Librotraficantes. Latino Rebels. Zapata’s Disciples.

Editor's Note: We are proud to call Tony Diaz, the Librotraficante, a key member of the Latino Rebels familia.

I was recently knighted.

I didn’t fully understand what was happening at the time as I flew to New York. But I did know that we were making history.

Librotraficante

All around the nation Librotraficantes convened, on the same day, at the same time, to take a stand against Arizona House Bill 2281 passed to prohibit courses that promote the overthrow of the government. This was the legal trigger that Tucson Unified School District pointed at Mexican American Studies to force teachers to walk into class rooms and in front of our young confiscate and box up books by our most beloved authors—all accused of promoting the overthrow of the government.

I arrived in East Harlem, to packed Casa Azul bookstore, to convene with banned prose king pin Luis Alberto Urrea and banned iconic poet Martin Espada and other book traffickers. It was there that Martin read from and then handed to me his contraband book ZAPATA'S DISCIPLE.

Here are some of the words that an entire state did not want our people to hear:

“Some day, my son will be called a spic for the first time . . . I hope that I can help him handle the glowing toxic waste of rage . . . I keep it between the covers of the books I write.”

After he read more from the work, he formally handed the book to me.

On the title page, he wrote: “Para Tony-Librotraficante y discípulo de Zapata. Un abrazo de Martin Espada, banned author Sept. 21, 2012.”

I wear those words like a tattoo on my broad back and broader imagination.

I open the book to read about Frank Espada, pictured on the front of cover, and his son writes, “He was the most dangerous of creatures, a working class radical. James Graham in THE ENEMIES OF THE POOR, compared my father to a guerrilla-disciple of Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican Revolutionary.”

No, this was not an instruction manual on how to overthrow the government.

This a manual on how to save a people.

And to jaded eyes and ears it will seem I mean only a few people. I mean us all, all of the people. But I can’t slow down to explain because right now we are making History and changing the world so fast that English has to catch up—on its own time.

I always knew we needed to tell our stories. That’s why I earned a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Houston Creative Whitening Program.  And then I wrote my novel THE AZTEC LOVE GOD, published at a university press. So we also needed to publish our own work.

Then I realized we had to promote our own work, too. So 14 years ago I founded Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, in the fourth largest city in  America, with one of the highest drop our rates in the nation, with person after person even our own people telling me there was no interest, there was no audience. We went on to organize the largest book events in Houston, in Texas for all demographics.

And then six years ago, our familia in Tucson devised the Mexican American Studies program to teach our own stories to our youth from Kindergarten all the way to Senior year in High School.

And yes, I too, thought, that was enough. We had arrived at the promised land of the American Dream.

But this year Arizona officials prohibited that course. They yanked now sacred books out of the hands of our young, they banned our history, they made our culture contraband.

We had to join our brothers and sisters fighting for our culture in Tucson, so Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say organized the Librotraficante Caravan to Smuggle the Wetbooks back into Arizona in March of 2012, getting thousands of books donated from across the country. I thought that we would return to our old lives the Monday after. Instead, we had unleashed a national movement.

On September 21, 2012 thousands of us convened to honor the books banned in Arizona, and all our lost histories. We extolled the young students still protesting in the streets of Tucson, arguing in the Arizona Supreme Court, and still studying to earn their diplomas, degrees. We reminded America that everyone’s Freedom of Speech rested on the backs of young Chican@s suing the state of Arizona. We raised funds for the Raza Defense Fund for heroes like Sean Arce, former Director of Mexican American Studies, and Jose Gonzalez, former Mexican American Studies teacher at Tucson Unified School District who were being sued as a result of their activism. That’s like the grape companies suing Cesar Chavez for picketing them. 

We united to make our literature go viral the old fashioned way-one person at a time, Librotraficantes in New York including Ivy League Tejano Sergio Troncoso, Chicago, The Bay Area Librotraficantes in San Francisco with Super poeta/organizer Naomi Quiñonez and La Mera Mera banned poeta Lorna Dee Cervantes, The City of Angeles Librotraficantes at banned author Luis Rodriguez’s awesome spot in L.A. Tia Chucha Cultural Center, featuring El Padrino of Contraband prose Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, in Iowa City, Boston, Milwaukee, Manhattan, Kansas; Kansas City, Lincoln, Nebraska; San Antonio, Texas; Minnesota, and more—thousands of us, across the country.

But in New York, in the confines of a book store owned by a Latina, in the barrio of the largest city in America, our mission became even more clear.

We also had to buy our own bookstores, too as Aurora Anaya-Cerda did with Casa Azul bookstore, so we could meet there on that night.

We had to promote our own events.

We had to report our own news.

We had to create ceremonies, initiations, readers, and we have to not only make history, but record it, spread it, and then repeat it.

That magical night of the written word when we were inducted into the sanctum of Protectors of The Word we were assembled by the concerted efforts of Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, The Librotraficante Movement, The Latino Rebels, poeta extradionaire Charlie Vazquez, Sangre Viva Alliance, Hostos CC, John Jay College, Fordham U., Casa Azul, Rich Villar with Accentos, Universalist Unitarian Assembly HUManists, Dreamer across the nation, The South West Workers Union, and more, so many more.

The blessing is that we are poised in a moment in history, when all of that is within our reach, within our grace, within our ability to put it into words.

And now these movements too delivered an election.

Arizona officials knew that we would never overthrow the government through violence. They knew we would over haul the government by voting them out of office. And by banning our literature, they created that which they feared the most: An Army of Zapata’s Disciples knighted Protectors of the Word.

America, I give you the dawning of the Librotraficante Nation.

 

***

Yes, the essay is over. 

But since we are smugglers, here are some more words.

If it were a sheet of paper, they would slide off, since it’s the internet, we can just sneak more in.

If the Librotraficantes were a band, I’m the lead singer, and my cofounders are dear friends who have been with Nuestra Palabra for over a decade each: Librotraficante HighTechAztec Bryan Parras, Librotraficante Lilo Liana Lopez, Librotraficante La Laura-Laura Acosta, Librotraficante Lips Mendez-Lupe Mendez.

I also got to flow in NYC with poets Bonafide Rojas, Miguel Ángel Ángeles and John Murillo; representing the NYC Latina Writers' Group Peggy Robles-Alvarado, María Rodríguez, and Nancy Arroyo-Ruffin reading from “The House on Mango Street”; Representing the Capicu Cultural Showcase Juan “Papo Swiggity” Santiago, Mark Anthony Vigo, and José Vilson be reading from “Always Running”; and John Rodríguez, Grisel Acosta, Isabel Martínez, Elizabeth Calixto, and Vincent Toro reading from “Occupied America;” and Anamaría Flores, Jani Rose, Kim Possible and so many others! 

Junot Diaz and Other Global Writers Condemn Arizona’s “Racist” School Curriculum Law

Tuesday at the Edinburgh World Writers' Conference, writers from all over the world—including Pulitzer Prize novelist Junot Diaz—issued a statement condemning Arizona's House Bill 2281, the law that allowed for the banning of books at Tucson Unified School District  and the dismantling of TUSD's Mexican American Studies program.

 

We, the undersigned writers attending the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference have learned, to our dismay, that the state of Arizona has passed House Bill 2281, which among its other provisions, specifically prohibits, in the public schools, books ‘designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group’. This is being used to ban Latino studies and the dissemination of books written by and about the Latino community. In future this legislation could be used to target any ethnic group and its literatures.

We abhor this racist law and the infringement of the rights of readers and writers. This is a clear case of censorship, which we oppose, and we call upon readers and writers in the US and all over the world to demand the overturn of this law. House Bill 2281 is not just the beginning of a dangerous trend – this is a drastic assault on civil liberties.

Edinburgh, 21 August 2012

Andrey Astvatsaturov

Nick Laird

Ben Okri

Junot Diaz

James Robertson

Ewan Morrison

Xiaolu Guo

Theresa Breslin

Kapka Kassabova

Nicola Morgan

John Burnside

Aonghas Macneacail

Denise Mina

Chika Unigwe

Ian Rankin

Janne Teller

Alan Bissett

Margo Lanagan

Alan Gibbons

Michel Le Bris

Kyung-Sook Shin

Patrick Ness

Kim Thúy

Preeta Samarasan

China Miéville

Bernado Atxaga

Matthias Politycki

Jackie Kay

Keith Gray

Sophie Cooke

Owen Sheers

Carlos Gamerro

Manu Joseph

Garth Nix

Melvin Burgess

Kamila Shamsie

Ali Smith

Yiyun Li

Xi Chuan

Kirsty Gunn

Dag Solstad

José Rodrigues dos Santos

The Librotraficante Manifesto

Orginally Published at Librotraficante.com

THE LIBROTRAFICANTE MANIFESTO

by Tony Diaz, El Librotraficante

"It now falls on us, the Children of The American Dream, to defend the Civil Rights of all Americans, because that is what is on the line."

Tony Diaz (Credit: Cody Duty/Chronicle)

Arizona Legislators, THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING.

HOUSTON (April 4, 2012)

The 2012 Librotraficante Caravan to Tucson was intended to smuggle books back into the hands of our youth, after they were boxed up and carted out of classrooms during class time, in order to comply with Arizona House Bill 2281. This law was created to prohibit courses in high schools in all of Arizona. However, the only course, for now, those administrators saw fit to prohibit was the innovative and brilliant K through 12th grade Mexican American Studies program in place at the Tucson Unified School District. 

This led to the prohibition of all the courses that fell under this curriculum and the confiscation and boxing up of all the books, more than 80, that were taught in those courses.

I had time to re-read some of these important texts on the bus during our caravan. Yes, books help me step into the mind of our greatest thinkers and help me see history differently, in three dimensions – in 6, even 7 even more dimensions. As we convened with our brothers and sisters in the Southwest from Houston, to San Antonio, to El Paso, Texas; to Mesilla, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, then Tucson, Arizona; with the Madrinos and Padrinos of our literature – Sandra Cisneros, Carmen Tafolla, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Denise Chavez, Rudolfo Anaya and Dagoberto Gilb – it became clear that our magic bus of mind-altering prose was marking the launch of the new Latino Renaissance.

As we walked hand-in-hand with our brothers and sisters across the Southwest, after having joined with our brothers and sisters in New York just a few weeks prior, our extended family fed us, loved us, gave us books to take to our people and helped us start Underground Libraries. It was clear that we were walking in a special moment in history.

We need only to re-read some of the now sacred texts confiscated from classrooms in Tucson. We need only re-read the texts of our deepest and greatest thinkers to see that we are reliving the Civil Rights movement archived in the book CHICANO by Arturo Rosales. We are all like the members of the Raza Unida party, and thus, we must like they did in Crystal City, begin to win elections.

The Aztecs, creators of the Sun Stone, the greatest work of art in North America, believed that every 50 or 60 years the world must be recreated. Well, here we are, about 50 or 60 years later – reliving the Civil Rights Movement. This is the beginning of the new world that the Maya were predicting.

It is now the duty of our people to unite, and to struggle on behalf of all Americans, to preserve the most essential of American values, Freedom of Speech. We must defy censorship.

It now falls on us, the Children of The American Dream, to defend the Civil Rights of all Americans, because that is what is on the line.

And thus, with this great mission, I urge all of us to assume our full power and vision and step boldly into this historical charge. For this, I offer up as did my predecessor Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez with the writings in his confiscated book MESSAGE TO AZTLAN, I, Tony Diaz, El Librotraficante, offer to history, the Librotraficante Manifesto.

THE LIBROTRAFICANTE MANIFESTO

  1. Arizona House Bill 2281, created to prohibit courses in Arizona high schools must be repealed. The powers that be would like to make it seem as if it was designed to target only Mexican American Studies, however, as with the anti-immigrant legislation that Arizona created, this template will spread to other states and be used to eliminate all other Ethnic Studies programs.
  2. The brilliant and innovative Kindergarten to 12th grade Mexican American Studies program, which the Tucson Unified School District prohibited to comply with AZ HB 2281, must be re-instated.
  3. Sean Arce, former director of MAS in the Tucson Unified School District must be reinstated.
  4. We must laud and support, as heroes, all the students leading teach-ins, protests, and championing our culture; the Tucson 11; the teachers who lead the MAS courses; and the 3 the young students who are locked in legal battle suing the state of Arizona to defend their Freedom of Speech and thus all our first amendment rights. 
  5. We profess Quantum Demographics, which embraces deep links between cultures that seem disparate at first glance. We want and need to study our own history so that we can then study other histories more fully. We do not strive to exclude others from our history or to deny others their history. We strive for the day when we all know our own stories to such an extent that we can see the links and bridges to the stories of others.
  6. Every state of the Union must incorporate Ethnic Studies programs that not only provide a global perspective but that value and archive the local history of their own people, so that scholars, writers and artists can be inspired to archive the many facets of American history and the many local stories that are our national story.
  7. We must organize in every city to elect school board members with great minds and big hearts, who truly care about our youth, and who will answer to the people of a community. Under Quantum Demographics, it should be obvious that we do not suggest that we would vote for only Mexican American candidates. In fact, there are some Latinos that we must vote out of office. 
  8. The architects of AZ HB 2281 have been quoted as having their sights set on prohibiting Mexican American studies at the University level as well. We must never tolerate impositions on Freedom of Speech at our school of higher learning, ever. 
  9. We must create and maintain Librotraficante Underground Libraries throughout the nation, so that our histories and our cultures are never at the whim of an administration ever again.
  10. We owe it to future generations to create networks and leave in our wake community resources that will last for decades and beyond. As such, we must recognize that we, like our best fields of study, must be multi-disciplinary, as must our institutions, and must be the make up of all our groups and alliances. We must employ Quantum Demographics in our activism as well, thus, writers must advocate justice, but must also be entrepreneurs. Only then will businessmen and women become poets. We all must respect and become teachers. We must proceed with the knowledge that we are not simply paving the way for our youth, but we are teaching them how lead.

Tony Diaz, El Librotraficante

www.librotraficante.com

www.nuestrapalabra.org

C/S, con safos

And also 

Librotraficante™

Please forward far and wide, but also please respect that we mean business.

WEBSITES:  www.Librotraficante.com and www.NuestraPalabra.org

ORGANIZERS: Tony DiazLiana LopezBryan ParrasLupe Mendez & Laura Acosta

The Librotraficantes Have Arrived in Tucson for a March 17 Rally Against Banned Books

Today, the Librotraficantes have reached their destination: Tucson, Arizona.

The Librotraficantes appeared this morning on local Tucson TV. Here is the recording we made for news gathering purposes since the local TV station doesn't have an embed feature.

"The whole idea is that Arizona legislators tried to erase our history, we've decided to create more and we have created a nationwide movement that know that our culture has been delivered to a test of democracy and it is our turn to define the American dream for everybody," Tony Diaz, founder of the Librotraficantes, said.

 

The Rebeldes Are Proud to Be #LibroTraficantes: The Historic NYC Event Celebrates Latino Unity

This one is personal.

When our boss @julito77 began his professional career as an editor in 1991, the call for authentic US Latino literature was just in its infancy, and one of the goals in the education space was to promote this literature to the K-12 world. In his early years, Julito helped to commission pieces by luminaries such as Rodolfo AnayaGary SotoSabine UlibarríCarmen TafollaPat MoraAlma Flor AdaYanitzia Canetti and other Latino authors who had stories to tell. These stories soon became part of the mainstream educational curriculum, and 22 years later, it is clear that such literature had become a fabric of this country.

Fast forward to 2012, where a new fight out of Tucson Unified School District is questioning the educational value of Latino literature, with short-sighted political accusations and book bans that claim that such literature is bad for America. It is a battle that pits those who want an America of the past against those who know that the America of the future will not be denied.

Today in New York City, a true testament of US Latino unity emerged, as the LibroTraficante movement shined in Manhattan. An exemplary list of authors, including Pulitzer Prize winner Oscar Hijuelos (author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, one of the greatest American novels of the late 20th century), gathered together to say: WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED AND WE WILL NOT BE BANNED.

The LibroTraficante movement is gathering momentum, uniting Latino authors, activists, artists, editors, bloggers, professionals, and students. Our love of expression and the American freedom to share that expression without the political vitriol that is trying to suppress it ruled the day. No matter what others think, this band of Americans have joined forces to demand respect. Those who fear change and the browning of America will realize that we too are Americans, as proud of this country's true liberties as anyone else. We know that literature that celebrates a people will make us all better citizens. Like Hijuelos said today via Skype:  ”When children can read about their roots, they will read about all kinds of things.” THAT is the power of literature and how creative expression can improve our society and our humanity.

We are proud to be a #LibroTraficante, and proud that some of the Rebeldes who form Latino Rebels met today in New York. This is all about unity, all about sharing a common bond, a common ideal to make this country a better place for our kids.

Rebeldes Charlie Vázquez and tony Díaz

To all that participated, especially Tony Díaz (the founder of the LibroTraficantes and a PURO REBELDE), Sergio TroncosoRich VillarLiana López and the great Hijuelos, THANK YOU. Thank you for your art, your insight, and your passion.

And to two of our Orirginal Rebeldes, Charlie Vázquez and Efraín Nieves, you are the Original Familia. ¡VIVAN LOS REBELDES! ¡VIVAN LOS LIBROTRAFICANTES!

El Gallito Rebelde And The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Take On HB2281

On Monday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights expressing "grave concern" over

 the Arizona Revised Statute §§ 15-112 that subsequently banned the TUSD MAS program. In the letter the Congressional Hispanic Caucus urged the Office for Civil Rights to investigate due to "the language of the statute and its targeted application against the MAS program."

Things just got a bit hotter. Today, El Gallito Rebelde Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez announced on his Facebook page he will be joining the Congressional Hispanic Caucus "in protesting Arizona's book ban today." Everyone knows when El Gallito gets involved, he will not stop until he sees results. 

We strongly urge Superintendent John Huppenthal to consider reinstating the MAS program and end this blog with a quote from the CHC letter:

"We believe that A.R.S. §§ 15-112 is bad public policy and fundamentally flawed. Using the law to attack the MAS program, with its proven educational successes, will only serve to exacerbate the already harmful anti-Latino sentiment in Arizona. Arizona is sending the wrong message."

 

Take a Stand Against Banned Books in Tucson: Submit Your Video

The power of community and social media occurs when different ideas from different people come together to fight for a cause that is matters to them. With all the controversy surrounding Tucson Unified School District's banning of certain book as it eliminates its Mexican Studies program, a new blog is asking for people to submit their videos to protest this decision.

Here is the information from the blog, Banning History in Arizona:

 

Videos must contain reading of a passage of one of the books on the list.  You can read it, sign it, sing it, draw it, or otherwise showcase a passage in one of these books.

Do not do anything that violates copyright laws and make sure you quote the title of the book, author and page number from where the passage you are reading is from.

If it's a poem, make sure you state the name of the poem.

You can upload to YouTube and then email us that link or embed code to [email protected].  Please include the title of your submission, your name and the date submitted.

Please make sure when uploading to YouTube that you include the hashtag #banninghistory so we have all the videos together in one place.

Please make sure you're not cussing or trashing the state, etc.  ONLY read the passage.  If the passage has cussing then so be it.

If you are an author of one of these books, we want to hear from you.  We want you to read from your favorites too!  Let us know your thoughts.

Every single submission will be posted.

The Libro-Traficantes Plan to Smuggle Banned Books Back to Arizona

Parody. Anyone can do it and one of our favorites Tony Díaz is doing it out of Houston.

Watch out, Arizona. The "wet books" are crossing the border. Check out Libro-Traficante.com for more!