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Saturday, December 31, 2016


Rather than saying good riddance to 2016 or bemoaning 2017, instead, here is some great news as we close 2016 and enter the New Year…
The Smiling Brown: Gente de Bronce – People Color of the Earth play is set for Sunday, March 12th 2017, from 2:30pm- 5pm in the ILC 141 at the University of Arizona during the Tucson Festival of Books.
The play will be a combination of live testimonios, audio, video and actos, poetry and music, and most importantly, a dialogue with the audience. At the moment, it is envisioned as a 90-120-minute play. March 12 will be a preview that will end up in Los Angeles for its premiere, perhaps in the fall or shortly thereafter. After the play, we will have extended discussion as to how to improve it. Also, as envisioned, it will be able to be performed anywhere around the country, with localized testimonios.
As part of this project and play, a CD will also be created of a combination of spoken word, hip-hop, song, poetry etc. (See contact info below).


The Smiling Brown Project uniquely examines a taboo topic regarding the role of color and specifically, light-skin color preference in the Mexican/Mexican American//Central American and Andean communities of the United States. But unlike the manner in which this issue is treated in this country, this play treats the issue of color - not through a black-white paradigm per se, which is the norm, but rather - primarily in relationship to Indigeneity. That is, it examines the issue not simply as "colorism," but rather, as part of the historic process of de-Indigenization (and its religious roots) within these communities. However, because these peoples live in this country, it also does not shy away from the historic issues related to race and color in this country, including Afro-Indigenous identity and denial of that identity. Additionally, a number of testimonios are from peoples of other cultures as this is a worldwide phenomenon. For a more in-depth background article, go to:…/smiling-brown-gente-de-bron…

The Project

The Smiling Brown project has a number of components: a book, a play, testimonios, huehuetlahtolli (ancient guidances) music, poetry, spoken word, hip-hop and artwork, and also a research project. All are related and all flow into each other. This here is a summary of the play, which has a format akin to the Vagina Monologues, though with an emphasis on testimonios and dialogues.

The Play

The play’s primary emphasis is peoples’ earliest memories of when they became aware of their skin color and became aware of the significance attached to their color. While most such memories are negative and for some, painful and even traumatic even to this day, the project and play also seek to highlight the memories of when people became aware that there was never anything wrong with them in the first place. In fact, it also seeks to highlight stories of how children were raised right.

Over the past generation, since at least the 1960s, this topic has been dealt with at an external level, which initially gave rise to the era of "Brown Power" along with the idea of "Brown is Beautiful." This is true especially among writers, poets, artists and musicians. This was in response to the racism and hostility aimed at these communities, first in Mexico/Central America and its ingrained anti-Indigenous attitudes (and points south) and later, here in the United States with its extreme anti-Mexican and anti-Indigenous attitudes. However, for this project, the emphasis is internal, because despite that [short-lived] era, the mass media, and Spanish-language television in particular, did not do away with that light-skin preference. In fact, those issues remain very real today and among adults, many continue to be subjected to racial profiling by these country’s institutions. And while those issues continue to be addressed publicly, they have not been similarly addressed internally... that is, within these cultures and among those closest to us and within the home, which includes family, loved ones, relatives, neighbors and schoolmates. This is why the topic is taboo, because this happens among those closest to us. The idea here is to examine how these attitudes continue to be replicated and transmitted, but even more importantly, to hopefully change those attitudes which have both, colonial roots, and in reality, without sugar-coating it, white supremacy.

Some 100 testimonios have been gathered thus far. The objective is to get 200 total within the next year (2017). If you would like to submit a testimonio, we are looking for 300-1200 words written, recorded or videotaped. The testimonios can be in the form of vignettes, a story, a song, poetry, hip-hop, etc. Also, if you are interested send to (or for more info):

Friday, December 30, 2016

Holidays with a Storm on the Horizon

We are in the midst of the holidays and I ask myself, what compels me to write when I should instead simply be enjoying the holidays?

The answer: because the proverbial calm before the storm is upon us and it seems a bit too eerie for me. This past week, I filled out that professor watchlist petition because the times remind me of that Tagalog expression, Isang Balsak — when one falls, we all fall, and conversely, when one rises, we all rise. There appears to be a consensus that the incoming administration will be anti-education in general, anti-academic freedom specifically, and even more so, that it will be hostile to undocumented students. For rest of column, go to:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dec 28 Maiz painting unveiling

A very special maiz painting unveiling by Pola Lopez. She will be present.... and a platica re support of the O'tham Nation.. For whoever is in town, Dec 28, Wed 5-9pm (Green Corn Tamales and Champurrado included):

Rodriguez: Michelle Obama and the ‘Men’ of Hope

In a recent interview, Michelle Obama said this to Oprah Winfrey about the absence of hope: “We feel the difference now. See, now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like.”

Immediately, I thought of the maíz–based Maya concepts or ethos called “men,” one of 7 maíz–based concepts I have been teaching in my classrooms for many, many years, which is a concept even more powerful than hope. However, before explaining it, Michelle Obama’s comment needs to be contextualized within the tumultuous political climate in which we are now living in this country.

The operative word here is “we.”
On this one I do agree with the president-elect’s assessment; there is an abundance of hope from his base of support … for a return to the days of White supremacy, xenophobia, misogyny and an anti-intellectualism from a different era. Unfortunately, he and his supporters also now have power and a medieval view of the world that can help them achieve their hopes and misguided dreams. Though to be truthful, he will have dictatorial powers; it is his supporters that have the misguided dreams.
For the restof the column, please go to:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


When the 2020 Census comes around in 4 years, I will declare myself American Indian. I will do so both as an act of affirmation, but also as an act of rebellion against a government that sees me both as alien and as less than human... for rest of the column, go to:

Friday, December 9, 2016

Rodriguez: Faith in the Electoral College or the Path to Apartheid?

by Roberto Rodriguez

While most of the electorate believes that the president-elect will be handed the keys to the White House on Jan 20, 2017, others are still holding out hope that the Electoral College (EC), which meets on Dec 19, 2016, could still disqualify him, preventing him from becoming the 45th president of the United States.
Below are 13 reasons that the EC should deliberate on, because being guilty of any of them would make any candidate, but particularly him, ineligible to hold the nation’s top office. He has: For the list and the rest of the column, please go to:

Monday, December 5, 2016


Chicago poet Susana Sandoval has been fasting at Standing Rock ever since she spoke to my classes earlier this semester at the University of Arizona. Several years ago, she was arrested while fasting 17 days in front of the White House to call for a humane immigration reform.
This time, she is not counting, but it must be close to 30 days. When she left Tucson, she returned to Chicago, picked up her daughter and has been at Standing Rock ever since. Her stay there has been a spiritually transforming experience and the camp itself, she says, is a ceremony. Link to column here: * UPDATE: DAPL permit denied by Army Corps; DAPL says it will proceed anyway:…/live-standing-rock-spirit-r…