The Librotraficante Manifesto

Orginally Published at


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)


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.


  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

C/S, con safos

And also 


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


ORGANIZERS: Tony DiazLiana LopezBryan ParrasLupe Mendez & Laura Acosta

Tell Tucson Elected Officials: MAS Director Sean Arce Should Remain in Current Position


Sean Arce is one of the founders of the successful TUSD MAS Program, and is one of our community's most treasured resources.  He has been a beacon of light, during this time of attack on the Tucson community, and he has risen above the fray to do what he has always done:  educate our children and set them on the path for a successful future. The Tucson community demands that he remain in his position of TUSD MAS Director, and we expect our elected leadership to stand with him, at this critical time, as he has stood with our community and our children.

Call and write the elected officials, below, and let them know that we expect them to:  A)  Sign this petition, and; B)  Call TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone at (520) 225-6000 and demand that he support Sean Arce in his current position of TUSD MAS Director.

U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva:  (520) 622-6788, [email protected]

Supervisor Richard Elias:  (520) 740-8126, [email protected]

Supervisor Ramon Valadez:  (520) 740-8126, [email protected]

City Councilwoman Regina Romero: (520) 791-4040, [email protected]

City Councilman Richard Fimbres:  (520) 791-4131, [email protected]

State Rep. Macario Saldate: (602) 926-4171, [email protected]

State Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales: (602) 926-3278, [email protected]

State Sen. Olivia Cajero-Bedford: (602) 926-5835, [email protected]

State Sen. Linda Lopez: (602) 926-4089, [email protected]



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.


Our Rebelde @CharlieVazquez Breaks Down the Historic #LibroTraficante Event in NYC

Rebelde Charlie Vázquez breaks down this weekend's LibroTraficante event in New York City. For more information about how you can help, go to

Writer and literary activist Charlie Vázquez talks about the Librotraficante project, the banning of Latino Studies materials in Arizona and how a similar book ban would affect Nuyoricans and those of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean diasporas.

You think this issue is not important? Imagine if a book ban was happening right now in NYC. Or anywhere else. This is not just a Tucson issue. It is  an American one. The documentary PRECIOUS KNOWLEDGE provides more details about the backstory.

Precious Knowledge Trailer from Dos Vatos on Vimeo.

For more information, go to

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!

Marjorie Ann Mendez is Coming to Arizona: A Guest Post by Matt Mendez #Librotraficante

GUEST POST By Matt Mendez of

I am waiting for Marjorie Ann.  My wife, Marlo, is 7 months pregnant with her. Our soon to arrive daughter is named after her grandmother, my wife’s mother who died just before the start of Marlo’s senior year in high school. I never had the chance to meet the elder Marjorie, but I’ve gotten to know her through the stories Marlo and her family tell. For example I know Marjorie was a free spirit who fearlessly loved her children. Who at Marlo’s high school basketball games, where Marlo was an all-district power-forward, often grabbed the unused pom-poms of bored cheerleaders and led fellow parents in a cheer, and if no other parents joined her, she cheered alone. It was important to Marjorie that Marlo know what unconditional love looked like. When Marjorie died in August of 1994, from colon cancer, the details of her final days are harrowing but again reveal a woman of bravery and grace.

Marjorie’s story is an example of how every moment in a person’s life can create lasting meaning. I have learned from Marjorie’s experiences, but if Marjorie’s life had been made into a book and taught to students of the Mexican-American Studies (MAS) program in Tucson’s Unified School District (TUSD), her story would more than likely be banned because Marjorie was Mexican-American.  

On January 10, TUSD suspended the MAS program and in at least one classroom had books, written primarily by Mexican-American authors, physically removed while a class was in session. In a press release TUSD explained that the books used in the former MAS program had not been banned but instead moved into storage and claimed the “stored” books were available in most of the district’s libraries. TUSD also claimed the curriculum taught in MAS will not be lost but instead added to the general curriculum.

TUSD’s untenable position of inclusion by removal is the doing of current Superintendent for Public Instruction John Huppenthal and his predecessor Tom Horne. Despite TUSD’s weak statement to the contrary the only plausible goal of ARS 15-112, the state law banning ethnic studies, is to suppress the Mexican-American population in Arizona by diluting its history and delegitimizing the native voices of the state. As Native-American writer Sherman Alexie recently pointed out (his works also banned by TUSD): “Let's get one thing out of the way: Mexican immigration is an oxymoron. Mexicans are indigenous…I'm also strangely pleased that the folks of Arizona have officially announced their fear of an educated underclass. You give those brown kids some books about brown folks and what happens? Those brown kids change the world.”

According to the law banning MAS, courses and classes must not promote the overthrow of the United States government. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people. Be designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

In other words, Huppenthal and Horne believe that the MAS program was creating an army of Mexican revolutionaries bent on overthrowing the government. That works of fiction by, Sandra Cisneros, Dagoberto Gilb, Manuel Muñoz and Luis Alberto Urrea (just to name a few), that a coming-of-age story about a young girl in Chicago and of men looking for work and love, of young men discovering their sexuality California’s picking fields and of a boy growing up in the streets of Tijuana, stories as meaningful and instructive as Marjorie’s, are somehow a threat to national security. 

I find it hard to believe that either Huppenthal or Horne actually believe an armed rebellion is marching their way. Instead what Huppenthal and Horne really fear is democratic change. Tom Horne, now Arizona’s attorney general, has been a hardliner against immigrants and immigration for years, accusing “Illegals” of voter fraud and accusing the Obama administration of pursuing the “illegal” vote when the justice department challenged Arizona’s voter ID law. “I think the motive is that the more illegals that vote, the better the Obama administration thinks it will do.”  Huppenthal and Horne are not working to stave off revolution but cynically fomenting a culture of fear in Arizona, fear of immigrants and, as Sherman Alexie accurately points out, of an educated underclass in the hopes of keeping their political power.

Revealingly, neither Huppenthal nor Horne are native Arizonans or from the Southwest—for that matter neither is Governor Jan Brewer (California) or Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Massachusetts). John Huppenthal is from Indiana and Tom Horne from Canada. While both men have lived in Arizona for a number of years, it is clear that neither of them has truly assimilated into the indigenous culture of Arizona. They do not, or do not want to, understand what it means to live on the border. La Frontera is not just a line separating two countries but a space where both cultures coexist. A space where Huppenthal and Horne are the ones actively “promoting resentment toward a race or class of people.”

In 2010 93.6% of students enrolled in the MAS program graduated from high school while a comparison group had only an 82.7% rate. This gap in graduation rates has been consistent since 2005, according to TUSD’s Department of Accountability and Research. Higher graduation rates among MAS students means higher graduation rates for Mexican-Americans, meaning more Mexican-American students will be eligible for and attend college. The success of the MAS program and the changing demographics of the state, of the entire Southwest, mean that soon our governments will reflect this new and better-educated majority. This change will not be the realization of Huppenthal and Horne’s deranged fantasy of government overthrow but instead a democratic choice made by voters who will insist representatives understand the wishes and desires of the people they serve. 

While I am waiting for my daughter to be born I am not waiting to make the schools she will attend better. Like the elder Marjorie I am shaking my pom-poms, working with groups like Save Ethnic Studies, UNIDOS, and the Librotraficantes to end the ban of the Mexican-American Studies program and bring the books by our historians, cultural critics, and literary greats back to our classrooms. When Marjorie Ann Mendez is born, I want her to live in an Arizona where she is not a second-class citizen. Where her culture will proudly be represented in schools like it will be in her home.  I want her to be free to learn about our heritage, our history and our stories just as freely as she will learn about her family, especially the grandmother for whom she was named.

Matt Mendez is a writer and aircraft mechanic. He lives in Tucson.       

Al Jazeera Features Tony Diaz of @librotraficante in Extended “Losing the Latino Vote” Segment

Tony Diaz, the leader of the Librotraficantes group, made an appearance this week on Al Jazeera in an extended segment called "Losing the Latino Vote." The segment tried to answer following: With each passing US election the Hispanic vote becomes more crucial to clinching the presidency. But does the Republican party risk alienating that constituency with its increasingly hostile rhetoric and policy?

"They've really got to reach out and I want to remind people that the Latinos will be a big swing vote… Offensive things like our ethnic studies being denied and banned in states like Arizona to us represent the Republican party. Right now Obama has got to capture our hearts and imagination with good old-fashioned American values that we children of the American dream believe in."

- Tony Diaz, novelist and leader of the activist group Librotraficantes

Our favorite Librotaricante held his own and got his point across, one that we tend to side on. The Republican Party missed a huge opportunity to capitalize on the dissatisfaction and disappointment many Latino voters had with President Obama. However, when their main candidates continue to harp on short-sighted immigration rhetoric (and this means you too, Speaker Gingrich), it is no surprise that right now, Obama 2012 is going to still take a large chunk of the US Latino vote. It is a long election cycle, but we don't see any indications that Mitt Romney will change his tune. He is still stuck on pushing a self-deportation policy that was actually a joke initiated in 1990s by an activist group in California.

Diaz was part of a panel that include Israel Ortega, the editor of, a conservative Spanish language website, and Brent Wilkes, the executive director of the League of United Latino American Citizens.