

·      A National conference on hate, censorship & Forbidden Curriculums will take place at The University of Arizona Dec 2-4. For info: or: 

Column of the Americas
PO BOX 3812
Tucson, AZ 85722



You change my way of writing, you change my way of thinking. You change my way of thinking, you change who I am.

Saturday, September 4, 2010



This hip-hop rendition was created to support our struggle in Arizona. It will soon be on sale to help support the fund. Info forthcoming.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leaving Footprints: Running for Justice

2010 Run In Defense of Tucson's Raza Studies
Leaving Footprints; Running for Justice
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

"We move energy the way our ancestors have shown us - in a way that enhances our humanity and brings beauty to our physical world." 
Maria Vai Sevoi, Calpolli Teoxicalli

In Arizona, we know that the eyes of the world are upon us.

Perhaps this is why many of us hold vigils and forums, why we march, protest, rally, get arrested… and run.

In the past several years, the Sonora desert has become a super magnet for the forces of hate, bigotry, ignorance, false patriotism, censorship, demagoguery and especially, scapegoatery – or the art of blaming Mexicans or red/brown peoples for everything. So too has it become a magnet for those who struggle for peace, dignity, justice and human rights.

I am a newcomer to the desert and as such, I marvel at the amount of activism all around me, especially by youths. Actually, activism is not the right word for what I have been witnessing here for the past 3 years. Commitment is a better word. The level of commitment to social justice and for the right to a culturally relevant education has been affirming. What is daily affirmed is the belief that all human beings are created equal and all are entitled to full human rights, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, citizenship or migration status.

All this resistance has occurred as a result of a relentless campaign against the red-brown peoples of this state – whether they have been here for many thousands of years or if they just got here today. The racial profiling that everyone fears has always existed along the U.S.-Mexico border, so much so that labor leader Cesar Chavez used to refer to the migra or the U.S. Border Patrol as the “Gestapo of the Mexican people.”

That’s the reason for the relentless pushback against the state’s SB 1070 law. It seeks to federalize local police – giving them the “rights” that the migra has long exercised against the red-brown peoples they have always illegally and inhumanely profiled. In Tucson, the pushback has been against both SB 1070, and HB 2281, the effort to ban the teaching of ethnic studies.

What’s most impressive about the resistance is that it has been waged largely by K-16 students. That’s not to minimize the role of community organizers and community elders; quite the contrary. It is precisely this sector, led by groups such as Derechos Humanos, that has trained and essentially grown these young activists and organizers.

One group that rarely is recognized by the media – and the group likes it this way – is Calpolli Teoxicalli – a family of families that live Indigenous ways and who live by a sacred calendar. The Calpolli in Tucson or Tlamanalco as they refer to the Old Pueblo – has been present the past several years at virtually all the events and/or actions in regards to these assaults, albeit with a different role.

A passerby might see them as either simply those that lead the opening or closing prayers at events or those that provide the cultural expression (Aztec Dancing). But that would be to fundamentally misunderstand their role. While I am not a member of this Calpolli, I do take part in their runs – ceremonial runs and barrio runs. All the runs are spiritual and are not done in response to the actions of others, though they are indeed done with an awareness of all the negative forces – external and internal – that continually beset our communities.

We run for ourselves and those closest to us. We do the runs to help heal our communities – whether it is from diseases such as drugs and alcohol or gang and domestic violence – or from the diseases of hate and bigotry. A summer run last year included one from Tucson to Phoenix to defeat an attempt to eliminate Raza Studies statewide while another one was done as an effort to bring consciousness to our communities regarding the sky-high high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.  The barrio/ceremonial runs are connected to the Peace and Dignity Journeys that take place every four years from Alaska and Chile to Central America. They are part of an Indigenous prophecy that seeks to unite Pacha Mama – Abya Yalla or North and South America.

The early morning barrio runs have a powerful effect, especially upon onlookers when they see the ceremonial staffs we run with. Onlookers might think that this is how we protest in Tucson, but we run not for the media nor for or against politicians. As the youngsters say, we speak with our feet and our feet do leave huellas or footprints.

In a few months, there will be a very special barrio run, co-sponsored by the American Cancer Society, to bring about cancer awareness to our communities – part of a dream of one of our young leaders – Consuelo Aguilar – who passed away a year-and a half ago in the heat of battle at the age of 27. That run will mark the second anniversary of her death in February and we expect our entire community to be there. She too will be there. Presente!

There will be a number of runs prior to the one for Consuelo. All are important. If you would like to participate in them, in preparation for the February run, please contact Calpolli Teoxicalli at: or Regardless if you take part in the Barrio Runs, please consider fulfilling Consuelo’s dream this February.

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

Column of the Americas
PO BOX 3812
Tucson, AZ 85722