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Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Hero Died the Other Day (12/13/2004)

On this day, many Nahua-Maya cultures commemorate the death of loved ones/ On this day, those that died in accidents are remembered and honored. This column is of my tio who died almost ten years ago in a car accident, being thrown from the vehicle he had been riding in. Memories of my uncle are even special to this day.

I count 24 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren of a hardworking, honorable man

Published on LatinoLA: December 13, 2004
A Hero Died the Other Day
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a first-person column by Roberto Rodriguez.)

"Te pareces a tu papa" -- "You look like your father" -- a gray-haired woman tells me at the Guzman family home in Topeka, Kan.

Dozens of family members are gathered here after the funeral of my Tio Sigfredo Guzman, 81, who died in a tragic car accident. Everyone is swapping stories. I'm momentarily taken aback by the matriarch (whom everyone has shown great deference to the past two days) because I vaguely know her.

"Me llamo Faustina Guzman," she says. "I knew you when you were a baby."

Then it hits me. "You're the reason my Tio Sigfredo got married to my Tia Aurea (my mom's sister)."

"Yes," she responds. "During the Depression, I was sent to Aguascalientes, Mexico. As a result, my brother Sigfredo visited me every year for more than 30 years before I came back."

"So that's how he met my Tia Aurea?"

"Yes. He visited me right after serving in World War II. The minute he laid eyes on her, they fell in love. He romanced her for five years before marrying her and taking her back to Lytle, Texas. Soon, on their way to Wisconsin, their car broke down in Topeka. They had gone north, but not to do farm work. He had a job lined up at a box company."

That's how the Guzmans settled in Topeka more than 50 years ago, and how my uncle eventually became a railroad man. My tio had actually told me this story half-jokingly some 35 summers ago (when my sister and I lived in Topeka) -- about how many Mexican families had settled in the
Midwest under similar circumstances.

Talking to Faustina, I remembered a recent conversation with my Tio Ricardo (on my father's side) in Aguascalientes. Their family is virtually a mirror of ours in California. He said he knew that he and my father (both in their early 80s) would soon go, and that his wish was that I reunite the separated families (a common story among migrant families).

"De hecho." I gave him my word.

A couple of months later and his words are prophetic, except they involve the Guzman family (our other mirror). Again, I give my word to my cousin Margie.

As I speak to Faustina, I am recalling the summer my sister and I spent in this mythic, historical town -- the site of the school that led to the legendary 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
desegregation case. We had planned to finish high school here, but our mom would hear nothing of it. I remember my tio would pick me up every day after work and I would ask him about the era of segregation and the war. Like me, he was dark brown, yet he didn't talk much about that. But
he would tell me about getting to see the Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro Baseball Leagues.

At the funeral, he is buried in a flag-draped coffin, with full military honors. Margie receives the cross. My cousin, Junior, a veteran, receives the flag.

Earlier, my cousin Rudy, speaking for the family, delivers a stirring eulogy at the Guadalupe Church, with an image of Quetzalcoatl and a ship with a Christian cross on its sail at the entrance. He speaks
of my tio's bravery and heroism at Normandy and of raising an upstanding family. I now know the meaning of "Soldado Razo" (brave soldier).

Also, a poem by my tio's grandson Jason is read:

"I am refried beans, rice and tacos ... I am from 'You're a Mexican, not a Mexican't.'" Yes. Like soldiers from that greatest generation, my tio was the antithesis of a Mexican't.

Tears flow freely. I notice my little niece Aurea's eyes are red and swollen from taking part as an altar girl in her grandpa Bito's last rites. Time freezes. As "Amor Eterno" ("Eternal Love") plays in the
background, tears finally stream down my face. I don't wipe them off.

Back home, Margie gathers the family. I remember her as a wirykid. Now, the veteran teacher has the reins of the family. She prays. They pray. We pray ... At the cemetery, I play my tio and tia an honor song from my Teponaxtli drum.

My last memories of my tio are of him taking me to the Topeka Capital-Journal. My tio proudly told the editor that I write a syndicated column ... and that I once worked in Topeka.

"What did you do?" the editor asked.

I looked proudly at my tio and beamed with a smile: "I counted tortillas."

At the house, I continue the count: I count 24 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren of a hardworking, honorable man.

They are maize.


The Arizona Uprising Informational Forum = Huge Success!

Cynthia Dia re Oct 8 Tucson uprising 

MEChA event drew from 90-100 people

A few of the human rights activists who took part in Op Streamline shutdown

Forum was a huge success!

Dulce; on e of DREAMERS on national tour from Georgia

Luis, Dreamer, on a national tour. 

The Arizona Uprising Informational Forum on Oct 30 was a complete success. One reason is that it was UA-MEChA's 1st event in more than a year. It was very powerful also because it brought community together... and the community that came are many of the principal activists involved in the Arizona Uprising Oct 8-14. This included the spontaneous siege upon the poli-migra on Oct 8, when the police called the migra on a couple members of Corazon de Tucson... and members of Corazon called the community, which responded en masse, in preventing the poli-migra from extricating their "prisoners."In total 4 were arrested. All four were released within 2 days.

On Oct 11, human rights activists in a spectacular coordination, shut down the federal courthouse and Operation Streamline. In addition from chaining themselves to the fed building, they also dissable 2 migra buses. The whole objective was not simply to shut down Operation Streamline that day, but to shut it down permanently. From this action, 24 were arrested; 18 felonies on charges of "hindering prosecution."

Several participants spoke on the ICE shutdown. After advertising the shutdown of ICE for a month, and after Tuesday's action, the Phoenix Migra shut itself down from Oct 11-14. On Oct 14, human rights activists also shutdown the Eloy immigration detention center, operated by the private Correctional Corporation of America.

The forum concluded with 2 dreamers on a national tour, speaking about the DREAM movement and the BringThemHome campaign.

Thanks to UA-MEChA for bringing it all together.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lupe Castillo explaining rationale for shutdown of Operation Streamline on Oct 8 in Tucson

Lupe Castillo explaining rationale for shutdown of Operation Streamline on Oct 8 in Tucson.
First of several videos re Tucson/Arizona Oct 2013 Uprrisng

President Obama and Attorney General Holder: End the For-Profit Operation Streamline Scheme Now!

Operation Streamline. Even the name is offensive, especially since it corresponds to an assembly-line, government-run, immigration, for-profit incarceration and deportation program. At best, it creates mass show trials, masquerading as judicial procedures. At a time when nonviolent immigrants are supposed to no longer be a priority for the Obama administration, this corporate-friendly operation seems not to have received the memo. FOR REST OF COLUMN:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Latino Americans: Arriving, or greeting, the ships?

Here's a piece I wrote 2 months for the PBS series: Latino Americans. I have no explanation as to why it was posted today as opposed to August when it was supposed to appear.

Latino Americans: Arriving, or greeting, the ships?
August 22, 2013 10:11 AM by Roberto Rodriguez

There is something unsettling when peoples from this continent mark their identity or origins as a result of invasion or war – that is, colonialism or imperialistic wars of annexation.

Questions of identity are complex and multi-layered, but it is indisputable that of those that are identified as “Latino Americans” in the United States, the vast majority trace a large part of their heritage to this very continent, long before the arrival of Columbus.

Many of us are Indigenous to these lands and if there was an alternative way to identify ourselves, a better term might be: gente de maíz. Corn is a most stupendous crop whose history is inscribed in both the ancient codices and the ancient architecture upon the land, i.e. monumental cities such as Teotihuacan, Tikal, Chaco, Cahokia and thousands of other pre-Columbian cities that span the Americas. Most of all, maíz culture is actually part of an agricultural complex which primarily includes corn, beans, squash… and chile, though many other crops are included that vary from region to region, such as amaranth, quinoa and wild rice, etc. These foods, plants and medicines, not only continue to be in use today, but constitute the foundation of many of the continent’s living cultures. It is estimated that more than 60% of the world’s foods originate in the Americas. Some of the other developments and accomplishments include the use of mathematics, science, astronomy, advanced calendrical systems, engineering, art, communications and writing – all useful for the building of those monumental cities… and for the transmission of culture.

The amazing thing about maiz is that 1) it is the only crop in the history of humanity that was created, some 7000 years ago (through the crossing of a wild grass and teocintle) and 2) it cannot grow by itself; to this day, it requires human care or intervention. This is how and why we know that many of the peoples of this continent are connected – and related -   precisely because maíz made its way into the United States, several thousand years before the arrival of Columbus.

The Latino Americans PBS documentary and the companion book, Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation, focus on the 1800s to the present, however, they use [over] 500 years as their marker as to how long Latino Americans have been contributing to this continent.
Not a good idea. To allude to "500-year contributions," is to disappear maíz culture.

The documentary is not unique. The U.S. Forest Service’s American Latino Heritage Project also uses the same time frame. From its brochure: “Latino peoples have contributed to and shaped the heritage of the United States in many ways for over 500 years.”  (
 Even many Chicano/Chicana scholars utilize the same framework to mark their existence. One example is “500 Years of Chicano History.” The discipline of Chicana/Chicano Studies is similarly implicated. At its inception, Chicano Studies pegged the origins of Chicanos to the 1846-1848 Mexican American War. Later, scholars pushed that timeline to the birth of the first mestizo – in effect – 500 years ago.  The proposed National American Latino Museum suffers from the same timeline.

The question is, why is the idea of “Chicano” or “Latino” conflated with European arrival or mestizaje? Incidentally, this is not to deny the mixture of Chicanos or Latinos. Quite the contrary. The late American Indian scholar, Jack Forbes, was fond of noting that all human beings are mestizos, yet it is generally only Mexicans/Chicanos (and to a lesser extent, Latinos) who are associated with the term mestizaje. “Mestizo” is a leftover category from the dehumanizing Spanish-imposed racial caste system of the colonial era (Incidentally, many Chicanos have also mixed for hundreds of years with Indigenous peoples from the greater U.S. Southwest, such as Navajos, Hopis, Pueblos, Apaches, Comanches, etc.).

The question that might arise: is there an alternative way of telling this story without using the 500-years Eurocentric framework?

The problem does begin with the formulation of the Latino category itself. It is absolutely multicultural and richly varied, but are we to assume that it excludes Indigenous heritage? If it does not, then this story cannot begin “500 years ago.” If it does exclude peoples with Indigenous heritage (which is the vast majority), then there is something wrong with the category because most peoples from Mexico and Central America and the Andean regions of South America do have such a background.

Vicente Jimenez, the architect of this nation’s initial affirmative action programs, was fond of saying that “when half my ancestors arrived on ships, the other half of my ancestors greeted them.” Using this formulation, which assumes that Latinos are half and half (left out is the African or Third root of the Americas), what becomes obvious is that the Latino story, as touted by the documentary’s publicity, privileges the story of those that came over on boats, not the ones that greeted them.

This is beyond a semantical debate. In Arizona, Ethnic Studies was banned because the state argued that Mexican American Studies was outside of Western Civilization… that students in the highly successful MAS K-12 department were being taught material that did not trace their origins to Greco-Roman culture. In effect, the state was correct; the histories and values being taught emanated from a 7,000-year maíz–based culture, by way of the Maya – from this very continent, not Greece or Rome. However, the state was wrong about those knowledges being outside of “Western Civilization” – which is code for being outside of civilization itself. The philosophical foundation for the department was found in the ethos of In Lak Ech–Tu eres mi otro Yo –You are my other me – and Panche Be–buscar la raiz de la verdad-to seek the root of the truth.

The history of "Latino Americans" can be taught as that of peoples with heritages that can be traced for thousands of years to both sides of the ocean. This can be done by also acknowledging that for the majority of us, our heritage is firmly rooted on this continent. If not, then the category needs to be discarded.

Rodriguez is a long-time writer and most recently the winner of the 2013 AERA Baker-Clarke Human Rights Award for his defense of Ethnic Studies. He is also a professor of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona and can be reached at:

* If you wish, feel free to messages there (here too if you wish).

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Truthout/Speakout: Operation Streamline Shutdown: Si Preguntan Porque? - If They Ask Why?

Scouring media outlets nationwide, it is evident that Operation Streamline – which was shut down by human rights activists on Oct 11 in Tucson – remains “America’s dirty little secret.”
One of the media outlets reporting on this unprecedented action – which included blocking the entrance to the federal courthouse’s parking lot – plus the disabling of two immigration buses – elicted this response from readers:
“They should be shot on site.”
“Just run them over.”
While many will decry this wanton display of inhumanity – the lens should not be cast on these types of dehumanized bigots. The problem with this nation’s immigration system is not the crypto-fascists outside of government. The problem isn’t even extreme right-wing Tea Party Republicans (am I repeating myself?). Instead, in this case, it should be focused on the operation itself. While the Bush administration created it, the operation belongs to the Obama administration.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Operation Streamline Shutdown: Si preguntan porque? – If they ask why?

Lupe Castillo holding it down in front of Tucson's Federal Courthouse

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Scouring media outlets nationwide, it is evident that Operation Streamline – which was shut down by human rights activists on Oct 11 in Tucson – remains “America’s dirty little secret.”

One of the media outlets reporting on this unprecedented action – which included blocking the entrance to the federal courthouse’s parking lot – plus the disabling of two immigration buses – elicited this response from readers:

“They should be shot on site.”

“Just run them over.”

While many will decry this wanton display of inhumanity – the lens should not be cast on these types of dehumanized bigots. The problem with this nation’s immigration system is not the crypto-fascists outside of government. The problem isn’t even extreme right-wing Tea Party Republicans (am I repeating myself?). Instead, in this case, it should be focused on the operation itself. While the Bush administration created it, the operation belongs to the Obama administration.

The first question people should ask is: why does this operation even exist?

Make no mistake; Operation Streamline is the judicial equivalent of torture and political violence… but with a profit motive. I’ve said it before and will say it again: not even in apartheid South Africa did that nation have a similar daily operation, masquerading as a judicial procedure. And yet, here, in the supposed freest and most democratic country in the world, this sham court proceeding not only continues to exist, but as proposed in the current comprehensive immigration bill, it is slated to triple in size and budget.

The private prison industry is dancing in the streets on this one. It is the benefactor of this 90-minute court proceeding that sees between 60-70 brown prisoners per day, tried, convicted, sentenced and shipped off to a private prison.

I believe that the only reason this operation continues to exist is because most Americans are unaware of its actual existence and most importantly,  because most Americans have not been inside one of these courtrooms to witness this complete abomination and mockery of justice.

To not rehash a description of what goes on inside this operation, please read: Operation Streamline: Expedited Indian Removal (

Suffice to say that people took the extraordinary step – worthwhile of a Hollywood action movie – to “commandeer” two migra buses… on their way from the INS detention facility across town to the courtroom – and to blockade the entrance to Tucson’s federal courthouse parking lot. Both actions prevented the buses from entering the courthouse, causing the operation to be shut down for the day. 

Everyone that took part in the shutdown understood that there could be consequences, yet that was not deterrence. As a result, 24 protestors were arrested on an assortment of charges, with 12 being charged with felony interference with prosecution.

The media has yet to understand why people were willing to take that risk and seem to believe that it was about shutting it down for a day. The truth is, most of us who have ever stepped inside one of these sham proceedings want it shut down permanently. Yesterday.

Media coverage of this event generally has reported about the daring exploits of the protestors… but they have not actually asked about those being transported. They have not written or spoken about what happens inside the courtroom, precisely because they have not been inside this onerous courtroom.

In speaking with a good friend, she noted that the president himself – who is a constitutional lawyer – has himself never been inside this operation. Enough said.

I believe that an invitation is in order.

“Dear President Obama… Dear First Lady Michelle Obama…

You are hereby invited to sit through one entire proceeding of Operation Streamline in Tucson. You give us the date, and we will greet you. It is always at 1:30 pm. We have little doubts that both of you… and please bring your daughters too, will be convinced that this is one operation that should not exist anywhere in this country. It should not exist in any country. I will guarantee that one of you will leave crying and one of you will get very angry. Your daughters will probably be hurt the most because they will not be able to believe that such a court proceeding – which is 100% racially based – resembling a judicial version of Indian Removal – takes place in a land that preaches justice for all.

But President and First Lady Obama… please, don’t simply issue a decree instructing the courts to remove their chains. You should do that… but more important is that such an expedited procedure should come to an immediate halt.

And while you are at it, also please visit the morgue where the remains of migrants are stored and also, please visit the militarized border. Also, please visit the children, the spouses and loved ones who continue to be separated by your policies.

Dear President and First Lady Obama, some things in life are worth dying for or going to jail for. This is one of them.

But as we say in Arizona: some things in life are worth living for…peace, freedom and human dignity. And these are certainly worth living for.

For more info, go to: 

Rodriguez can be reached at: -

 * Because of the crisis situation, this story can be printed, posted, shared, etc, no permission required.

* Lupe Castillo was at center of a large protest/uprising May 3, 2011 at TUSD Headquarters in the struggle over Raza Studies


Friday, October 11, 2013

Op Streamline shutdown

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Operation Streamline: Expedited Indian Removal

On the left side of the courtroom, 60 to 70 short, dark-brown men and a few women are seated, handcuffed and shackled from the wrists, waist and ankles. All are silent. They take up about 20 rows, including the two corresponding to the jury box. The scene is surreal. Their chains, their color and height are very pronounced - yet in this courtroom, are hardly noticed by the lawyers and other court officials, including the judge. 

This kangaroo court called Operation Streamline is America's modern version of Expedited Indian Removal; chase, capture, pseudo-judicial proceeding, incarceration and deport. It convenes daily at 1:30 PM in Tucson, Arizona. 

For the column, go to: 

Tucson uprising against polimigra!

The day the tucson community again rose up: 

Tucson Uprising II: At the beginning of this clip, people are pepper sprayed -- left side of screen... then spray drifts and it affects all of us... those sprayed directly were treated by paramedics... rubber bullets were used too... plus a German Shepard was used against the people:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Anatomy of Banning a Worldview

Anatomy of Banning a Worldview
Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, Truthout: The Tucson Unified School District banned books, shut down a curriculum and the Raza studies department and colluded with the state of Arizona to attempt to ban a purportedly "un-American" worldview.

Read the Article: