Precious Problems



While it was unfortunate that the fundraiser and screening of the documentary Precious Knowledge was cancelled Thursday, the biggest casualty was a former Mexican-American studies student who planned to raise money selling concessions during the show.

Crystal Terriquez also happens to be a student featured in the documentary about the MAS classes, program, teachers and students. The last time we talked to the Tucson Magnet High School graduate was in Nov. 2010, several months before the documentary first screened at the Fox Tucson Theater. In the interview, Terriquez talked about her arrest that happened that spring at the state building in downtown Tucson when then-Superintendent Tom Horne was visiting.

From that interview:

As a sophomore, Crystal says she suffered through school, particularly a world-history class.

"We were this little group of Mexican kids in the back corner that (the teacher) didn't pay attention to," says Terriquez, who now attends Pima Community College and wants to become a court interpreter.

One day, Terriquez says, that teacher told them about "'some classes for you Mexicans that will help you out.' A lot of people have asked me, 'Did you take that as a racist comment?' At first, I thought (it) was, but after I took those classes, I wished she was still teaching there so I could go thank her."

Even though that teacher's perspective of the classes was wrong—the classes aren't just for Mexican students—Terriquez says the classes were transforming. She entered a very quiet student who just went to school because she had to, and left as someone who wants to learn more.

As threats to the ethnic-studies classes began to grow, Terriquez says, she felt compelled to speak out at protests in Tucson and in Phoenix. Last spring, she and 12 others were arrested for trespassing at the state building in downtown Tucson during a protest.

"The TV news said we were being radical students protesting, and that we wanted to be arrested," Terriquez says. "It wasn't about that. To me, it was about my little sisters. I want those classes to be there for them."

Terriquez says she's been told by their attorney, Richard Martinez—the same civil rights attorney representing 11 Tucson educators who are suing Horne over the constitutionality of HB 2281 (see "Education vs. Fear," Nov. 11)—that a final decision on charges isn't expected until December.

Terriquez's mother, Selene, says she's certain her daughter wouldn't be a college sophomore had she not been introduced to the ethnic-studies classes—and that the classes helped at home, too. "She actually helped us a lot in our family. We were going through a lot of problems."

Terriquez planned to be at the documentary screening on Thursday selling concessions because she lost her job due to that arrest which has yet to be expunged from her record as expected. UA Chicano Studies assistant professor Roberto Rodriguez recently wrote a Truth Out piece on her case. Here's a snipet on

She actually wasn't the only one arrested that day. There were 15 total who were led away. She was one of them. So was I. But truly, it was a student protest. The year before, at the end of June, as a community, we ran from Tucson to Phoenix in 115┬░ heat to protest the same efforts to eliminate Ethnic Studies. During that run, Crystal and her sister were my running partners. They were both overcome with heat stroke. Others were also overcome by heat stroke, whereas one of the runners had a series of epileptic seizures. It was a serious run.

But back to the protest. When students learned that then state schools' superintendent, Tom Horne (the person that engineered HB 2281) was coming to Tucson for a meeting with district officials that morning, some 1,000 high school and middle school students walked out of their classes and surrounded the district headquarters. Rather than face the students, Horne instead went to the state building and held a press conference. Several hundred students then marched over to the state building, and proceeded to occupy the building and successfully shut it down. Some 50 students went upstairs, held a sit-in and eventually were arrested. (I joined them because I saw law enforcement officers roughing up the students). Of the 15 who were taken into custody, charges were dropped on 10 of the arrestees. Five of us were found guilty and were given community service and probation. This included Crystal.

Two years later (last week), Crystal was fired precisely because of that arrest. We had all been told that if we did not get arrested again, after completing the community service and the probation, that the charges would most likely be expunged. That has not happened.

The five of us are currently looking for an attorney willing to file a petition to expunge those records. If all goes right, that will be taken care of soon. But at the moment, Crystal has lost her job. When I say personal, I feel the same way as many in our community do; she has sacrificed of herself many times, and thus our community owes her.

In Arizona, and specifically Tucson, we are seemingly in perpetual crises. Money has to be raised for lawsuits to defend Mexican American Studies and to defend one of the teachers and the former director of MAS, Jose Gonzalez and Sean Arce, respectively from what appears to be a blatantly frivolous lawsuit. But we also have to raise money for SB 1070 related issues. And just as importantly, money for Dream Students who are going through the deferred action procedure.

In Arizona we are tapped out. But so is the rest of the nation. We understand that. The only difference is that Tucson finds itself in a unique position. As we know, SB 1070 is an attack on the body — on the brown color of our skin. HB 2281 attacks both our mind and our spirit. Tucson in effect is where the right wing has decided that our [Indigenous] culture and history is illegitimate and now illegal. But we don't accept that; that's why the youth fight back.

There are many more casualties here in Arizona. Many of them are women. Who can forget May 3, 2011, when 7 women — young students, community members and elders — were arrested for reading at the militarized school board meeting. This was on the heels of the April 26, 2011, student takeover of the school board the previous week, led by the student group UNIDOS, the majority young women. There's been lots written about what has happened here. And yet much of the story is still unwritten. I don't think I've ever read anything that Crystal has written. Actually, she did collaborate with Amoxtli X — The X Codex — about In Lak Ech-Panche Be and Hunab Ku (will attach at the end here) — maiz-based concepts that are taught in Mexican American Studies (MAS)

Some of the students are indeed now writing. Some do great video work. Previously, they had been documenting their history with their footprints, writing their story with their actions; a truly heroic story. Not all of it is romantic, though. Some involves external conflict. Some of it involves internal conflict. This is similar to the 1951 Empire Zinc mine strike (as depicted in the 1954 classic Salt of the Earth). And this is what's important to remember; this is not a movie. We are living this reality... in real time. And it's not all a pretty picture. In the near future, some of those other conflicts will come to the surface.

For now, I feel compelled to support Crystal, who has stepped forward, not once nor twice but many times. Many of the young women like Crystal almost cannot be recognized without their megaphones. Make no mistake, the battle in Tucson has been led from the outset primarily by students, and the strongest of the leaders have been young women.

So this here is a nationwide appeal. Crystal does not deserve to be in this position. We will find an attorney to expunge the records, but in the meantime, she needs to pay her bills. A PayPal account has been created with the expressed purpose of supporting her. Through legal action hopefully she will get her job back or maybe even a better one. But in the meantime, she has a mortgage to pay, many bills and no income.

Rodriguez hopes to raise money help with Crystal's expenses. He's set up a We Pay account you can go to here. You can also reach him at 520-271-6796 or

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