At 5 p.m. tonight, Nuestra Palabra's Tony Diaz and his bus of 60 Latino writers, artists and activists—all supporters of Tucson Unified School District's dismantled Mexican-American studies program—will be in Tucson on their Librotraficante caravan, bringing a truck full of those wet books that the school district continues to explain away and argue away regarding the definition of "banned."
If you still haven't made plans for the weekend, perhaps celebrating Latino literature with Diaz and his Librotraficante All-Stars would be a good start. It's no coincidence that Diaz picked Saturday night to end the caravan's arrival: Rather than call it a St. Paddy's Party, Diaz is reminding us of the very history the state wants taken out of our schools with the Santo Patricio Battalion Celebration: Ireland and Mexico.
It's a nod to those Irish-Catholic soldiers who made up the San Patricio Battalion with the Mexican army during the Mexican-American War. The men in the battalion were Irish immigrants who felt a kinship with the Mexican soldiers they were fighting, and they left their U.S. ranks to fight on the Mexican side.
The party starts at 10 p.m. at the Hotel Arizona lobby, 181 W. Broadway Blvd., and goes on until 2 a.m. Meet banned book authors, educators, ethnic studies supporters, community organizations, leaders and Mr. Librotraficante, Tony Diaz of Nuestra Palabra and the Latino Cultural Caucus. Local comedian Juaquin Murrieta will emcee the night.
A suggested donation of a $5 cover will go to help fund the caravan's trip back to Houston. There will also be an art display by Tucson artists Chris Leon and Ruben Urrea Moreno, and more entertainment from Hip Hop artists DJ BobZilla and garage cumbia from Vox Urbana.
The caravan left its home base in Houston on Monday, March 12, and headed west across Texas, stopping in San Antonio and El Paso before entering New Mexico and stopping Albuquerque. Along the way, they've attracted media attention and support from writers and artists like Sandra Cisneros, Carmen Tafolla, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Dagoberto Gilb, Luis Alberto Urrea, Levi Romero, Margaret Randall, Andrea J. Serrano, Mary Oishi, Tanaya Winder, Hakim Bellamy, Richard Varga, Zelene Suchilt, Habeer Sandhu, Gabriel Carmona, Gary L. Brower, E. A. “Tony” Mares, Cathy Arellano, Bill Nevins and Lupe Mendez. In each town, they've organized events, readings and underground libraries to call attention to the state law that has banned Mexican-American studies in Arizona and consequently kept Latino literature out of Tucson's dismantled Mexican-American studies classes.
If you're a student, Diaz and company will hold a student breakfast tomorrow at Studio One, 197 E. Toole Ave. From 10 a.m. to noon, Nuebstra Palabra will hold a Latino Cultural Caucus and a discussion on TUSD's upcoming school-board elections. From 1 to 4 p.m. is the Ultimate Lit Teach-In for 100 students and 100 teachers at the John Valenzuela Youth Center, 1550 S. Sixth Ave., South Tucson. Again, for everything — RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When we first talked to Diaz about the Librotraficante, he shared how writer Luis Alberto Urrea wanted a taco truck to pass out banned books throughout Tucson. According to the caravan's schedule, it looks like that's going to happen all day Saturday with the Libros Libres Taco Truck.
At 7 p.m., before everyone heads out to the Hotel Arizona lobby, there will be a literary showcase, Mind Altering Prose, at the UA, Social Science Building, Room 100, with Dagoberto Gilb, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Luise Alberto Urrea, Manuel Muñoz, Rene Alegria, Roberto Rodriguez, Christine Granados, Diane Lopez, Zelen Suchlit, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Harbeer Sandhu, Lupe Mendez, Liana Lopez and Matt Mendez.
The wet books' arrival with Librotraficante comes just as TUSD is still trying to figure out how to better communicate that those pesky books were never banned to begin with — just taken out of the classroom.
I was on the Buckmaster show with TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone today. Pedicone stayed on message that goes with the press release the district sent out this week that what happened was just an "active effort to disseminate misinformation about the books collected from school," and he didn't agree that what it boiled down to was semantics and the definition of the word "banned."
Read the TUSD press release:
Books collected from Mexican American Studies classes available in school libraries
Tucson, AZ, March 13, 2012 — Tucson Unified School District libraries have placed additional copies of the books used in former Mexican American Studies classes into their collections.
Due to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) requirement that all materials be removed from those classes, seven book titles were collected from classrooms in January and made available to the libraries when the MAS curriculum was suspended.
Currently, there are 112 copies of the books available to students through the library system.
Here is the breakdown of how many copies of each book are in school library collections:
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures edited by Elizabeth Martinez — 36 copies
Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales — 36 copies
Message to AZTLAN by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales — 18 copies
Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado — 8 copies
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire — 5 copies
Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow — 5 copies
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuna — 4 copies
A total of 40 copies of two titles (Message to AZTLAN and Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement) remain in the book warehouse, available for libraries if requested. All other books that were collected from schools have been distributed.
TUSD is aware that there is an active effort to disseminate misinformation about the books collected from schools. The district wants the community to know that no other book titles other than those above have been affected by the decision from the ADE. The collected books were cited in the ruling that found the classes out of compliance with state law and have not been approved for use in non-MAS classes.
The TUSD Governing Board voted Jan. 10 to suspend classes in Mexican American Studies at TUSD schools. The board decision came after Arizona Superintendent for Public Instruction John Huppenthal announced that he was upholding a previous Office of Administrative Hearings’ ruling that declared the courses were not in compliance with state law ARS 15-112.
By coming into compliance, the district prevented the loss of 10 percent of TUSD’s monthly apportionment of state aid that supports district-wide instruction and operations. Mexican American Studies class curriculums were suspended and the courses were adapted to general state standards-based curriculum.
The district is now working with the ADE and the University of Arizona to create new classes that will provide instruction from diverse perspectives and include Mexican American culture and history.