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United States: Another Assault on Immigrant Culture

The decision to eliminate the Mexican-American studies program from public schools curriculum, which had been implemented in Tucson, Arizona, in 1998, has caused outrage. For many, the dismantling of the program and the confiscation of a great number of books is the living example of the ultra conservative agenda that is threatening the cultural and historic breadth of this region.

The decision approved in January by the Superintendent of Tucson's Independent School District, John Huppethal, is based on ARS-15-112 statute of HB 2281 Law. As explained by Jasmine Villa in LatinitasMagazine this law forbids courses or classes that:

  • Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
  • Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
  • Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
  • Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

Here's a list of some of the confiscated books:

  • “Rethinking Columbus: The next 500 years” by Leslie Silko
  • “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare
  • “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paolo Freire
  • “Occupied America: A History of the Chicanos” by Rodolfo Acuña
  • “Chicano: The History of the Mexican-American movement for Civil Rights” by Arturo Rosales
  • “500 years of Chicano History in Images” by Isabel Martínez

Click here to read the full list.

Here is a video of the students and teachers protest against the prohibition of ethnic studies in Tucson:

As expected, the solidarity that the state wanted to control has been felt not only in Tucson but in several regions across the United States. Junot Díaz, Laura Esquivel, Ana Castillo, among other writers as well as various organizations dedicated to education, literature and freedom of expression have publicly rejected this unconstitutional action.

Online petitions have been created as well as blogs to support the re-installment of the Mexican-American Studies Curriculum. Banning History, for example, is accepting videos where people appear reading, singing or illustrating pieces of the censored books.

"You can't censor books", street art from Tucson, AZ. Photo by Flickr user crjp. Published under CC BY-NC-2.0 Licence.

"You can't censor books", street art from Tucson, AZ. Photo by Flickr user crjp. Published under CC BY-NC-2.0 Licence.

Teacher Activist Group, TAG  in collaboration with Rethinking Schools, also launched a campaign to raise awareness called “No history is illegal: a campaign to save our stories”. They have also created an extended curriculum based on the lessons of the banned program, complemented by lessons on the fight for freedom of speech and cultural diversity.

Definitively, this solidarity wave will gain strength because it is a very effective antidote to the abuse of power, fear and racism. In March the Librotraficante caravan will arrive from Houston, Texas to Tucson, Arizona to hand out censored books.

Here is a video on the caravan project organized by writer Tony Díaz.

  • Sandra

    i’ve seen vids on utube of young children all dressed up mariachi style. they were saying the pledge of allegiance to the mexican flag. this school is on american soil. i support the ending of this tax payer funded program. reading, writing, and arithmetic, should be taught in school. ethnic cultures should be taught in the home.

  • Elizabeth Rivera

    How is banning books good for education? How is censoring Shakespeare (for God’s sake!) good for students in Arizona? Is Mr. Huppethal’s about to ban Irish, Italian, Chinese, or any other immigrant related literature or is this just about Mexican/Chicanos? If his desire is to promote integration or avoid ethnic distinctions, he’s taking the wrong direction by attacking people’s ancestors and/or their desire for knowledge.

  • Yarisa Colon

    We should continue to have an honest and respectful conversation about racism, literature and culture in the United States. It is the only way to get to really know each other. Certainly no land belongs to a country or specific ethnic group.

  • Hal555

    Sandra, I have not seen the YouTube videos and therefore can’t comment. On teaching on American soil must we dismiss all our roots: English, German, Irish, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, etc or just Mexican?
    A well balance school curriculum is definitely reading, writing, and arithmetic. However, what to read? What to write! History is a key element of reading and writing. Think about it.

  • Pingback: Students and teachers in Tucson, Arizona: “Together in the ‘lucha’” « Silvia Viñas

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