Why Teaching Latino Literature/History in U.S. Schools Matters

Though initially I wanted to follow the Tucson Unified School District's ban on Mexican studies classes and related books, as it unraveled, given the many conflicting versions and accounts of what was taking place, I gave up on covering it altogether.

That was until yesterday when I decided to attend a presentation by Librotraficante at John Jay College in Manhattan. Panelists Tony Diaz, Liana LopezSergio Troncoso, Rich Villar and guest speakers Pulitzer prize winner Oscar Hijuelos (The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love) and his wife Lori Carlson (Cool Salsa) lent their voices to object the banning of books as well as the ramifications that such motion can have on the Latino community as a whole. These experienced panelists, whose range in occupation go from radio host to writers, have one common passion; the love and preservation of Latino literature. While listening to them speak on the issue of TUSD banned books, which by the way have all been written by "minorities", I wonder what would happen if what had taken place in Tucson would spill over to the rest of the country. What would happen if, in the case of my blog Pa'lante Latino where we showcase Latino contributions to the U.S., were to be banned? Most importantly, what if the people I was trying to reach were prevented from reading their own history? Then it hit home. This is exactly what is happening in Tuscon, Arizona and it not only affects the students but the authors of the banned books as well. Their work, research and time has been undermined and discarded as irrelevant.

By attending the conference I have learned a new perspective on the TUSD Mexican Studies issue. At stake here is not just the blatant disregard for a writer's work and the banning of certain books that deal with Mexican studies, but also the lost opportunity for Latinos to learn about their culture and their history in the U.S. 

Edited by Victoria Cepeda


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!