The Fight over Mexican-American Books

Latino-rights activists are challenging Arizona’s ban on school books and courses that provide students with information about Mexican-American history and culture, as Dennis J Bernstein describes.

By Dennis J Bernstein

Arizona’s resistance to allowing school books and courses that teach Mexican-American history and culture has generated resistance, both in underground efforts to provide the books to students and to challenge the ban on courses in courts as discriminatory.

The Librotraficante Caravan, co-organized in Houston Texas by writer, teacher and activist, Tony Diaz, headed back to Arizona this month with a new shipment of banned books. According to Diaz, Houston activists made the 1,000-plus-mile ride once again to draw attention to Arizona’s decision to remove from classrooms books mostly dealing with Mexican-American culture.

The journey also included the restocking of the underground libraries they formed during their 2012 Caravan, and updates on the advancement of Ethnic Studies in each state they pass through. According to the group’s press release, “With their 2012 Caravan, the Librotraficantes joined a nationwide movement to defy Arizona’s ban and to keep it in check.”

A map of Arizona. (Image from nasa.gov)

There is also a federal court case, which commenced on June 26, contesting the book ban and the ban on ethnic studies in Arizona, that the caravan was organized to call attention to. According to Diaz, the court case will be reviewed again with new evidence consisting of studies proving that the outlawed Mexican American Studies courses in Tucson increased student success and learning power at many levels. The case had been reviewed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which sent the case back to the Arizona Supreme Court to be considered with the additional evidence.

“We were in the courtroom when a Federal Judge told America that if you have proof that a course helps a particular group of students succeed, yet you outlaw the course, that looks like discrimination,” said Tony Diaz. “We hope that the upcoming Arizona Supreme Court ruling will drive a stake in the heart of this un-American law…

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