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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tucson’s Ousted Mexican-American Studies Director Speaks: The Fight’s Not Over

From Colorlines

Tucson’s Ousted Mexican-American Studies Director Speaks: The Fight’s Not Over

Sean Arce may not have a job anymore, but he’s still going to defend the program he used to direct. Arce, the former director of Tucson Unified School District’s now-suspended Mexican American Studies program, was fired earlier this month in the latest crackdown on the program in what has become a years-long saga over the fate of the popular program.

Two years ago, and mere weeks after signing Arizona’s SB 1070 into law, Gov. Jan Brewer signed HB 2281, which barred Arizona public schools from teaching courses which advocated “the overthrow” of the United States government; encouraged “ethnic solidarity” or “promote resentment” toward any other ethnic group. The law was directly specifically at Tucson’s Mexican-American studies program, state schools chief Tom Horne admitted. School districts found violating the law could have lost 10 percent of their state funding as punishment. At the outset the Tucson Unified School District tried to defend the program by insisting it was fully compliant with the law. That strategy didn’t pan out; in January the program was suspended after the state ruled that MAS did indeed violate HB 2281.

Meanwhile, educators have gone straight to the source, trying to challenge the basic constitutionality of HB 2281. Their case is working its way through the courts, but on the ground, the fight continues. It turns out that Tucson’s educators and Latino youth are an irrepressible bunch; they’ve shut down school board meetings, organized weekend ethnic studies courses outside the district; and fought for the return of their program. Colorlines caught up with Arce to discuss the state of education in Arizona, and to separate myth from reality when it comes to ethnic studies.

For the Q & A, go to:

Thursday, April 26, 2012


By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Arizona's 'Salt of the Earth' Moment

Editor’s Note: While the U.S. Supreme Court this week heard arguments over Arizona’s immigration law SB 1070, the fallout of another controversial law – the state’s ban on ethnic studies – is being felt across classrooms and communities in Tucson. If the matter is not resolved, the ethnic studies ban could be the next Arizona law to make it to the Supreme Court, writes commentator Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez.

During the miners’ strike in Grants County, New Mexico in 1951, depicted in the 1954 epic film Salt of the Earth, the striking miners and their families were forced to endure extreme hardship as they struck the Empire Zinc Co. for some 15 months. In Tucson, Ariz., teachers from the recently dismantled Mexican American Studies (MAS) department are fast approaching a similar scenario. This, as the state and nation are seemingly a few inches closer to making racial profiling the unconstitutional law of the land.

In Tucson, the MAS department has been dismantled; the curriculum has been outlawed, its books confiscated and banned; its longtime director has been fired; the teachers have been reassigned; their classes and new curriculum are being monitored and state officials are going into classrooms to ensure that they and their students are complying with the unconstitutional ethnic studies ban, HB 2281. In the past few days, three more of the teachers have been dismissed, with several more to follow.

This is not the 1950s McCarthy era. Nor is it Nazi Germany. Instead, it is Arizona 2012.

Racism doesn’t adequately explain this situation. Try apartheid, vindictive power and ruthless retribution, all due to the fear of a rising red-brown majority. In the district’s assault on Mexican American Studies, the apartheid analogy is easy to see; some 62 percent of the district is Mexican/Mexican American. Demographic trends, along with white flight, indicate that the Tuscon Unified School District’s racial composition will continue to be majority students of color in the foreseeable future. Despite this, the governing school board in no way reflects this reality, treating its majority population as “aliens” in need of “Americanization.”

This demographic reality doesn’t simply apply to Tucson. In the entire state of Arizona, whites have ceased to be the majority in K-12 schools. This is also true of many inner city schools nationwide.

The attack on the body, the mind and the spirit of brown peoples is a continuation of colonial policies that are 500 years old. This is not hyperbole. For 500 years, non-Indigenous peoples have been telling Indigenous peoples where they can and cannot live, where they can and cannot go, what to think and how to think. In Arizona 2012, the battle over Mexican American Studies in Tucson is about what is acceptable and permissible knowledge. If it derives from Greco-Roman culture, the knowledge is permissible; if it emanates from maiz culture (Abya Yalla or the Americas), apparently, it is unacceptable and un-American.

Gov. Jan Brewer, former State Senate president Russell Pearce and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, represent those engaged in a war against Mexicans in this state. State Attorney General Tom Horne, State Schools’ Superintendent John Huppenthal and TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone represent the war against the mind and the spirit of these same peoples.

Without question, Horne and Huppenthal have never been shy about invoking a cultural war in describing what’s at stake. Huppenthal has gone so far as to describe his war against MAS-TUSD in literal military terms. This, from the man who campaigned to “stop La Raza.”

The result of all of this is that the MAS-TUSD department has ceased to exist. It purportedly will be replaced, at the behest of Superintendent John Pedicone, by multicultural studies, a discipline that is despised by conservatives. Mexican American Studies supporters do not object to multicultural studies, as long it is not a replacement for MAS or for other ethnic studies disciplines.

Because the MAS teachers have been sacrificed, the community is prepared to monetarily support them in the manner as depicted in the movie Salt of the Earth (a strike fund) until there is a resolution.

As far as the community is concerned, resolution means reinstating Mexican American Studies and defending it in court, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. For that to occur, the November school board elections loom large. Supporters are counting on these elections to elect school board members who will represent the district’s school children and that will reinstate Mexican American Studies.

One other scenario would be to trust the courts -- which found TUSD guilty of racial segregation a generation ago -- to compel the school district to reinstate Mexican American Studies. At the moment, Willis D. Hawley, a “special master” appointed by U.S. District Judge David Bury, is charged with creating a plan to bring TUSD into constitutional compliance. That remains a possibility as the previous court-approved plan did call on TUSD to expand its highly successful Mexican American Studies Department.

Of course, the culture of Indigenous Mexican peoples is no longer in danger of disappearing in Arizona (despite racial profiling and the continued mass deportations), primarily because the culture has strengthened as a result of this struggle. However, the battle will intensify, and probably will be replicated nationwide, over whether only the dominant culture merits being taught in public schools.

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

Monday, April 23, 2012



As a youth-led coalition of critical thinkers and organizers, our purpose is to stand in defense of ethnic studies and address the educational inequities we face in school. While defending ethnic studies has been a critical priority, we stand as a direct force to mobilize, empower and educate youth to take a stand against all injustices in our community and society as a whole.
While the institution continues to fail us, the community continues to rise. Ethnic Studies has been abolished inside the gates of our schools, but not in the streets of our community. Education is ours .From the roots, through autonomous education, our knowledge will continue to grow. In order to effectively educate and empower the youth within our community, we have set our sights on renting our own place, so that we may continue to have a space where we can learn about our culture, history, identity and how to organize in the community. By having our own home, we would not be bound to the attacks or limitations of TUSD and we would be able to further provide ethnic studies curriculum, youth leadership workshops, and a safe environment for the community and its youth to continue to grow and organize for a healthier and stronger community!
In order to accomplish this, WE NEED YOUR HELP!
This is how you can support our efforts:
2.  Donate building materials like, wood, paint, electrical wiring, windows, etc...
3. Donate materials for "established center" like chairs, furniture, appliances, dry erase board, school supplies, etc...
4. Volunteer Your Time. If you have experience building or in construction will you be                             willing to give hands-on training as we revitalize the center?
Contact info:, @UNIDOSPORVIDA
Send address: 2432 E. Louisiana St.
Thank you! We cannot do this work without you!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A-E-I-O-U Este Burro No sabe mas que Tu

Hicks Gets served burrito at TUSD meeting 4/10/2012
Hicks likes his burrito

To see what this commotion is all about, go to the Jon Stewart segment on MAS-TUSD:

For photos of 4/10/2012 when dir. of MAS, Sean Arce gets fired at April 10 TUSD Board meeting, go to:

* For daily coverage of Tucson/Arizona happenings, go to:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Supporting EL Coraje


My students at the University of Arizona have once again elected to document the historic events in our midst – namely, the battle over the Raza Studies Department-TUSD. As such, they are again publishing El Coraje, a publication from the 1960s that was revived by my students two years ago. This will be the 4th issue since its revival. To download copy of previous issue, go to:

El Coraje, Fall semester 2011

El Coraje 2010

This semester, the suspension of the Mexican American Studies Department-TUSD is first and foremost on everyone’s mind, but so too are the equally important immigration issues that we experience in the harsh dessert we live in. On top of that, one of the classes is examining not the Hollywood version, but rather, the reality of, and the human rights struggles of, Indigenous peoples, in the Year 2012.

Please consider sending in a donation to make this documentation possible. The reason for this appeal, is that there is still a budget crisis at the UA, and everyone in Tucson is already tapped out. By donating, you will help to contribute to the education of UA students and the community at large. Thanks in advance. Please see instructions below.


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 $2,500. 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,
write: 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 call 520-626-8139.

Thanks in advance and if you have comments or questions, feel free to contact me.

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Friday, April 6, 2012

Burrito-Traficantes to descend upon Tucson

Last month, Indigenous runners ran through the desert in search of the best burritos in Arizona.

First the Librotraficantes came to town to deliver us banned books.

Now, inspired by Comedy Central's Jon Stewart show, Burrito-traficantes will be descending upon  Tucson Tues evening 6pm April 10, ensuring all MAS-supporters are fed burritos... this while showing support for Sean Arce, director of the embattled MAS-TUSD.

On this occasion, TUSD's governing board will attempt to nail the coffin to it's highly touted Mexican America Studies department. During this meeting, MAS supporters will attempt to force-feed burritos to the TUSD governing board.

If you  have not seen the segment, go to:

If you plan to sneak in your burritos, be careful and be prepared for the following, especially if you are wearing a hoodie:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Arizona Daily Star Editorial re Jon Stewart Show:

April 15: Special run, walk to honor memory of young woman felled by cancer

Special run, walk to honor memory of young woman felled by cancer 
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez Special To The Arizona Daily Star  |
 Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2012

I have nothing but beautiful memories of Consuelo Aguilar, a young woman who passed away from cancer in 2009. That is the same year I started running.

Nowadays, it seems not a day goes by that I don't think about her. In part, this is because I continue to run and because we shared similar passions: justice, hip-hop, healthy lifestyles and education.

Since 2009, I have been running with Calpolli Teoxicalli, a Nahuatl-Indigenous based collective of families. My first run, after a hiatus of 25 years, was in the summer of 2009, from Tucson to Phoenix in 115-degree heat. We ran with three ceremonial staffs; one of them was dedicated to Consuelo, whom we nowadays view as a hummingbird.

On April 15, our community will once again run for her; a run and a walk, sponsored by the department of Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona, for the purpose of contributing to a scholarship in her name at the UA, this while bringing about cancer awareness to the surrounding community.

When Consuelo had cancer, she was working for the embattled Mexican American Studies department at Tucson Unified School District. There, she did not have health insurance.

In her last months, weeks and days, I would visit her frequently at the hospital, at which time we would have extended conversations about the state's efforts to dismantle MAS-TUSD, about Tucson politics and its politicos. As a new professor at the UA, it was my crash course on the history of Tucson and Arizona politics.

During these conversations, she was conscious that she was not going to survive. Several times, she told me she wanted her death to contribute to creating cancer awareness, especially among the Spanish-speaking community of Arizona.

This year, the event will include a timed race, a ceremonial run and a walk.

Those of us who run with the Calpolli will run together ceremonially in her honor and in her memory because we consider running a prayer in motion. So when we run for Consuelo, it will be to send prayers to her and her family and in part, to help fulfill her last wishes.

The Calpolli's barrio runs have been taking place since 2004. They take place in between the Peace and Dignity spiritual runs that take place every four years from Alaska and Chile, meeting in Central America.

This year, they will converge on Tikal, Guatemala. The purpose of the runs, which began in 1992, is to unite the continent, part of a prophecy referred to as the unity of the eagle and the condor.

The 13 annual barrio runs are very special; they are run for the spiritual health of our barrios and communities. Since 2009, we've also run to raise awareness of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and domestic violence.

We've also run several times in defense of ethnic studies and indigenous education, something that Consuelo also fought for. This has included two runs from Tucson to Phoenix.

It is important to note that most of us are not competitive runners … and yet, whether we are running six to seven miles on the barrio runs or 120 miles, the intent is the same. Admittedly, on the runs to Phoenix, the idea of giving up did cross our minds, but when we remembered why we were running, and when we also realized that we were running through the same inhospitable desert that has claimed the lives of thousands of migrants, we were able to complete our runs. The knowledge that our hummingbird is guiding us on every run also gives us the strength to finish; we run not against people or things but for ourselves.

Three days before the run, on April 12, there will also be a Latina health symposium at the University of Arizona; I believe she will smile upon us on both those days.

For information regarding both events, call 621-7551 or go to

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez is an assistant professor in Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona. Email him at  or go to

For a special tribute to Consuelo from 2009, go to:

Cintli don't tweet, text, facebook, digg and is not linked.... but you can still email or call me.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

TUSD dropping its director of Mexican American Studies

Mexican American studies: 'Daily Show' segment strikes a nerve

Mexican American studies: 'Daily Show' segment strikes a nerve

After that stint on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” the Tucson Unified school board is probably wishing it had hired a media consultant before trying to explain its position on the district’s controversial Mexican American Studies program.

Normally, when people are featured on a television show, they call family and friends and let them know the time and channel. That might not be the case for board member Michael Hicks, who appeared in a segment about the ethnic studies controversy.

For rest of story, go to:,0,5593283.story,0,5593283.story

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jon Stewart on MAS-TUSD:

Jon Stewart on MAS-TUSD: Most people are thinking that MAS-TUSD Governing board member Michael Hicks was in on the joke. He wasn't. This is unintentional humor at its finest. ... and it is why we will win the battle in Tucson. This clip is from April 2, 2012. You just can't make this up... and you couldn't pay for this kind of publicity.