Total Pageviews

Saturday, November 15, 2014


THE 7,000-YEAR STORY OF MAIZ ON TORTILLAS: A year ago, Acapulco Tortillas in East LA, placed the story of maiz (that I wrote) on its tortillas. It is in 3 languages. Everytime I return to LA, I pick some up. They put the story on their Habanero and Spinach tortillas... the original idea was to put them on their corn tortillas. Still may happen, though now, looking at possibility of putting the front cover of my book (by Laura V. Rodriguez) on the front of their [special edition] tortillas. Truthfully, the cover belongs on an Indigenous/organic tortilla. May happen. Will keep everyone posted. The Nahuatl translation is from Paula Paola Domingo. The story: "Corn: It is who we are. It is where we come from and what we are made of. It is our sacred sustenance. It forms part of our ancient memory that goes back 7,000 years to this very continent. It is what connects us to our Mother Earth." Please let me know if you would like to see this happen. There's a cost involved and may have to raise it. Was thinking this should be done for May(May 3) when el dia del maiz was/is traditionally celebrated. (The Catholic changed May 3 to Dia de la Santa Cruz).

Monday, October 13, 2014

Truthout Review: Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother: Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas

Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother: Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas, by Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, The University of Arizona Press, 2014, 288 pages with nine color illustrations, $35.00 paperback. Electronic edition available.
Indigenous people have resisted colonialism in many ways - holding fast to traditional foods, like maíz, performing ancestral dances and songs, and passing legends from generation to generation.
According to a legend told by elders throughout Nahuatl-speaking regions of Mexico, corn - maíz in Spanish and cintli in Nahuatl - has been a dietary staple for thousands of years. The how and why of this development has been passed from generation to generation, and, as recounted in Roberto Contli Rodriguez's Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother, goes something like this: Shortly after the Creator couple, Quilaztli and Quetzalcoatl, formed human beings, they realized that their invention could not survive without eating. "Quetzalcoatl - bringer of civilization - was put in charge of bringing food to the people. Walking along," Rodriguez writes, "Quetzalcoatl noticed red ants carrying kernels of corn. Quetzalcoatl asked one of them, 'What is that on your back?'
'Cintli,' one replied. 'It is our sustenance.'"
Quetzalcoatl had further questions, but the ant was leery about revealing too much. Still, Quetzalcoatl persisted, explaining that without nutrients, humans would perish. "Reluctantly," Rodriguez reports, "the ant pointed toward Tonalcatepetl - a nearby mountain - also called The Mountain of Sustenance," and ultimately led Quetzalcoatl to this revered place. Later, after the Lords of Tamoanchan gave their blessing to maíz, corn became indispensable to many of the earth's people.
Throughout the text, Rodriguez tells other stories to illustrate the centrality of maíz in contemporary Mexican and Central American life, whether people are living in the United States or further south. "Maíz is who you are, who we are," he was told time and again as he did his research. "We not only eat maíz; we are maíz."
Indeed, some of the creation stories Rodriguez tells involve attempts to fashion sentient beings from amber, mud and wood. It was only during the final attempt, we're told - when the Creators used corn - that the effort succeeded. Not only that, as people evolved and began to cultivate maíz, they discovered its connection to "various phenomena caused by the sun, moon and universe," among them the concept of time. This, Rodriguez writes, led to the development of a calendar and an understanding of seasons and weather.
For the rest of the review, go to:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Book of Trans-Genesis: Protecting the World's Seeds

Sunday, 28 September 2014 09:48  

By Roberto Rodriguez, Truthout | News Analysis

Tic toc. Tic toc. Tic toc.

I recently attended an international "Justice Begins With Seeds" Biosafety Alliance conference in Portland, Oregon. It was both eye-opening and jarring and it was also very focused: opposition to trade agreements and laws that permit genetic modification and GMO foods, while promoting food choice - in particular, safe organic and local foods.

Among the 40 presenters were people with biological and scientific backgrounds, educators, attorneys, human rights activists and organic farmers. What they all had in common was that they possess a wealth of information and have a desire to protect the word's sacred seeds from the transgenic, multinational corporations of the world, such as Monsanto, Dow and Dupont.

To be truthful, the information presented at the conference was actually very depressing with an aura of doomsday about it, particularly with respect to what has been happening to our food supply over the past generation. At the same time, there were no signs of defeatism, as generally everyone is part of this movement to counter the efforts of these extralegal corporations - corporations that virtually write their own laws exempting themselves from environmental, labor, safety and human rights laws and regulations. While this has always been the case, with the advent of transgenics, what these corporations are doing rises to the level of crimes against nature and crimes against humanity, along with crimes against the earth herself.

I had been invited to this conference because the organizers felt that the message of my forthcoming book: Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother (University of Arizona Press), was a message that fit the theme of the conference.

For rest of column, go to:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Unofficial Book unveiling today at Mexicayotl Academy in Tucson

Official-unofficial... what's the difference... I will forever remember that it was at Mexicayotl where I presented my book for 1st time in public.

THE ANTS OF QUETZALCOATL: Today I unveiled my book, "Our Sacred Maiz is our Mother" at Mexicayotl Academy in Tucson. Well... it wasn't an actual unveiling (that's Oct 12 - Indigenous Peoples Day) but what it was is, I taught 1st graders, and 2nd and 3rd graders, about the Nahuatl creation story of Maiz: "Quetzalcoatl, the ants and the Gift of maiz." After teaching it to them, they extemporaneously performed it. It was awesome... In the actual story, the ants refuse to give Quetzalcoatl the maiz. At Mexicayotl, several students played Quetzalcoatl... trying to convince the ants to give the maiz to the humans.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Intro to: Our Sacred Maíz is our Mother: Indigeneity and belonging in the Americas

* Excuse the rushed message.. Was not expecting book to be released til Nov 6, but it is already out.

Our Sacred Maíz  is our Mother: Indigeneity and belonging in the Americas
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

I’ve written or edited several books in my life and each of them have been special, especially since most were banned by Tucson’s school district during the state’s infamous battle in Arizona to eliminate Raza Studies, However, this one, Our Sacred Maíz is our Mother, released early by the University of Arizona Press, seems to be a little more special. Perhaps it is so because it speaks to a topic that recognizes no borders and connects peoples from across this continent, and it is a story that arguably goes back some 7,000 years.

The actual title of this book is Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl. Translated, it means  – Nuestro Maíz sagrado es Nuestra Madre – Our Sacred Maíz is our Mother. Only the English appears on the front cover. However, Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl does appear on the title page, along with the names of 9 Indigenous elders or teachers who contributed maíz origin/creation/migration stories from throughout Abya Yala, Cemanahuac or Pacha Mama – from throughout the continent: Veronica Castillo Hernandez, Maestra Angelbertha Cobb, Luz Maria de la Torre, Paula Domingo Olivares, Tata Cuaxtle Felix Evodio, Maria Molina Vai Sevoi, Francisco Pos, Irma Tzirin Scoop and Alicia Seyler.

Each of the ancestral stories they wrote, or relate, is a treasure unto itself, each from a different people or pueblo from throughout the continent. The same thing applies to the artwork; each one is also a priceless treasure, depicting maíz  in a most special way. The artists include: Laura V. Rodriguez, Tanya Alvarez, Grecia Ramirez, Paz Zamora, Pola Lopez, Mario Torero and Veronica Castillo Hernandez.

Already, I have been asked what the primary message of the book is. Each person will take away something different, but for me, my simple answer is that the title and front cover say it all: Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl – Our Sacred Maíz is our Mother. For some, no further explanation is required.

The message resonates because it comes from somewhere profound… from a place of ancestors. Its message is: We are people of maíz. This is where we come from. This is what we are made of. This is who we are. Most Indigenous peoples form maíz–based cultures instinctively understand this message.

If you are reading this without seeing, or not having seen, the image, the front cover is a genuine amoxtli or codex unto itself, painted by Laura V. Rodriguez. It tells the ancient Nahua story of Maíz from the oral tradition and recorded in the Chimalpopoca Codex – of the ants of Quetzalcoatl – and how it is that humans received the maíz. Truly, the imagery and message are both stunning. Again, it is a story, one of many ancient stories actually, that is thousands of years old, stories that were initially suppressed during the colonial era, but now are back, not as part of an extinct culture, but as part of living cultures that exist throughout the continent, including in what is today the United States.

More than that, there is a specific message for peoples of the Americas that have been de-Indigenized, disconnected and severed from their traditions, languages and stories: despite 522 years of European presence, most remain connected to maiz culture. In particular, this applies to peoples with Mexican and Central American and Andean origins that live in the United States. And thus the message: Okichike Ka Centeotzintli or “Made from Sacred Maiz.”  After all, many if not most of the peoples from these communities eat maíz (tortillas), beans and chile, virtually on a daily basis. Along with squash and cactus, these foods are Indigenous to this continent.

This is not the message brown children receive in school. It is not the message they receive in the media and it is not the message they receive from government institutions.

The message in the book is that they are not foreigners, that they are not aliens and that contrary to what the U.S. Census bureau promotes, that they are not white. Instead, the message is that they are children of maíz – part of Indigenous cultures on this continent that are many, many thousands of years old.

In effect, this message was banned during the colonial era… and also in present-day Arizona… the whole country, actually. This message, in effect, was made illegal (HB 2281) by politicians who think that only Greco-Roman culture should be taught in U.S. schools. Maíz culture is the story of this continent… though in reality, it is one of the great stories of this continent (salmon, buffalo). These cultures produced not simply civilizations, but also produced values and ethos such as In Lak Ech -Tu eres mi otro yo and Panche Be – To seek the root of the truth. And it is precisely these and related values that were continually attacked during that battle to destroy Raza Studies.

But just as knowledge cannot be destroyed, neither can values and ethos be destroyed. Yes, a program was shut down, but that is temporary.

Another part of the message for this continent is, in Nahuatl: non kuahuitl cintli in tlaneplantla: the maiz tree is the center of the universe. The related message is that for those reasons, it is everyone’s responsibility to protect maiz from the multinational transgenic corporations that have literally stolen and hijacked our sacred sustenance. And it is not just the maíz that they have stolen and desecrated; they have done this or are attempting to do this to all of our crops…not just the sacred foods of this continent, but of the entire world. Because indeed we are what we eat, exposure to highly toxic (pesticides and herbicides) and genetically modified foods is highly dangerous, not simply to human beings and all life, but to the entire planet.

More than part of a de-colonial process, writing this book is part of an affirmation that as human beings, we are sacred because our mother is sacred… and on this continent, maíz is our mother.

This book is a compilation of elder or ancestral knowledge from throughout the continent, and as noted, it contains the simplest of messages, contained in both the front cover and the title.

The simple idea of this book was to counter-act… actually this book is not meant to counter anything. It is meant to affirm the thousands-of-years maíz–based cultures – to affirm that we are Indigenous to this continent – and to assert our full humanity, along with our full human rights, this in a society that brands us as illegitimate, unwelcome and nowadays illegal.

As Indigenous peoples continue to affirm: We cannot be illegal on our own continent. And yet more than that, the simple message of the humble maíz is that there is no such thing as an illegal human being anywhere. That is the primary message of the book.

Rodriguez teaches at the University of Arizona and can be reached at: For info re Our Sacred Maíz is Our Mother

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Our Sacred Maiz is our Mother

BOOK IN HAND: Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl - Monday 9/15/2014 Our Sacred Maiz is our Mother (University of Arizona Press). Dedicated to my father and mother, both who passed on to spirit world in Jan 2011 (my father) and this past June (my mother). They would have been proud. And they were.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


A publisher has asked me to compile my writings from the past 42 years... However, I have proposed simply the past 7 years, since I moved to Arizona. I am to choose my favorite writings to be published as collected works -- as a reader. If you have any favorites that you have ever read or taught from, please write me at: Most of what I have written the past 7 years has been as Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez. Prior to receiving my PhD, I did not include "Dr. Cintli" as part of my name. At the initial stage, I am free to suggest and design it in any manner I choose... from columns to academic articles etc. Of course, my maiz book ( is almost out (mid-October), plus I continue work on the Smiling Brown project... so this is kind of cool to be working on this at this time. Thanks in advance, write me at:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Newspaper Comment Sections Become Cordoned-Off Hate Crime Scenes

This is a lengthy article I wrote recently for Truthout's Public Intellectual Page regarding the hate that emanates from media. This article analyzes the hate, primarily from the comments sections of the Arizona Republic and the Arizona Daily Star during the height of the SB 1070 (racial profiling) and HB 2281 (anti-ethnic studies) issues.. Please post, share, etc.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nakum Journal: Smiling Brown: Gente de Bronce—People the Color of the Earth

Indigenous Cultures Institute

Nakum Journal

2014 V 4 #1


Smiling Brown: Gente de Bronce—People the Color of the Earth

By Roberto “Dr. Cintli” Rodriguez

I begin this essay on brown skin color and color consciousness with memories of my early childhood when I would sit on the porch step of my house in an alley on Whittier Boulevard in East LA and absorb the rays of the blazing hot sun. When I did this, I was constantly warned to stay out of the sun lest I get darker. I never paid any heed because I was already dark, and my body craved the rays of the sun. It was the heat I wanted; it made me feel good. It brought comfort to me, and sitting out in the hot sun (or when I grew older, playing basketball shirtless for hours on end) had nothing to do with my skin color, or so I thought. In one sense, whoever was giving me those admonitions was preoccupied not so much with the sun, but with my skin color—this in a society that has always favored light-skin.

New Mexico poet Demetria Martinez once described me in a poem on racial profiling, “Driving While Brown,” as unable to hide my Indian blood. “He is as dark as chocolate,” she writes (2005, 122). I always felt that was my skin color, except in Arizona where I feel it changes to red-brown.
I remember many years ago, an elder, Ernie Longwalker Peters, told me that when you mix the colors of maíz: red, white, yellow and blue—which represent all the peoples of the world—you get the color brown. I wish I had heard those words when I was growing up because most of my early memories in regards to skin color are negative. For example, I remember walking home from junior high school in the 1960s and one of my friends telling me: “Mexicans are the color of dirt!” I remember not knowing how to respond because he meant it as an insult, and at that time, I didn’t relate dirt with the Earth. That’s where the subtitle for this essay comes from, Gente de Bronce: People the Color of the Earth. Society taught me at a very young age that dirt was a bad thing and that it was an ugly color.
The issue of color isn’t simply something external; color, even when unstated, is also an internal issue among Mexicans and other people of the Americas.1 This is true even in the home. Whether verbalized or not, color consciousness is omnipresent and is directly linked to issues of indigeneity. In other words, these communities tend to show a preference for light skin that is not necessarily related to the black-white racial paradigm in the United States. It actually goes back to the era of Spanish colonization when deep anti-Indigenous attitudes first developed.

For the rest of the essay, go to:,

Saturday, May 31, 2014

TRUTHOUT: ''Cesar Chavez,'' Conditions in the Fields and the Struggle over Memory

I did not write a critique of the movie Cesar Chavez when it first premiered because I felt somewhat conflicted, and I didn't feel like jumping on a bandwagon. There appears to be a cottage industry of those who love to critique Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) Movement, by people who have little first-hand knowledge of the events in question. From reading the many reviews, most of them seem to be formulaic, critiquing the movie as a hero-worshipping biopic, with deeply flawed acting, etc., etc.

Much of that critique comes from professional movie critics who know movies but who know little about Cesar Chavez and the UFW movement and know even less about the condition of farmworkers in this nation's fields. Some of the critique is along the same lines as that of his former enemies, many of whom are from the extreme far right and who always equated him or saw him as an enemy of capitalism and an enemy of the state. Some criticism is from the so-called far left, some of which is simply hypercritical, not necessarily wrong, but seemingly unaware of Chavez's larger role or value to society. Among these critiques, there is also valid and useful critique that comes from people with no ax to grind, primarily from human rights activists who lived that era or who are engaged in human rights struggles today.

What has been particularly troubling is that those who talk or write about the Chavez movie, almost never mention the conditions of farm workers today. It is within that context that I see/saw the movie. A 2007 book: The Farmworker's Journey, by Dr. Ann Lopez, gives us a glance not simply into the conditions in the fields, but examines the deplorable conditions that force migrants from their homelands to migrate to the fields in the United States. NAFTA, a trade agreement that permits goods, capital and executives to flow freely back and forth, but not workers, continues to be the cause of that migration.

For the rest of the column, go to:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

TRUTHOUT: Ruben Salazar and the Filmmaker in the Middle

ON SALAZAR: After waiting some 44 years, most everyone I know was disappointed with the documentary on journalist, Ruben Salazar this past April. I wrote a series of observations prior to watching the documentary. Here's my view after having watched it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

TRUTHOUT: Stepping Forward or Chaining Oneself for Justice

Last semester, the husband of one of my students was deported to Mexico. To see that battle ensue during the school year was not pleasant. I accompanied her to see lawyers that might help, yet in the end, all said he had no chance. He was deported and despite this, this semester, she graduated with honors.

Also, the previous semester, Cynthia Diaz, another one of my students, waged a very public battle to bring her mom back home after seeing her mother deported from their house in Phoenix some three years ago. Her public battle, which included a 6-day fast this semester in front of the White House, resulted in her mom's return into the country - as a political challenge to the Obama administration – and then her completely unexpected release.

I don't know if Arizona is different than other states, but in addition to DREAMers that are very public about their battles, there are also many students that come from families of mixed immigration status. In total, 15 of my students revealed to me this past academic year that either now or in the past, they too had to or were currently waging similar battles.

For rest of column, go to: http://truth-out.org /speakout/item/23893-stepping-forward-or-chaining-oneself-for-justice

Saturday, May 10, 2014



These are student projects from my classes this semester at the U of Arizona:

From the Mexican American Studies Overview class:

Operation Streamline: Student and Community Action

And the Ruben Salazar: Man in the MIddle Documentary blog:

From the Cultural Nutrition Class

An Inspiration to Eat Healthy

Ricas Raices Healthy Cookbook

Thursday, May 8, 2014


THE NORMALIZATION & DEBASEMENT OF CINCO DE MAYO: Please post and share and think about a coordinated strategy for next year. I thought the problem was with college students, but as can be seen in the following stories and clips, it is worse than shameful. Much local coverage nationwide followed the same theme... going to bars for this story.  I start with mine in which I argue we need to take back Cinco:

Here's the college story from the Daily Wildcat which assumes that May 5 is Cinco de Drink-o and that it is a holiday dedicated to tequila drinking:

This from CNN where story repeats the same -- while "admonishing" people to celebrate it right:

This is from Good Morning America:  Good Morning America:

And here’s CNN Story re MSNBC:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


ARIZONA ON FIRE: Found this little gem while I was going through my academic publications. Don't think it's been read in this country: This is an analysis of Arizona media during the battles re SB 1070 and HB 2281. The book, published in the Canary Islands, is titled: Reshaping Publishing in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century. My piece is Chapter 3:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Open Wound Called Salazar

May 6, 2014
The Open Wound Called Salazar
/By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

May 6, 2014
The Open Wound Called Salazar
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Forty four years ago, a journalist by the name of Ruben Salazar was killed by an LA County Sheriff’s deputy, Thomas Wilson. Seems like a long time to look back, yet, his death in 1970 will forever remain an open wound. The recently aired PBS documentary, Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle, while educational for those who were not around in 1970, does little to heal that wound.
Prior to watching the documentary, I posted four entries on the documentary’s website or blog ( Now that I watched it, here is a fifth entry.
After writing about Salazar for some 44 years, I repeat, what is there left to write that hasn’t already been written? In watching the documentary, I felt the same way. Having lived through the era, and as someone who teaches the life and works of Salazar, I walked away feeling that the documentary did not actually probe into his death, but that it actually took a step backwards in promoting the law enforcement and mainstream narrative of the events of that era.
There were two major things that were wrong.
During that era, law enforcement, the LA Sheriff’s Department in particular, created the narrative that the protests of that day, Aug. 29, 1970, were primarily the work of outside agitators. Secondarily, they told the story, via the media, that it was the rally goers who became unruly and attacked the Sheriff’s deputies, and thus, law enforcement had no choice and was entitled to go in and restore order via billy club and tear gas justice.
The documentary, in effect, inexplicably and unnecessarily towed that line. In towing that line, it has the feel of “official narrative” – it has the feel of a Sheriff’s Department press release as opposed to an eyewitness account, or minimally, a critical account.
Secondly, after 44 years, the public was entitled to a full probe of the events of Aug. 29, 1970. If law enforcement and government refused to fully probe or make public its findings regarding the circumstances behind Salazar’s death, then that job fell to the media, in this case, the documentary. And probe it did, but not deep enough; it appeared to be of secondary import. Or as previously stated, it had the feel of another official Sheriff’s Department press release.
The year 1970 was part of en era in which the government seemingly directed all its resources to destroy all the progressive movements at the time. This included the Chicano Movement. The most well known coordinated effort was the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COLINTENPRO). Perhaps the deeper probe took place by the filmmaker, but in the documentary, nary a mention of COLINTENPRO, the CIA or military intelligence or any other law enforcement program or agency that illegally and violently disrupted or attempted to destroy these movements, other than the Sheriff’s Department and a secret probe by the Department of Justice that found no prosecutable crimes, but that was nonetheless kept away from the public for more than four decades.
What we are left with by way of the documentary was a biography of Salazar, his journalism, a distortion of Aug 29, 1970, and the lack of a deeper probe into his death. And yet, realistically, if an agency was indeed responsible for the assassination of Salazar, it is highly unlikely that it would have placed the directive in writing and that the memo would survive to this day.
So the sum total of the documentary is that it does little to answer the pivotal question that most of us will to continue to ask, was he assassinated, and if so, by whom? Why does the question persist? The 44-year secrecy is one reason, but just as importantly, people still remember that his body was not removed from the Silver Dollar for at least three hours after he had been shot. And people can call it conspiracy theory if they wish, but it is legitimate to ask why his head was intact if he was killed by a 9-inch armor-piercing tear-gas projectile.
Our gut gives us answers and our memory also compels us to keep probing and asking questions. If anything, we can thank the filmmaker, Phillip Rodriguez, for keeping the story alive.
Rodriguez, a life-long journalist/columnist, won the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the California Chicano News Media Association in 1986 for his defense of the First Amendment, stemming from an incident in which he photographed the brutal beating of a young Mexican man in 1979. Today, he is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and was the recent winner of the American Educational Research Association’s Ella Baker-Septima Clark Human Rights Award for his defense of Ethnic Studies. He can be reached at:

Thursday, May 1, 2014

TRUTHOUT: Taking Back Cinco

Thursday, 01 May 2014 09:26
By Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, Truthout | Op ED

From no acknowledgment at all, to a proud celebration of "Mexican-ness," to a commercialized beerfest, Cinco de Mayo has seen many transformations in the last half-century. It is time to transform it again and recover meaning.

I grew up before Cinco de Mayo was celebrated in this country. I grew up at a time when Cinco de Mayo became a day that celebrated a victory (May 5, 1862) by an underdog, a ragtag Mexican army that repelled the invading French, the most powerful army in the world.

I grew up when people began to confuse Cinco de Mayo for Mexican Independence Day (September 16). Perhaps that's when the problem started, as I grew up at a time when that celebration transformed or was converted by beer companies into an excuse for excessive beer-guzzling.

I grew up a time when the words "wetback" and "beaner" were synonymous with the word Mexican. Those insults were uttered regularly in public and worse; it wasn't simply whites hurling those insults; many Mexican Americans were often the worst offenders, doing their hardest to show the world that they were Spanish or Americans, not Mexicans. They would never be caught dead speaking Spanish.

I grew up a time when the word Mexican itself was considered a high insult. It connoted being Indian. "Spanish" - a person from Spain - was the proper term. People sometimes apologized for referring to us as "Mexicans." That's kind of why the term "Hispanic" later caught on; it was the closest you could come to calling us "Spanish." Speaking Spanish was the ultimate telltale sign that they might be Mexican, the quintessential unwelcome foreigner.

I grew up at a time when the brown color of our skin was considered both dirty and ugly. It was a time when brown kids were shamed into wanting/wishing they were white.

For the rest of the column, go to:

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


OPERATION STREAMLINE AND SALAZAR: MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Last night's event at the University of Arizona showcasing a student video "Exposing Operation Streamline" and the showing of the Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle documentary was very successful. Both included student research and presentations. The Salazar presentation included a panel of former journalists, professors and a student. Here are a few photos and the link for the Streamline video:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Whittier Blvd. Connection: Salazar: Man in the Middle

4th entry (5th coming up... actual review of the documentary)

April 29, 2014
My Whittier Blvd. Connection
By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

In my first entry, I mentioned that I have always felt a connection with Ruben Salazar because I was nearly killed by Sheriff’s deputies on Whittier Blvd., a few streets down from where he was killed.

To me, I always considered the Silver Dollar Café a place of pilgrimage. It was located across the street from Sounds of Music record store, which itself had its own fame among the lowrider scene. For years, the Silver Dollar changed ownership and transformed from café to bar to restaurant, etc. For years, a theatrical play on the death of Salazar was reenacted there. Last time I went by in 2013, I believe it is now a jewelry store… and they nowadays advertise that they sell “silver” there. Perhaps it is a reminder or a tenuous connection at best to the past. Or maybe the owner is completely oblivious. It should be a museum. It is a crime that it isn’t. It should at least be on the national register of historic places.

A few blocks down the boulevard, heading toward downtown L.A., is McDonnell street. There on that corner is where I was almost killed in 1979. Today, a few yards from McDonnell, in between this street and Arizona, there is an arch there, signaling the entrance to the Whittier Blvd shopping district. I always joke and tell people that they placed the arch there in my honor.

Joking aside, I have written and rewritten many times about what happened to me. And I don’t write about the dramatic details anymore. Through the years, many people have conflated what happened to me with the riots of Aug. 29, 1970. As mentioned, what happened to me took place nine years later. I always felt guilty because when I was almost killed, it was not part of a political action, but part of cruising and the lowrider scene, etc. Not that it was minor; 538 people were arrested that weekend and after that, Whittier Blvd has been closed to cruising ever since.

Only until about 30 years later did I recognize what happened to me in political terms. When I photographed that guy being beaten… it was a political act because I had already left because I did not want to be next. I did not want to be another casualty. It became political when after leaving, I intentionally returned to photograph him being beaten. While that was hapening, he was screaming about God… but by the time I left, there was an eerie silence everywhere as he was no longer screaming. Only thuds from the riot sticks to his body could be heard, echoing against the night air and the store walls.

That is why I returned. My conscience would not permit me to leave. There were about 100 members of the Selective Enforcement Bureau of the L.A. Sheriff’s Department all along the 1-mile section of Whittier Blvd that where the cruising would take place every weekend. The red and blue lights were everywhere. I was conscious of that as he was being beaten by some 10-12 deputies. I returned to photograph, knowing full well I would probably be arrested or beaten or both… or even possibly be killed. But I was compelled to return. Return I did and I did photograph the Sheriffs deputies beating on him. The last photograph I took was of a deputy pointing at me.

Suffice to say that I got my skull cracked, I was hospitalized and I was charged with several criminal counts, including: Assault and Battery on 4 deputies. And yes, the “weapon” was the camera.

It took nine months before my charges were dropped (I was detained or arrested about 60 times in those nine months) and then I filed a lawsuit against the deputies who claimed I tried to kill them. It was a long wait, but in 1986, after a 36-day trial, which included 10 days of deliberation, I won the lawsuit. It was near miraculous for two reasons; no one wins in court against law enforcement, but on the rarest occasions that it does happen, the victory goes to the spouse or parents. In my case, I won… and I’m alive.

Today, I teach at the University of Arizona… and there, I teach Salazar. I teach more than Salazar, but when I teach either “The History of Red-Brown Journalism” (a class I created , which has a special collections at the UA Library) or “the History of the Chicano Movement,” I teach primarily the journalism of Salazar, but also, his death.

Akin to this essay, I don’t really teach about my trials, in part because it is awkward to do so. I can’t actually compare my work or situation to Salazar, though as I have noted, for me at least, I do see a connection. I know I pursued the path of a journalist/columnist because of his death and I do know that my case was historic because it resulted in victory (thanks to my witnesses and my attorney, Antonio Rodriguez). I won both my trials, but I always know there should have been a 3rd trial. The 4 deputies should have had to face criminal charges themselves. They didn’t and of course, not one of them ever had to serve time behind this. In fact, what surfaced in court is that they all had subsequently been promoted.

I could write more… or speak in details about this in public more, but I no longer do this because I did live with post-traumatic stress disorder for the longest time (due to the traumatic brain injury). But over the years, I have learned that I can speak about what happened to me, without having to relive that nightmare and without getting into a trance, by giving specific details. Justice for me over the years has been the opportunity to fight on behalf of others – too numerous to mention – of peoples and communities that continue to live these traumas.

We should not forget that Salazar did write about police abuse throughout his career.

Here, suffice to say that the Salazar documentary is long overdue. I would say at least he is finally getting some justice. But a documentary is not the same as justice. But minimally, it will give millions of people around the country an opportunity to learn about this great journalist.

In speaking to his daughters through the years, I know they have always felt – and continue to feel – that it is not enough to honor their father. Justice for them is to answer once and for all whether their father was in fact assassinated or not.

Perhaps this documentary is taking us one step closer to answering that question.

Rodriguez, a life-long journalist/columnist, won the 1986 Journalist of the Year Award from the California Chicano News Media Association in 1986 for his defense of the First Amendment, stemming from an incident in which he photographed the brutal beating of a young Mexican man in 1979. Today, he is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and was the recent winner of the American Educational Research Association’s Ella Baker-Septima Clark Human Rights Award for his defense of Ethnic Studies. He can be reached at:

Sunday, April 27, 2014


NIN TONANTZIN NON CENTEOTL "OUR SACRED MAIZ IS OUR MOTHER." Today I turned in my final edited version of my forthcoming book: Our Sacred Maiz is our Mother" at 11:11 a.m. There is something magical about : 11:11. I won my first police brutality trial at exactly 11:11 a.m on Nov 7, 1979. Since then, they've been my lucky numbers. In Jan 2,008, I was awarded my PhD in Wisconsin, also, at exactly 11:11 a.m. (11:11 also has a special significance to the Zapatistas). Wish my book was out already but it doesn't get officially published til Nov., however, I will have copies sometime in Oct. Thanks to everyone who has accompanied me on this journey, especially from the time I lived in an alley on Whittier Blvd in East L.A. It's been a long road. Tlazocamati to all the youths and elders who have taught me what it means to be human, especially here in the most dehumanizing state of Arizona. (Next project: tenure, Smiling Brown... and Yolqui).

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Taking Back Cinco

Taking Back Cinco... one city at a time... Sobriety run and a Healthy Cinco de Mayo Food Festival in Tucson, Arizona... Let's make this idea go natoinal


"Salazar: Assassinated or accident?" April 23
Earlier posts:
Salazar, Justice, and “The Price of a Mexican” April 14
"Salazar and Me" April 1
go to:
(April 29 screening and program of Salazar documentary at the U of A ILC #130 7pm)

SMILING BROWN: Reminder: This is an ongoing project that will become a book, play and videologues. About 100 stories have been received. Continuing to gather stories of our earliest memories of color consciousness and when we realized that there never was anything wrong with our color. See prelim article and if interested, please contact me: Looking for 300-1200 word vignettes. No deadline... but June 1 is ideal because that's when major work will recommence on this very important topic, a topic that deals not simply racism and denial of Indigeneity, but also a deep internalized oppression, involving those closest to us. Thanks:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This, fall: Our Sacred Maiz is Our Mother

Advanced Search
Catalogs The Books The Store News and Events Contact
Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother
Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas
By Roberto Cintli Rodriguez
288 pp. / 6.00 x 9.00 / 2014
Paper (978-0-8165-3061-8) [s]
Related Interest
  - Native American Studies
  - Latina and Latino Studies

Not Yet Published - Pre-order Today
"If you want to know who you are and where you come from, follow the maíz." That was the advice given to author Roberto Cintli Rodriguez when he was investigating the origins and migrations of 
Rodriguez provides a highly unique and multifaceted account of the ways in which de-Indigenized communities have managed to preserve and pass on knowledge of their traditions across centuries.

—Roberto D. Hernández, San Diego State University

Sacred maíz narratives offer the opportunity to recover history and, in the process, to recover one's Indigeneity.

—Lara Medina, author of Las Hermanas: Chicana/Latina Religious-Political Activism in the U.S. Catholic Church
Mexican peoples in the Four Corners region of the United States.

Follow it he did, and his book Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother changes the way we look at Mexican Americans. Not so much peoples created as a result of war or invasion, they are people of the corn, connected through a seven-thousand-year old maíz culture to other Indigenous inhabitants of the continent. Using corn as the framework for discussing broader issues of knowledge production and history of belonging, the author looks at how corn was included in codices and Mayan texts, how it was discussed by elders, and how it is represented in theater and stories as a way of illustrating that Mexicans and Mexican Americans share a common culture.

Rodriguez brings together scholarly and traditional (elder) knowledge about the long history of maíz/corn cultivation and culture, its roots in Mesoamerica, and its living relationship to Indigenous peoples throughout the continent, including Mexicans and Central Americans now living in the United States. The author argues that, given the restrictive immigration policies and popular resentment toward migrants, a continued connection to maíz culture challenges the social exclusion and discrimination that frames migrants as outsiders and gives them a sense of belonging not encapsulated in the idea of citizenship. The "hidden transcripts" of corn in everyday culture—art, song, stories, dance, and cuisine (maíz-based foods like the tortilla)—have nurtured, even across centuries of colonialism, the living maíz culture of ancient knowledge. 

Top of Page

(800) 621-2736
(520) 621-1441

© 2014 The University of Arizona Press
Main Library Building, 5th Floor
1510 E. University Blvd.
P.O. Box 210055
Tucson, AZ 85721-0055