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Monday, October 31, 2011

Arizona's Experiment in Democracy Failing... Badly

Column of the Americas

Arizona's Experiment in Democracy Failing... Badly

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

The experiment in Democracy seems to be failing badly in Arizona. Here, government, the state legislature, law enforcement, the educational system, the courts and the media are a testament to this colossal failure. Here, rampant hate and bigotry starts at the top and here, it is government by [ugly] mob rule.

A court proceeding earlier this month in Phoenix – with a decision expected any day now – attests to this experiment gone awry; the court hearing was as absurd as the daily Kangaroo trials in Tucson known as Operation Streamline (70 migrants are charged, tried, convicted and sentenced in one hour). This Phoenix proceeding was part of an appeals process, being held to determine whether Tucson’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) Department is out of compliance with HB 2281, the state’s anti Ethnic Studies or mind control measure. The program graduates nearly 100% of its students and sends over 70% percent of them to college. Yet, these phenomenal accomplishments are of little consequence for those trying to eliminate it.

This last hearing featured a formidable sounding state witness, Dr. Sandra Stotsky. She testified that multiculturalism is harmful to students. Upon review of MAS curriculum materials, she testified that she saw no evidence that MAS students are being reminded of the virtues of being American citizens (her specialty is teaching the virtues of democracy to students in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe). Her very presence, given her expertise, gave off a disturbing message. She made the further assessment that MAS students were being taught to resent whites [HB 2281 bans classes that teach resentment, create ethnic solidarity and that promote segregation).

Her testimony sounded very damaging to the MAS cause… until she was cross-examined. She readily acknowledged that she was not an expert in Ethnic Studies, Mexican American Studies or Critical Race Theory. She further revealed that she had never set foot in an MAS classroom nor had she ever spoken with an MAS teacher or student, nor read MAS books, though she claimed to be familiar with some of them.

Upon making these acknowledgements, the erudite-sounding scholar and the state’s star witness was thanked and asked to step down.

At the previous hearing, the director of MAS-TUSD, Sean Arce, was forced to defend the MAS curriculum in a manner comparable to the 1950s McCarthy hearings. [Indigenous] knowledge itself was on trial. The proceedings were actually closer to an Inquisition; they were about what can be taught inside of Arizona’s K-12 classrooms. Books, authors and even classroom posters (“Who’s the Illegal Alien, Pilgrim”) were on trial.

Glaringly absent was any mention of the independent Cambium Study, which was commissioned by State Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal. It found MAS-TUSD to be in compliance with HB 2281. Despite this, Huppenthal rejected the findings and declared MAS to be out of compliance. This is what triggered the appeals hearings. Inexplicably, neither the Cambium authors, nor Huppenthal, were called to the stand.

TUSD superintendent, John Pedicone, however was. He testified that there were things that bothered him about the curriculum, but admitted that he saw nothing illegal. Eerily, no one was there to ask him why he ordered the May 3rd school board meeting militarized, at which time the neighborhood and TUSD headquarters were occupied by riot officers, students and elders were arrested inside the meeting (some were physically thrown out of the building) and youths outside were beaten.

The hearings revealed that beyond Tucson’s MAS program, it is the discipline, and by extension, a people and their right to history, culture and memory that have [again] been put on trial. Also revealed is that MAS stands accused of being outside of civilization and specifically, outside of Western Civilization, in effect, that its knowledge-base does not concur with the U.S. Master Narrative of history.

Actually, that is not in dispute; MAS’s philosophical foundation is in fact derived from the ancient maiz-based cultures of Abya Yalla or Cemanahuac [Americas], as opposed to Greco-Roman culture. This begs the question: since when is having a different cultural, historical and intellectual tradition, grounds for an intellectual execution?

While the decision is expected in mid-November, it is actually Huppenthal, who campaigned to “Stop La Raza,” that will render the final verdict. If he rules against TUSD, look for MAS to be openly taught in front of the capitol and other state buildings. The suggestion that the MAS curriculum be remanded to the home is an idea that is so 500 years ago.

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

Column of the Americas
PO BOX 3812
Tucson, AZ 85722



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Open Letter from Tucson: Arizona is burning

Arizona is bleeding - Arizona is under full-scale assault

In this God-forsaken state, Ethnic Cleansing (SB 1070 and related measures) is the order of the day. Cultural genocide (HB 2281) is also under way. For an update on what has been occurring here lately, go to:

This letter, in particular is about a very special community in Tucson: Calpolli Teoxicalli.

They have been at every protest, at every march, rally and every vigil over the past several years. They have been there when our community has been arrested and assaulted. More than participate and more than being present, they have gone beyond responding, as that is but one small part of their work.

The Calpolli, while relatively young, has taken the responsibility of providing the cultural and traditional foundation for this community. Most people don’t know this, but it is students who have led the movement to defend Mexican American Studies since 2006. And it is the students who have time and again, turned to the Calpolli. A large part of the effort has involved ceremonial running to strengthen our community in struggle.

In June 2009, when all seemed lost, students and our community turned to Calpolli Texicalli to lead us in a run from Tucson to Phoenix in 115-degree heat. That run was for ourselves, to give us internal strength. That run resulted both in victory (the bill was dropped that same day that we arrived to the capitol), but more importantly, it is when we began to understand our own [spiritual] power.

Ever since then, the barrio runs have continued in support not just of Mexican American Studies or Indigenous Studies, but also in support of the overall health of the community. We have had runs to promote health (combating obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer… including also against domestic violence).

In the process of all this, two vans have been used for this work. One van, has been used at every run without ever compensating the driver for gas or use (or broken windshields). The other vehicle has involved the family vehicle(s) of Chucho Ruiz and Maria Molina. Their van recently broke down.

This letter is to see if our larger community can help the Calpolli (our local community has been bled dry by all our battles). We know that others might instead want to donate to Save Ethnic Studies, and people should and are welcome to do so, but it is important that the Calpolli also be supported as they carry out invaluable work in this community (I am not a member of the Calpolli, but I do run with them). Please consider supporting the Calpolli.

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Prof. University of Arizona

If you would like to assist you can make a donation through one of the following:
1. Donate Using PayPal

If link not active, copy and paste:

2. Get your car washed on Saturday, November 5th starting at 9am at Pepboys on 6th Ave and 23rd St Tucson

3. Or contact Norma Gonzalez-

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I am writing to inform you that as part of my Introduction to Mexican American
Studies 265 class at the University of Arizona, my students will be putting out
the third issue of El Coraje, a Tucson newspaper from the 1960s, revived two
years ago by my students in another MAS course. As a result of budget cutbacks
to universities nationwide, we have to rely on donations to do this kind of
work. The objective of El Coraje is for students to inform the university and
community regarding the vibrant culture of Mexican Americans/Latinas/Latinos in

If you can donate, please take the following steps:


We are accepting gifts from $50 to $100 or more, or whatever amount you wish.
The estimated budget that needs to be raised for the special projects for this
class, which includes a special issue of El Coraje, is $2,000. We hope to reach
that through generous contributions like yours. The donation is tax-deductible.
Send electronically or by check via mail.

ELECTRONICALLY: To make your contribution with a credit card (Visa, Mastercard,
American Express, Discover), please follow these directions:

1) Click on the link below

This will take you to the SBS, UA Foundation Website. It is a secured site.

2) Please fill out your billing and payment information. This is needed to
properly send you a receipt for tax purposes. Fill out the additional security
code, and click on the "Donate Now" button at the bottom of the page.

3) Lastly, for our accounting records and to make sure your contribution reaches
our Department, please email Veronica Peralta at with
your name, address, and amount given. No other information is needed.


Make check payable to: The University of Arizona Foundation. In the memo line,
MAS R. Rodriguez Events. Please mail it to:

Mexican American Studies
Attn: Veronica Peralta
Cesar Chavez, Room 208
PO BOX 210023
Tucson AZ 85721-0023
If questions re donations: VPERALTA@EMAIL.ARIZONA.EDU or 520-626-8139.

Thanks in advance

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Assistant professor
Cesar Chavez Bldg
PO BOX 210023
Tucson AZ 85721

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A letter to Birmingham...

Column of the Americas

A letter to Birmingham: From the anti-Mexican State of Arizona

Dear Birmingham…

I write this to you from Tucson, Arizona, from a state synonymous with dehumanization and racial profiling, from a land of fear and hate. Birmingham, I think you know what I speak of. But don’t think I am alluding to your past; also today.

HB 56, the bill that your state legislature recently passed and that your governor signed, is being touted as the toughest anti-immigrant bill in the country, one that was affirmed by a U.S. District judge this September. This measure requires school officials to act as immigration agents and permits police officers to detain people without bail, based merely on suspicion of being in the country illegally. That it has fomented hate and caused panic and fear was the point, wasn’t it?

You might be wondering why someone from Arizona would be writing to a Southern city? The answer is simple; Birmingham represents memory; it is etched into the psyche of the nation. It is also seared into Tucson’s memory, not just because many of us from the U.S. Southwest also lived through the civil rights era, but also because on May 3 of this year, one of our elders in our community was arrested for attempting to read the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King Jr. This occurred during a school board meeting, this in the midst of a hostile anti-Mexican, anti-Indigenous and anti-immigrant atmosphere in this state.

Here we have our own Bull Conner; Sheriff Joe Arpaio – the same Sheriff who unapologetically proclaimed on CNN that it was an honor to be compared with the KKK (11/12/07). Here, we also have Tom Horne, former state schools superintendent, who has long invoked the memory of MLK Jr., in his six-year effort to eliminate Ethnic Studies. He claims that doing so would constitute the fulfillment of MLK’s Dream. His successor, John Huppenthal, campaigned on the promise to “Stop ‘La Raza’. ” That is his dream. Against all evidence, he is conducting a modern-day Inquisition into Tucson’s Mexican American Studies K-12 department, attempting to prove its maize-based curriculum is anti-American.

In Tucson, our struggle is not simply about the right of our students to learn Mexican American history, language and culture, but even more so, our struggle here is about the right of everyone to be treated as full human beings. Indeed, this is something that you, Birmingham, know all too well. Last month signaled your grand return to the world stage of dehumanization; it’s as if you had been waiting some 50 years to breathe uninhibited, able once again to exhale the fumes of racial supremacy. This is something you haven’t been able to do since the courts and the civil rights movement forced you to cease your legalized discrimination against African Americans. But your fight is not really with brown people; it’s just about enforcing the law, right?

Please note that in Arizona, we don’t refer to dehumanizing measures that violate the rights of human beings as laws. Yet, this is beyond how we characterize this new bigotry; we are conscious that Mexicans in many parts of the country are viewed and treated as less than human. The following quote by Otto Santa Ana, in Brown Tide Rising, explains this bias: “Only humans have human rights.” I am certain that African Americans in the South understand this well.

Here, we have heard your governor, Robert Bentley, brag about the toughness of HB 56. Truthfully, there’s a bit of racial nostalgia and wistfulness communicated in his voice, projecting the sublime and whispered wish: “If we could only also apply these laws to our Black population too.” Am I mistaken, or is he not the same governor who in January proclaimed that only people who believe in Jesus Christ are his brothers and sisters.

As such, I don’t have to wonder what he thinks of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Jews. But forgive me if this causes me to question whether he considers African Americans, American Indians, Arab Americans and Mexicans as his true brothers and sisters too. As long as they are “legal”?

Birmingham, is this how you wish to be known and remembered? As a place that in the 21st century openly and legally dehumanizes its brown populations?

Birmingham, do you think the world actually believes you when you say you have nothing against brown people, Mexicans or immigrants – that your only beef is with “illegal aliens?” Do you think your ability to discern is credible? Isn’t that like dehumanizing African Americans, but hiding behind “states rights.” Wasn’t slavery and segregation legal in your state, in this country?

So Birmingham, yes, please lecture us on “the rule of law.” And keep listening to your governor, because we here in Arizona are certainly paying close attention. Here are his words in reaction to the judge’s ruling: “…this fight is just beginning… I will continue to fight at every turn to defend this law against any and all challenges.”

Don’t know what you hear, but eerily, we hear echoes of George Wallace: “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

Birmingham, your state legislature and your governor have once again brought “disgrace upon your state.” We know the objective is to take HB 56 to the Supreme Court. And let’s not mince words; we know that ethnic cleansing is not an unintended consequence. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. Here, we thank your civil and human rights organizations and your religious community. Please continue to fight. Our memory is long. Yes, we remember the 1950s and 1960s… but we also remember the Trail of Tears. Please do not permit a new one on your soil. After all, the brown men, women and children subject to this new draconian measure… they are our brothers and sisters… as they are yours.


Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

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

Column of the Americas
PO BOX 3812
Tucson, AZ 85722