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Spaces of cultural resistance : underground libraries in the U.S.Southwest Izquierdo Mejia, Esteban 2015

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SPACES OF CULTURAL RESISTANCE:  UNDERGROUND LIBRARIES IN THE U.S. SOUTHWEST by  ESTEBAN IZQUIERDO MEJIA  B.A., The University of British Columbia, 2013  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF  MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE AND POSTDOCTORAL STUDIES (Geography)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)   October 2015  © Esteban Izquierdo Mejia, 2015 ii  Abstract           In 2012, Arizona state government dismantled the Mexican-American Studies (MAS)  program in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) after a long political fight against the   local community. In the process, the books used by the program were boxed, and removed from   Tucson classrooms. In the aftermath of the ban, a group of ‘Underground Libraries’ emerged   with the intention to house the banned literature and assure it remained available to the affected   community. Starting with the premise that education itself is a site of creation, dissemination and   contestation of identity and belonging, my research looks at the role of the Underground   Libraries as spaces of cultural resistance in the face of oppressive legislation. In particular,   attention is given to the way in which spaces of resistance originate, multiply, and connect in   order to create imagined geographies of belonging that can challenge the effects of cultural   oppression at a local and regional level.             iii  Preface           This thesis, including the design, analysis, and presentation of research materials, is the original work of the author. It was approved by the University of British Columbia’s Behavioural Research Ethics Board, certificate number H14-0280. iv  Table of Contents Abstract .......................................................................................................................................... ii Preface ........................................................................................................................................... iii Table of Contents ........................................................................................................................ iiv List of Abbreviations .................................................................................................................. vii Acknowledgements .................................................................................................................... viii Dedication ..................................................................................................................................... ix Chapter 1:  Introduction ...............................................................................................................1 1.1 Why Underground Libraries? ......................................................................................... 2 1.2 Terms and Issues ............................................................................................................. 6 1.3 Context: A 'Toxic' Political Climate Boils Over in Arizona ........................................... 9 1.4 Positionality and Methods............................................................................................. 13 1.5 Structure of the Study ................................................................................................... 18 Chapter 2: A Long Fight: Historicizing Arizona’s Assault on Mexican American  Studies ...........................................................................................................................................20 2.1 A History of Contests Before the Contesting of History .............................................. 21 2.2 Boiling Point: The 1968-70 Blow-outs ......................................................................... 31 2.3 Turn and Aftermath of a Tumultuous Decade: Plan de Aztlan, Plan de Santa              Barbara ......................................................................................................................... 32 2.4      Defending the Legacy and the Importance of Intergenerational Resistance: The       Fight Continues ............................................................................................................. 36 2.5 Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 47  v  Chapter 3:  Smuggling Books as Cultural Resistance: The Librotraficante Caravan and      Activism Across Chican@ Geographies ....................................................................................50 3.1 Librotraficante Origins: The Inspiration ...................................................................... 53 3.2 What’s in a Name? The Coining of ‘Librotraficante’ .................................................. 57 3.3 Infrastructures and Networks: Keys to the Librotraficante Caravan Success .............. 61 3.4 On the Road: Stops and Actions ................................................................................... 65 3.5 Navigating Resistance Across Chican@ Geographies ................................................. 72 3.6 Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 76 Chapter 4:  Underground Libraries and Other Spaces of Resistance, Pt. I: South Tucson .80 4.1 Spaces of Cultural Resistance and Cultural Spaces of Resistance ............................... 81 4.2 Case Studies: The Librotraficante Underground Libraries .......................................... 83 4.3 The John A. Valenzuela Youth Center and Underground Library: South Tucson,              Arizona. ......................................................................................................................... 84 4.4 The City of South Tucson: A ‘Banned Community’ With a Culture of Resistance ..... 87 4.5 South Tucson’s Reaction to the Attack on TUSD’s MAS Program ............................. 92 4.6 Librotraficantes and the Underground Library: Banned Books for a Banned              Community. .................................................................................................................. 96 4.7 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 102 Chapter 5:  Underground Libraries and Other Spaces of Resistance, Pt. II: Beyond   Tucson .........................................................................................................................................108 5.1 MECA and Houston’s Sixth Ward: Cultural Traditions and Demographic Changes 109 5.2 Cultural Pride, and the Chican@ Ark of the Covenant: MECA’s              Underground Library .................................................................................................. 118 vi  Chapter 6:  Conclusion: Spaces of Cultural Resistance and Geographies of Chican@ Belonging ....................................................................................................................................125 6.1 Multiplication of Spaces ............................................................................................. 127 6.2 Beyond Networks: Imagined Geographies of Chican@ Belonging ........................... 129 6.3 The Underground Libraries as Symbols ..................................................................... 135 Bibliography ...............................................................................................................................137                vii  List of Abbreviations John A. Valenzuela Youth Center: JVYC Mexican American Studies: MAS Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan: MEChA Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts: MECA Tucson Unified School District: TUSD   viii  Acknowledgements           I would like to first acknowledge that the bulk of this thesis was written from unceded Musqueam Territory.            This could not have been accomplished without the love, strength, and regard for knowledge that my parents passed on to me. A heartfelt gracias to the communities of South Tucson, Tucson, and Houston that opened the doors to their houses, communal spaces, memories, and opinions to me. In particular to MECA’s Sra. Salinas, JVYC’s Gloria Hamelitz, and the Bryan, Liana and Tony. I hope I did you all justice with this work.            To the staff, faculty and friends in the Geography Department, thank you for your support. In particular, my supervisor Juanita Sundberg for the countless hours of help, encouragement, for being an inspiration in academia and beyond, and for her amazing job as an editor. Gerry Pratt, my second reader, for being always available at the right time, and for her time and commitment to this project. I called on too many colleagues to mention for help, but you know who you are, and I am grateful, and inspired by all of you.            To my friends and family around the world, thank you for putting up with me (or my absence) while I was engulfed in this project. I love you all. Special thanks to my cousin Patricia Segura for the place to stay in Houston, and to my brother Bryan Santamaria and cousin Johanna Reyes for the help and company during my L.A. detour. I love you all.            Finally, to my wife Tara, this would not exist without you. Thank you for being a confidant, a rock of emotional support, and for being so understanding of me during this crazy process. You always knew what to say and what to do. I love you. To my son Isaias, you are the greatest. Soar high in life and always fight the good fight. I love you. ix  Dedication           This work is dedicated to the lives and legacies of Beatriz Del Pilar Mejia, and Ricardo Izquierdo, the greatest friends and parents a person could ask for. It is also dedicated to the communities of South Tucson, Tucson, and Houston, and to all youth in resistance against oppression across the world. Finally, it is dedicated to my beautiful wife Tara and my amazing  Son Isaias.  1  Chapter 1 Introduction   It is the afternoon of March 16, 2012. A caravan makes its way up South Tucson’s 6th   Avenue, the barrio’s main artery that carves the community right down the middle from north to south. The street is flanked by liquor stores and mechanic shops. The Arizona sun is beating on the convoy of vehicles bringing cargo collected throughout the Southwest. Over a dozen traficantes [traffickers] are on board and they have already hit five cities in the past two days. From Houston to San Antonio, El Paso, Mesilla, and Albuquerque. At each stop, crowds of suppliers and supporters gathered around the controversial contraband. The cargo has grown at each stop. As the caravan pulls into the heart of South Tucson, another crowd is waiting for the traficantes. The convoy pulls into the local youth center’s parking lot. South Tucson police has been tipped off ahead of time and are waiting for the caravan. This is the end of the line for the traficantes and their cargo. The crowd cheers.   The delivery is a success and the smugglers are welcomed by the community. The   Community, from the youth to the elders, had fought hard for and lost access to the cargo   from Texas. Despite threats of interruptions and protests coming from as far as Phoenix, the   police escort makes sure that the boxes with the precious cargo make it into the John A.   Valenzuela Youth Center (JVYC), South Tucson’s community hub and home to a free after-  school care program. The cargo consists of over a thousand books, a veritable canon of literary   production by Chican@s, the self-identified imagined community of Americans of Mexican   descent. The majority of these titles come straight out of the curricula for the Tucson Unified   School District (TUSD)’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program, which was dismantled in   2012. The books had been boxed and removed from Tucson classrooms by school board officials   2  in the shocked presence of students. Now, the Librotraficantes (book traffickers) have brought   them to the JVYC where they will be made  available to the youth through a free, safe, and   community-oriented Underground Library.   1.1  Why Underground Libraries?      This thesis examines the Underground Libraries that sprung up throughout the U.S.   Southwest (and further beyond since) in the aftermath of TUSD’s dismantling of the MAS   program. The libraries aimed to re-establish safe and free access for Tucson’s youth to all of the   books used by the program’s many popular classes. In an urban area suffering from underfunded   libraries, in which many of the students cannot afford their own copies of the literature removed   from their spaces of education, the Underground Libraries were wanted and needed spaces.    In the following chapters I use the Underground Libraries as entries into an exploration of   spaces of cultural resistance. The research presented here connects the struggle against   dismantling  the MAS program in Southern Arizona to the cross-regional activism that   led to the establishment of the Underground Libraries to a long-standing, deeply rooted tradition   of educational resistance by Chican@s against national, regional and local climates of cultural   oppression.    This research contributes to broader conversations about national belonging and identity by framing education as a crucial site of resistance where struggles over these ideas play out. Resistance is always spatialized. In the seminal book, Geographies of Resistance, Steve Pile emphasizes, “acts of resistance take place through specific geographies” (1997, 3). Pile argues that although much work on resistance frames it as an inevitable outcome of the exercise of power (Ibid); in line with Foucault’s critique of power, there can be no one site of power and 3  therefore no one site of resistance. In other words, people are located in unevenly distributed relations of power and “more and less powerful people are active in the constitution of unfolding relationships of authority, meaning and identity” (Pile 1997, 3). Consequently, he suggests, “resistance seeks to occupy, deploy and create alternative spatialities from those defined through oppression and exploitation” (Ibid).  This suggests that resistance is not determined by systems of oppression.  Pile  uncouples resistance and oppression through a geographic analysis of the concept. In his words, that “resistance might happen under authority's nose or outside tightly controlled places implies that resistance might have its own distinct spatialities [emphasis mine]” (Ibid). Certain forms of resistance then can be uncoupled from oppressive power by virtue of their ‘distinct spatialities’ that provide what I call a crack in the matrixes of oppression from which resistance may be nurtured and developed. In relation to the understanding that emerges out of Pile’s formulation of oppression as never totalizing and all encompassing, my work highlights ways in which people create spaces in and through oppressive relations wherein they may pursue cultural practices of relevance to them.  This framing has significant implications; namely as Pile notes, resistance cannot be assumed to arise “from innate political subjectivities which are opposed to, or marginalized by, oppressive practices.” Relation to power does not determine the resistant political subjectivity. These also are constituted “through experiences which are not so quickly labeled ‘power,’ such as desire and anger, capacity and ability, happiness and fear, dreaming and forgetting.” (Pile 1997, 3). In Geographies of Resistance Pile pays attention to everyday struggles in relation to their spatial formations. Throughout this thesis, I attend to the everyday practices of people who work together to support their community, to follow their dreams of creating an imagined 4  Chican@ geography of belonging, to write beautiful stories, and to develop artistic and cultural capacities. The focus on such forms of resistance, however, shouldn’t discount engagement in “formal” acts of resistance (as conventionally represented) such as going out in the streets and protesting, writing letters, among other acts that are also evidenced in this work.   To analyze the Underground Libraries and other geographies involved in the activist initiative that created them, I build from two questions Pile identifies as arising from a geographical analysis of resistance, namely “the ways in which geography makes possible or impossible certain forms of resistance” and “the way in which resistance makes other spaces other geographies- possible or impossible” (Ibid). Taking these queries into account, I elaborate my own regarding the spaces of cultural resistance involved in the events covered by this study. Through this thesis, I analyze how the Underground Libraries and the other spaces of resistance allowed Tucson’s Chican@ community to formulate novel forms of cultural resistance in the face of exclusion and erasure. I also outline how the creation of the Underground Libraries was aided by a large network of previously-existing spaces of resistance and geographies of Chican@ activism. These other spaces and organizations were not explicitly connected until contacted by the Librotraficantes. I found that the creation of the Underground Libraries brought this network into being in ways that created an imaginary Chican@ community across the Southwest.  In the US southwest, where the Underground Libraries emerged, particular patterns of  oppression and resistance were set in motion with the creation of the Mexico-U.S. boundary and   the spatial incorporation of Mexico into the U.S. (Acuña 2000, 41). The establishment of the   boundary produced a new category of people, Mexican Americans, who were marginalized   through various legal and illegal mechanisms; denied full citizenship until Civil Rights era   legislation. To this day, Southwest Americans of Mexican descent are excluded from narratives  5  of national belonging. For instance, former Harvard Center for International Affairs Samuel   Huntington explicitly defines “America's traditional identity” as deriving from the   religious, social, and ideological values of 17th-century and 18th-century white, British, and   Protestant settlers, along with the Germans, Irish, and Scandinavians included in the 19th century   (2004). Moreover, he positions ‘Hispanics’ as a problematic challenge to this national identity,   giving credence to the discourse Leo Chavez identifies as the ‘Latino Threat Narrative.’ One that   holds Mexican immigrants and U.S.-born citizens of Mexican descent as its “core foci” (2013,   25). Such narratives perform an erasure through a definition of U.S. culture that completely   excludes the facts that Mexicans lived in the Southwest before Anglo-Americans, and that   multiple languages and cultures have always  been present in the United States.    As a consequence of their position in the nation, Southwest Americans of Mexican decent   have faced various forms of cultural oppression including  “segregation, inferior schools and   education, the discrimination of IQ exams, poor teaching, a lack of Mexican [origin] teachers   and a socialization process that condemned them to failure and conditioned them to accept   it” (Acuña 2000, 171).  I emphasize the notion of ‘cultural oppression’ to indicate the   consequences of historical erasure and exclusion from the national imaginary as imparted   through the school system. Exclusion from national imaginaries and therefore curricula is a   particular strain of cultural oppression, which the Southwest’s Mexican-American population has   fought against since 1900; next to labor it became “their most intense battleground” (Acuña   2000, 171). In the context of the events in Arizona that I will detail below, I analyze a form of   oppression emanating from the political machinery of the state of Arizona, enacted through the   Tucson Unified School District School Board. It is classified as cultural oppression given that it   involves cultural erasure.  6   This chapter will now introduce the main terms, actors and issues involved in the   research, provide a contextualization to the immediate sociopolitical milieu or Arizona during   the time of the battle over MAS and its literature, and discuss my positionality and background   as a researcher. It  concludes with a short roadmap for the structure of the rest of the thesis.    1.2  Terms and Issues    The particular oppression at the center of this study consists of the dismantling of   TUSD’s MAS program, and the political maneuvering that was required in order to do away with   what was a successful program by completion and college advancement standards, and beloved   by its community. “At one point we had 3000 students,” remembers Mr. Acosta. “It became so   popular that students petitioned and we had to extend it to a senior program, the kids didn’t want   to go back [to the regular program].” The principal form of resistance explored in this study was   aimed against a particular effect of the attack on said program: for a significant number of former   and would-have-been MAS students and their families, access to books is a luxury beyond their   means. As Gloria Hamelitz of South Tucson’s JVYC “We don’t have money for books. We   barely have money to put food on the table, so that’s a great luxury for our families.” When the   books were boxed in front of young students by TUSD staff, an episode narrated to me by both   teachers, students and activists with a sense of trauma, they were also removed from the district’s   approved reading lists. This effectively cut off access to a Chican@ literary canon that, as was   repeatedly expressed to me as well, had a transformative power that should not be denied to the   area’s youth.    Principal among key terms used in this study that might require clarification is the  identifier ‘Chican@’. In Viva la Raza: A History of Chicano Identity and Resistance, civil rights  7  activist and author Yolanda Alaniz writes along with Megan Cornish: “Like every oppressed   group, Chicanas and Chicanos have demanded descriptions of their own choosing. They seek   definitions that are sociologically precise and reflect pride in their origins” (2008, 27). Out of   these demands emerged the self-designation for Mexican-origin, U.S.-born peoples. Alaniz   speaks of the importance of the term: “Chicanas and Chicanos have a unique history as a people   who resided in the region known as the U.S. Southwest since before U.S. conquest of the   territory” (Ibid). To use the popular Chicano take on Malcolm X’s “Plymouth rock landed on   us” quote (X and Haley 1992, 205), they are the people who didn’t cross the border, but were   rather crossed by it. The U.S. acquired the city of Tucson through the Gadsden purchase after the   U.S. war with Mexico and has a significant, historic, and proud Chican@ population.   I have chosen to use the @ symbol in an effort to address the gender-binary nature of the   Spanish language and the sociological and cultural repercussions, a common practice among   Latin@ communities within and outside of Latin America. The @ symbol aesthetically signals   both the ‘a’ and ‘o’ endings that gender a word such as Chicana and Chicano as female and male   respectively. Particular attention is given to this due to the historical role of gender divisions and   tension from within the Chican@ movement that are still felt today, as  expressed to me by   young activists and adult supporters in Tucson. “That was part of our [activist] community being   divided,” levels a MAS graduate active during the 2012 struggle; in her eyes a lot of women had   their credit taken away by men, sowing separation.  I do acknowledge that the very use of the @   still conforms to a gender binary that can perform an erasure over the range of genders that make   up the community in question, something I hope to minimize through my acknowledgement of   such linguistic politics.   The instances of gendered forms of the word are present to reflect the words of the people  8  I talked to, or the proper names of organizations and other similar examples of self-identification.   By the same token, the terms ‘Mexican-American,’ ‘Brown,’ ‘Mexican’ and ‘Raza’ might all   appear in the text analogous to the term Chican@. Again, my choice aims to reflect personal   understandings of self and cultural identity expressed by the interviewees. This also applies to   what is officially called Mexican American Studies in Tucson, but is also known in different   localities and by different students and teachers as Raza Studies or Chican@ Studies.    Throughout the text, Mexican American Studies will usually refer to Tucson’s particular  program, and I will use Chican@ Studies to refer to the wider discipline. In Chapter 2, which   delves into the historical roots of current Chican@ educational resistance, I use the term   Mexican-American when addressing issues, events and actors preceding the coining and wide-  spread adoption of the term Chican@ for historical accuracy.    Another term I use in conjunction with, although it is not interchangeable with Chican@   or any of its related terms, is Latin@. I am deploying Latin@ within the context of the United   States to mean immigrants or the descendants of immigrants from all American countries south   of Mexico. Alaniz and Cornish note how the term “is increasingly used as self-identification by   Chicanas/os and others to express a solidarity of interests that crosses lines of national origin”   (2008, 27). This was evident in the field mostly through the literature of some the organizations   involved in the Librotraficante initiative. On an individual level however, the majority of the   people I spoke to identified as Chican@s. There is an importance to this, as they pinpoint: “The   Latina/o experience in many ways parallels that of Chicanas/os and mutual support is a   necessity. However, Chicanas/os have a unique history as a people who resided in the region   known as the U.S. Southwest since before U.S. conquest of the territory” (Ibid). Based on my   experience in the field, the term ‘Brown’ seems to bridge the Latin@ and Chican@ communities  9  in a more inclusive manner than using the former to subsume the later, or referring to them   separately.     Finally, I use the term ‘ban’ to describe the fate of the fifty-plus books. As Mr. Acosta,   one of the architects of TUSD’s MAS program and Tucson High’s English Literature teacher   (through the program) put it, the word ‘ban’ was heavily political in that it signaled “which side   you were on.” The books were removed from the classroom, boxed and stored. The titles were   also removed from the approved reading list for TUSD courses, and the teachers who kept their   job after the program was shut down could no longer use them. Yet, the official TUSD discourse   was that a ban never occurred in Tucson (Geresma 2012). Throughout this study, I will refer to   the MAS books as banned.    1.3  Context: A ‘Toxic’ Political Climate Boils Over in Arizona    To examine the larger historical significance of the fight for Mexican American Studies   in Tucson and the spaces of resistance that emerged during and after said struggle, I will now   provide an outline of the sociopolitical climate in AZ, where this battle took place. In order to   properly explore the nature of the Underground Libraries, it is necessary to understand why   there was a need for them in the first place.    The book ban originates in a lengthy political battle brewing between Tucson’s MAS   program, its teachers and students, and the state of Arizona as represented by then   Superintendent of Education Tom Horne. While the dynamics of this Tucson-Phoenix tussle   manifested themselves in a localized fashion in the southern Arizona town,  much of the   Chican@, Mexican and Latin American populations of the state were facing another legal   affront, creating a volatile and culturally divisive climate Arizona-wide. 10    In late April of 2010, then-governor Jan Brewer (R) signed Senate Bill 1070 into law   (State of Arizona Senate 2010)  SB1070 is widely considered the strictest piece of so called   ‘anti-immigrant’ legislation in the U.S. It is colloquially known as the ‘show-me-your-papers’   bill due to its focus on local enforcement of the federal requirement of all so-called ‘aliens‘ to  have proper documentation proving their lawful presence in the U.S. at all times (Ibid).   Arizona’s Chican@ population frames SB1070 as an oppressive legal apparatus. It is considered   discriminatory because enforcing it relies on racial profiling, excused by ‘reasonable suspicion’   clauses. The law’s passage points to the levels of xenophobia and panic politics plaguing   Phoenix and the state of Arizona.    Under now-nationally infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arapaio, enforcement   of SB1070 has led to practices such as ‘tent city’ prisons, which  inmates described as   “concentration camps” where they are exposed to the desert heat, are forced to wear pink   clothing items, and are fed only twice a day (Davidson 2013). Thousands of these inmates are   undocumented migrants awaiting  deportation. While in Tucson, I visited the weekly court   session for Operation Streamline, a Fordist judicial process through which 70 people are   sentenced to deportation (DeConcini et al 2014) in under two hours; eight or nine are paraded in   front of the judge at time, their wrists and ankles shackled. According to my calculations, the   average jail sentence was 60 days, but they ranged from immediate deportation to 120-day   sentences. This abominable practice feeds Arapaio’s Amnesty International-condemned camps   (Amnesty International 1997). These geographies of oppression constitute horrific symbols of   the legally mandated mistreatment of people of color in the state of Arizona and have been called   by the Southern Poverty Law Center a “massive show of force...blatant and dehumanizing.”   (Sanchez 2009).  11   On May 11, 2010, less than a month after SB1070 was passed, Governor Brewer signed   Arizona State House Bill 2281 into law (State of Arizona House of Representatives 2010).   HB2281 was directly targeted at state school curricula, and it prohibited all state and charter   schools in Arizona from teaching any courses which could be interpreted as: “promoting the   overthrow of the US government” (Ibid), promoting “resentment towards a race or class of   people” (Ibid), having been designed “primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” (Ibid), or   courses which may be seen as encouraging “ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as   individuals” (Ibid).   HB2281 is a state-level piece of legislation, and in trying to understand how the law was   used to target a particular MAS program in Tucson, all roads lead to Tom Horne,  a Canadian-  born lawyer and  career politician in the state of Arizona. After a stint in the Arizona House of   Representatives, Horne was elected as the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Arizona   Department of Education in 2003 (Arizona Attorney General 2015). It was from this post that in   2007 he issued an open letter to the citizens of Tucson calling for the end of TUSD’s MAS   program (Horne 2007).   Horne’s letter was inspired after an incident in which Dolores Huerta, founding member   of the United Farm Workers, gave a speech at Tucson high school in which she denounced   Republican treatment of Chican@s in Arizona (Herreras 2013). In response, Horne sent his   deputy-superintendent Margaret Garcia to talk to the students about being a Republican Latina.   The students staged a walk-out and Horne dropped his gloves. By late 2010, HB2281, which the   Canadian had had a hand in crafting, was in the books. By early January of 2011, Horne declared   Tucson’s MAS program, established in 1998 and successful ever since,  as being out of    compliance with the new law.  12   I was told the program had been under attack for years. Curtis Acosta, a Tucson High MAS   English Literature teacher takes pride in the fact that the program graduated six generations of   students while being targeted by the state and the school board. “A six-years struggle. It’s really   a beautiful story in a lot of ways. When people say ‘there’s nothing I can do’, we can say ‘that’s   funny’ because we got through six cohorts of students under that duress.” By the time the new   law was thrown at TUSD’s program, however, the ethnic tension in AZ continued to increase.   Two other events in January 2011 give  insight into the sociopolitical context of the time.   First, Tom Horne became Attorney General for the state of Arizona, a victory many in Tucson   interpreted as spurred by his attack on MAS. In a twist that exemplifies the compound legal   attacks against Arizona’s Brown population at the time, Horne began his Attorney General   tenure by defending HB1070 in a counter-suit against the federal government (Horne 2012).   Not a week later, Democratic House Representative Gabby Giffords was shot outside a   Tucson Safeway in a failed assassination attempt that left six others dead (Grady and Medina   2011). At this point, even dedicated activists were feeling pressures never before felt. A now-  University of Arizona MEChA [Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, Aztlan Chicano   Student Movement (for more on this organization see Chapter 2.] leader said, “When Gabby   Giffords was shot point-blank in the head...my parents freaked out.” At the time, her family   begged her to take a back-seat in her activism due to fears for her life. Sheriff Dupnik of Pima   County (which includes the city of Tucson) blamed the shooting on “the toxic political   environment in Arizona” (Sutter 2011). It is worth noting that during these months large-scale,   grass-roots organizing was widespread, spearheaded by current and former MAS students. While   several people described the events of January 2011 as traumatic, Chican@ resistance continued   strong in the face of unmasked hatred and danger. 13   As Horne made his way up the Arizona political ladder, he was succeeded as   Superintendent by John Huppenthal, who ran on a campaign that included radio ads claiming “he   would ‘stop La Raza’” (Biggers 2011). To back up these inflammatory campaign promises, the   Department of Education ordered an audit of the MAS program at TUSD, which cost over a   hundred thousand tax-payer dollars. This audit by the Cambium Learning Group reported that   “during the curriculum audit period, no observable evidence was present to suggest that any   classroom within the [TUSD] is in direct violation of [SB2281]” (Geresma 2011). Huppenthal   ignored the audit and resorted to threatening cuts worth millions of dollars to the TUSD budget   (a 10% reduction) (Ibid). Under this monetary threat, the TUSD board voted to cut the MAS   program in January of 2012, during the middle of the school year. Classes were disrupted and   school district officials the books were pulled from the shelves and boxed in dramatic fashion in   front of the students.   1.4  Positionality and Methods    I was finishing my bachelor’s degree at the University of British Columbia in 2012,   and through my undergraduate research into artistic forms of resistance and immigration reform   activism in the U.S., I came across what was happening in Tucson. I found out about SB2281   while working on the dystopian HB1070.  At that point, SB2281 had not only been passed, but   the program had been officially dismantled by the TUSD School Board. Initially I was shocked   by reports (if scarce) of the book ‘ban’, by the idea of such a large number of books being   taken out of schools. I started trying to understand what was happening.   The more I learned, the more I came to realize that my interest in the subject was tied to    my personal experience of the positive and transformative effects of culturally-relevant  14  education for members of minorities groups, who, as youths, cannot identify with the subjects of   North American state-mandated education. I had emigrated with my father to the U.S. state of   Florida as a teenager at the turn of the 21st century, driven out of Colombia by the politically and   economically volatile and violent environment at the time. I dropped out of high school, where I   didn’t feel engaged educationally, despite my moderate grasp of the language. I’ve since learned   that it was a pattern not uncommon for young male Latino immigrants, a pattern of dropping out   more than double that of U.S.-born Latinos at the time of my immigration (National Center for   Education Statistics 1999).   To me, Fort Lauderdale High in South Florida resembled a hybrid of factory and prison. I   quickly became disillusioned because, in many ways, it was also run as a hybrid. In a low-  income catchment zone, the majority of the students were recently-arrived Haitian immigrants,   children of long-established African American families from the neighborhood surrounding the   school, and a visible minority of Latin@ students from the Caribbean and the Southern   Cone. Police patrolled the hallways and closed the school with lock and chain from start-of-class   time until the last bell rang. As soon as I turned sixteen and my father could no longer be held   legally responsible for my absence, I stopped going to school.   Too young to understand the consequences, I nonetheless took the opportunity I had for  legal entry into Canada through my mother, who had since met and married a Canadian man in   British Columbia. I migrated yet again and was urged to give school another chance. Through   placement tests, I was able to make up for my lost time in Florida and join my age group. School  on the outskirts of Greater Vancouver was a welcomed respite in that I was no longer being   locked down and policed, but it was still mostly uninspiring. I had not been in the country long   enough to find any meaning in the events mentioned in  history classes or the issues in our  15  English courses. I graduated with the bare minimum requirements and eventually joined the   labour force working a variety of blue-collar jobs.   Through the years, my mother continued to press me to continue my education in some   form. In her family, her siblings and herself had been the first generation to go to university. My   grandparents, neither of them with much education to their names, were able to get nine children   through university. I gathered  it was significant to her that I not be the first of the next   generation to break this positive cycle. I made her a promise, and through the Mature Student   track into the University of British Columbia, one based on life experience rather than the   academic requirements, I found myself in a classroom once again in my mid-twenties.   I remember coming with tepid hopes into the classroom for the first time, not knowing at   all what to expect. My first class was Latin American Studies 101. That day changed my life, and   I knew it right then. By the end of the first class, all of my personal discontents with pedagogy   and educational practices in North America and the apathy towards the process of learning and   teaching through the classroom, had become meaningless. When I was able to glimpse my   culture and my history being validated, I realized that not only could I do education, but I was   charged with a passion for the process and the politics of it.   It was a feeling described to me years later as I embarked on this research project: Former   MAS students present during the struggle for their program, community organizers who were   able to help the youth through positions they secured for their communities inspired by their own   experiences of culturally-centered education, and elders that were around before such programs   had even been conceptualized. When education grants an avenue through which to come to a   greater understanding of self, particularly in environments that have consistently denied   identities outside of the dominant national narratives, it becomes a source of power for those  16  oppressed and erased by such narratives. To get a glimpse of the impact of events in Tucson, all I   had to do is wonder what if someone dismantled the humble Latin American Studies program at   my university before I had that experience?     As I made my way through what information I could ascertain from the Canadian   Pacific Northwest about what was happening in Arizona, I came across an initiative that caught  my eye.  It was called the Librotraficante book caravan, Librotraficante translating to book   trafficker or smuggler. The caravan was organized by three seasoned Chican@ activists out of   Houston, and the idea was to collect as many of the banned books as possible, while raising   awareness among the Chican@, and Latin@ communities of the Southwest about what was   happening in Tucson. This thesis frames the Underground Libraries that were the end result of   the caravan and its successful collection of thousands of books as spaces of cultural resistance,   The first stage of research for this thesis consisted of archival and historical research   aimed at understanding how and why the ban was achieved, uncovering the steps and players   involved. It became clear to me that the events in Arizona had to be analyzed within a larger   context, in particular the resistance against the cultural oppression being applied by the state   against a community eager for a relevant and truthful education,. I continued researching further   back in time, following the intertwined histories of cultural and civil rights struggles by   Mexican-Americans in the U.S. even prior to the conceptualization of a Chican@ identity.   The following stage of my research involved fieldwork. I spent the last two weeks of   October 2014 in Houston, tracking down Tony Diaz, Liana Lopez and Bryan Parras, also known   as  the Librotraficantes. I did multiple unstructured interviews with them, and spent the rest of   my time in Houston doing semi-structured interviews and participant observation while   volunteering at MECA, which stands for Multicultural Education and Counseling through the  17  Arts. MECA teaches Mexican Folkloric Dance, guitar, choral music, visual arts, and provides   educational tutoring to low-income, mostly Chican@ youth in the city’s Old Sixth Ward. It is the   host organization of the Houston Underground Library.   I headed to Tucson afterwards and spent 5 weeks there, where I was able to conduct a   series of long, semi-structured interviews with youth who were TUSD MAS students and   activists before and during the ban, with former MAS teachers, banned authors, community   elders, and with the director and coordinator at the John A Valenzuela Youth Center which hosts   the Underground Library in South Tucson. The JVYC was also a central organizing place for the   student activists, providing not only a safe place for their meetings once their school   environments became hostile to their cause, but also the postboard, markers, glue and many other  protest resources. I was also allowed to hang around the library a couple of times, and to attend  an after-school program that was borne originally out of the youth center and which was   attempting at the time to continue teaching some form of the dismantled MAS curriculum.   Most of the interviews were conducted in Spanglish with bilingual English/Spanish   speakers. Lengthy quotations in Spanish have been translated by the author for the sake of clarity   of prose. However I have striven to maintain as much as possible the occurrences of code-  switching or single non-English words. Certain Spanish and indigenous-language words were not   only used to convey concepts lost in the literary translation of the signifier, but have also been   retained because it often seemed to me as an interviewer that certain words in other languages   during articulations in English were often used as forms of inflection. Lastly, I interpreted the   subject’s choice of language use as a cultural aspect of Chican@ culture and linguistic resistance   to Anglo-domination and the attempts to erase other languages oppression of languages outside   of the dominant English in the U.S. Thus, I tried to stay as faithful to the original forms of  18  expression to represent the words of interviewees as accurately as possible, but also to   acknowledge people’s  linguistic choices  as lived culture and lived resistance.   1.5  Structure of the Study    This thesis is organized into 6 chapters. The following chapter, titled “A Long Fight:   Historicizing  Arizona’s Assault on Mexican American Studies” reflects the historical and   archival research detailed previously. The chapter traces the different forms of student and   community resistance that took place in Arizona before, during and after the 2012 dismantling of   MAS, and connects them to a tradition of resistance, along with its own autochthonous forms of   organization, over a hundred years back into U.S. history. Furthermore, it connects Chican@   labor, cultural, and civil rights resistance as far back as U.S. expansion into the region now called   the Southwest. After this chapter, the notion of what happened in Tucson as an anachronism or a   political glitch gives way to an understanding of the struggle as part of an extended fight..   Chapter three is titled “Smuggling Books as Cultural Resistance: The Librotraficante  Caravan and Activism Across Chican@ Geographies.” This chapter traces the origins of the   Activist’s initiative that culminated in the opening of several Underground Libraries across the   U.S. The chapter outlines how a group of three adults in Houston wound up crisscrossing the   Southwest on behalf of Tucson’s youth, and how along the way thousands of Chican@s felt   compelled to participate and support the caravan despite the localized expression of oppression   being rallied against. This chapter presents the first incursion into the concept of spaces of   cultural resistance through the caravan’s roadmap, and sets the stage for the following two   chapters which delve into the Underground Libraries themselves and the idea of these spaces as   being both product and producers of an imagined Chican@ community across space. 19   The fourth chapter of this thesis is titled “Underground Libraries and other Spaces of   Resistance, Part I: South Tucson.” This piece tackles how the Underground Library in Arizona   was conceptualized, brought into being and how it functions to this day. In the process, the   locality of South Tucson is explored as what locals called “a banned community,” looking at the   city’s separation from the larger Tucson, and the effects of this local geopolitical dynamic. Along   with the Underground Library, I examine the organization which hosts it, the John A. Valenzuela   Youth Center as a case study of a community-created space of cultural resistance against   manifold forces of oppression.   The fifth chapter titled “Underground Libraries and other Spaces of Resistance, Part II:   Beyond Tucson” opens with an exploration of Houston’s Underground Library and the   organization that hosts it. In my concluding chapter, I connect the spaces of resistance involved   with the Librotraficante initiative across the southwest, in a process of producing Aztlan as an   imagined territory that is continuously brought into being in and through grassroots organizations   that both reflect and produce identifications with Chicanismo and belongings as Chicanos. This   is done in order to conclude with what I learned with respect to the function, creation, and   multiplication of Chican@ spaces of cultural resistance, their ability to be deployed as   geographic networks, and their connection threaded between them by the communal experience   of the long fight for educational and cultural justice.           20  Chapter 2 A Long Fight: Historicizing Arizona’s Assault on Chican@ Studies    Looking at the past is crucial in order to begin to understand the present situation in    Tucson. Without proper historical contextualization, the ban brought about by HB2281 may be   seen as an anomaly in this day and age. Dismissed as an anachronism, or maybe glossed over as   a political glitch even in a historically ‘conservative’ region. However, the attack perpetrated on   the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD)’s Mexican American Studies program (MAS) and   on the institution of Chican@ studies at large could more accurately be portrayed as another   round in a drawn-out fight over culture, history, identity, and belonging.    Those resisting HB2281 do not believe that piece of legislation to be the knock-out punch   for Chican@ Studies in Arizona (Serna 2013, 42). As I delved into archival and historical   research in order to contextualize the attack on the academic program in question and the   literature it taught,  I understood the root of this hopeful attitude in the face of a truly bleak   situation.    As this chapter will show, Chican@ Studies (also known as Mexican-American or Raza   studies) is a pedagogical program that emerges from and through a long history of Chican@   grassroots social activism. Chican@ Studies was borne out of a long fight for educational,   cultural and civil rights. In Tucson, the ban does not signal the end of this fight any more than    did the original success in establishing and institutionalizing the program  in the ‘70s.    HB2281 and the way it has been deployed in Tucson signals new attacks in an old   regional struggle over education. Chican@ resistance and mobilization around their own   education against Arizona’s bigoted political machinery can be traced back to a local, regional   and national history of successful grass-roots activism by Chican@s that spans over a century  21  (De Leon 1974, 125). I will now attempt to do justice to this rich history, and to connect it to the   present situation in Arizona by pulling out the threads of continuity that have developed through   this lengthy struggle.     2.1  A History of Contests Before the Contesting of History    If the present which I am trying to contextualize is rife with social tensions, with complex   power struggles along racialized lines, a look at Arizona’s history reveals that the past was no   different. The rugged terrain in question seems to derive its name from the O’odham indigenous   language, the original being ‘Alĭ ṣonak’ (Bright 2007, 47). O’odham continues to be spoken in   the land, and the indigenous presence in Arizona is significant. More than one-fourth of the state   is constituted by reservation land (The Arizona Republic) and is third after California and   Oklahoma in the number of U.S. Census-identified Native Americans1, with said population   estimated at 343,386 according to 2000 census numbers (United States Census Bureau 2012).    Identification of Chican@s as the indigenous population of the land was in fact a cornerstone of   the teachings of Tucson’s MAS.    For thousands of years the territory now known as Arizona has been home to a diverse   indigenous population representing nations such as the O’odham, Opata, Pima, and Yaqui   (Acuña 2000, 107) , among many others. The indigenous people remained a majority through   Spanish colonial rule and into the period of Mexican state rule over the region that became   known as Sonora. Despite demographic superiority, the indigenous peoples whose social systems                                                    1 I must acknowledge that census categories and state recognition of identities are complex subjects fraught with tension. Both are sites of political and cultural concern and contestation for all so-called minorities in the U.S., and as such the data should be read accordingly. 22  had been torn asunder by the rapacity of colonialism had by then been incorporated into an   imposed global imperial economic system. As is implied in the act of imposition, the original   inhabitants of the land came to occupy a “peripheral and subservient” role at the bottom of a   strict racialized hierarchy “controlled by a few hacendados [land-owning elites] and a small class   of rancheros [cattle farmers]” (Acuña 2000, 107).   The retreat of the Spanish crown (but not Spanish settlers) in 1821 didn’t signal a positive   change for the indigenous inhabitants of modern-day Arizona. Not two decades after the shift of   power, the thirst of U.S. settler society for gold led that expanding nation’s attention to Southern   Arizona’s Mesilla (Ibid), and both the peoples and the land found themselves in the cross-hairs   of capitalist interest. Hand in hand with the speculation over what lay under the region’s dry   earth, and intense interest in building a railroad above it (Kiser 2011, 90) also served as   motivation for the Gadsden Purchase, which was consummated in 1854, reestablishing the   political boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. As the steel rails and wooden beams scarred   the territory, the inherently racist ideology of Manifest Destiny made its way to Arizona   alongside the tracks, and the burgeoning northerly empire claimed ownership over the land.     While the details of the purchase and the larger context of the United States’ take-over   of Northern Mexico is beyond the scope of my thesis, it is crucial to take into consideration the   effects of the philosophical framework of Manifest Destiny under which annexation into the U.S.   took place. The already racialized communities of what became Arizona were annexed under a   mentality of white racial superiority. As Laura E. Gomez shows in Manifest Destinies, the   Making of the Mexican American Race, Washington’s main concern at the time was, in the   words of then-Secretary of State “how we should govern the mongrel race” inhabiting the   annexed territories (2007, 42). It was a mentality that saw Anglo-Americans as righteous  23   harbingers of civilization and the indigenous peoples of the land as uncivilized, and therefore   subhuman. A mentality that ultimately served to justify and “fuel American imperialism and...the   colonization of Mexico” (Gomez 2007, 42).   Incorporation into the union signaled a significant transformation of identity for   the residents of the area, a transformation crucial to current understandings and struggles over   the very power to craft one’s own identity. By ascription, the bulk of Arizona’s population   became U.S citizens over night, but it was not a citizenship without caveats. They became   Mexican-American, or Americans of Mexican descent. Incorporation and its consequences for   identity and belonging also seem to have worked towards an erasure, or at the least an obscuring   of the indigenous heterogeneity of the area. There is a disconnect in the literature, a crack in the   published histories through which the specificity with which the several distinct cultural groups   identified pre-annexation get lost and give way to a lumping of peoples into the category of   Mexican-American.    The erasure of diversity may be connected to the foundational practices of settler-  colonialism by which “white colonists attempted to extirpate the language[s] of native people   while promulgating an extensive campaign of land seizure and labor exploitation”  (Cammarota   2009, 120). The consequences of this erasure are still felt in the region, and were a topic of   importance in TUSD’s banned curriculum. However, it is important to bring attention to the fact   that the connections between the politics of representation and belonging are not only a historical   theme for Chican@s in the U.S., but that the actual (mis)representation of Chican@s in the   annals of U.S. history is itself one of the sites of social contest implied in the Tucson ban.    By 1870 another theme in this history of oppression and resistance emerges. The passing   24  of the Organic Bill may be one of the earliest pieces of legislation signaling the U.S.’   willingness to use its legal system as a tool/weapon with which to keep the racially-othered   Mexican-Americans ‘in place’. The bill cemented the processes of erasure and lumping that   began with annexation by effectively disenfranchising both people identified as indigenous or as   having Mexican descent through the denial of political representation for so-called “Mexican   areas in the state of Arizona  (Vargas 2011, 152). Of great interest here is the early designation of   geographies within the U.S. as ‘Mexican’, and the negative treatment and assessment of these.   The production of such spaces are necessary for racialized regimes to physically regulate the   ideology of hierarchy, as for the ‘Mexicans’ to ‘know their place’, they must first have a place.   Such legislative machinations expose the early roots of a racialized second-class citizenship   experience for Chican@s. ‘Mexican-American’ came to serve as a designation working to the   benefit of a Euro/Anglo-centric U.S. in several ways: It demarcated the dominant (‘American’),   separated the annexed ‘other’ (through the symbolic and linguistic power of the hyphen), erasing   the indigenous cultural diversity of the area, and finally, it provided a language through which to   enact a legal foundation for a settler-controlled system.     Along with the identity-based tension around the question of imposition or self-  representation, and the quickly-established historical practice of utilizing legislation to the   benefit of the white settler system and to the detriment of those brought under its yoke through   the process of the colonial takeover of North America, a third theme emerges out of this time   period: that of robust popular resistance to the establishment and growth of the unjust socio-legal   order taking hold in the region.    Mexican-American resistance to systemic racism enters the history books as early as   1906, when anarcho-syndicalists such as the Magon brothers responded to deplorable work  25  conditions and dual wage-scales in mines with swift and strong organization, leading to illegal   strikes that were eventually crushed violently by the Arizona Rangers and U.S. troops (Vargas   2011,154), setting a precedent for violent repression against Mexican-American social action.   The miner strikes were illegal not due to contract stipulations or labour laws, but due to the fact   that Mexican-Americans were not allowed into the white-only unions. This gives yet another   glimpse to how the cultural and racial hierarchy that was congealing at this point of U.S. history   worked.    Given these precedents, it comes as no surprise that neither Mexican-American   educational experiences nor the communities’ relations with educational authorities were   constructive. The historical record shows subpar treatment by educational institutions at all   levels. With compulsory laws enacted by Southwestern states as early as 1874 (Acuña 2011, 4),   Mexican-American children throughout the region where sent to substandard, underfunded and   segregated schools with dismal completion rates (Ibid). The historical record also documents a   tradition of organized resistance to such educational conditions. A tradition of activism and   resistance over a century old was included in the MAS curricula. As a MAS teacher would later   tell me about this dynamic between teaching/learning the struggle and living it: “when you start   learning your history, you start learning that...there is a collective struggle, and a history of   resistance for justicia.” This history emboldened the students in his eyes: “it doesn’t seem so   strange [to resist], it seems like what you do.”    As the first decade of the 20th century drew to a close, the educational concerns of   Mexican-American parents in San Angelo, Texas came to a boil. It was 1910 when the   community had enough and organized the first ‘blow-out’ to enter the historical record.   Protesting both the segregation of the school district and the appalling conditions of the schools   26  Mexican-Americans were forced to attend, this blow-out led to an impressive five-year boycott   of the school (De Leon 1974, 125). This lengthy action required a significant level of social   cohesion and commitment, suggesting that this mobilization responded to truly inadequate and   appalling schooling conditions.    No direct gains were obtained from this particular effort, which in turn gives a glimpse to   the educational system’s indifference to providing a standard service to Chicana@s in San   Angelo. Despite the lack of gains stemming from this historic action, the stage was largely set for   what was to come. The blow-out practice (now more popularly known as a walkout) would   prove a crucial tactic in the struggle for educational justice for Chican@s across the U.S. In   Tucson it has been a weapon of protest and civil disobedience in response to the ban, and beyond   Tucson it has been used as a show of support for the affected students and teachers. Incidentally,   a walkout was also at the heart of the events that have been portrayed as catalysts to   the state of Arizona’s public declaration of political war on TUSD’s MAS (see Introduction).    Another early example of organization and resistance against the educational system was   sparked by an issue that to this day continues to cause controversy: the language of instruction.   During World War I, a push for stricter enforcement of English-only policies in U.S. public   schools intensified the negative effects of academic segregation. While segregation had set the   conditions for substandard education for hyphenated-Americans in the first place, it also   inadvertently opened up spaces for addressing the needs of Spanish-speaking students in the  neglected ‘Mexican’ schools, as teachers were able to use the children’s home language.    In response to the crack-down on these linguistically-subversive initiatives, Mexican-  American communities established organizations that ran “escuelitas (little schools) which   offered reading and writing instruction in Spanish” (Acuña 2011, 8). The escuelitas reflect an  27  organizational response that is also being mobilized in the present situation in Arizona. Like the   blow-out in San Angelo, the escuelitas may be seen as an historical anchor to some of the   initiatives that remain in place today in the face of the MAS ban in Tucson (See chapter 4 for   more on such initiatives).    If we go with a conservative date of 1910 based on the historical record, it took over three  decades for the politically-active element of Chican@s to see legal victories in the field of   education. This should not discount any undocumented victories that might have occurred at   local levels, which may be uncovered through a longer historical study, in particular when taking   into account that the veracity and depth of non-Chican@ compiled Chican@ history is itself a   topic of contention.   The mid ‘40s witnessed significant legal roadways towards educational   justice. Continued mobilization on segregation, educational conditions and language issues led to   two rulings in California on the Mendez v. Westminster School District Case (1946, 1947). The   rulings “declared the segregation of Mexican children unconstitutional” [the ’47 decision being  an affirmation of the ’46 verdict] (Acuña 2011, 11). Another case in 1945, Delgado v. Bastrop   Independent School District came to the same conclusion.  Beyond the immense significance for   Chican@s across the country, these three legal victories also became crucial precedents to the   historic Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 (Ibid), which ruled educational segregation of   African-Americans unconstitutional, and which is by far the more historically celebrated and   known ruling.    These hard-fought advances pushed forward by decades of commitment represent   instances of Chican@ activism forging U.S. educational history whilst fighting for the right to   have their own culture, roles, and contributions acknowledged. The fact that Brown v. Board of   Education is a widely-popular verdict while the Mendez victories are largely unheralded further  28  speaks to the peripheral place of Chican@s in the U.S. national imaginary. A periphery that   continues to be challenged today, yet one that did not stop Chican@ activists from pressing on in   the long fight in which they were fully engaged. Before “the insurrectionary 1960s burst out of   the McCarthy epoch” (Alaniz and Cornish 2008, 181), the fifties carried on with the momentum   of the Mendez, Delgado and Brown decisions: before the end of the decade “Mexican-Americans   had filed 15 school desegregation cases”  (Acuña 2011, 12). Chican@ educational activists   would enter the next decade with a growing momentum on their side.    The social significance of the ‘60s in the United States should not be understated. This   decade brought the many existing civil rights movements across the country to a fever pitch in   their particular struggles against the many aspects of the violent system of social, political, and   economic white domination being enforced by the U.S. both domestically and abroad. Mexican-  American activist youth, while engaged with the greater political milieu of the time, largely   galvanized around educational issues.    The youth movement carrying the torch for educational justice in the ‘60s was embedded   in a rich milieu of social movement organizations at a national level. In the Chican@   community, inspiration was drawn from the African-American civil rights movement. As Alaniz   and Cornish remark, “the Black upsurge, the spirit of liberation galvanized other people of   color... Chican@s were particularly impacted because the conditions of their oppression were so  similar to those of Blacks” (Alaniz and Cornish 2008, 181). It is worth mentioning here that the  Chican@ movement also aided and influenced the Black civil rights movement, as evidenced by  the legal push for desegregation discussed previously. Also, so as to not romanticize Black and  Brown activist relations of the epoch, commonalities of oppressive experiences clashed at times  with dissimilarities in both specific goals and general settings (Araiza 2014).  This relationship is  29  as complex as it is crowded with differing actors and would be a fruitful subject to pursue in  more depth elsewhere. What is clear is that it was at times symbiotic, in particular in the grand  scheme of national politics, as despite their differences, both added to the numbers of a vocally- discontent and politically-active section of the population.      There also was plenty of inspiration and support to go around from within the Chican@   community in the ‘60s. It is hard to compile all of the players who contributed in crucial roles to   the work that took place during this eventful decade, but several organizations must be   recognized. From within the Chican@ community, three organizations emerged out the ‘60s   that would prove to be crucial allies to the youth movement and  led to educationally-focused   actions. In a time in U.S. history characterized not only by large mobilization, but by strong and   charismatic leadership, Chican@s such as Dolores Huertas, Cesar Chaves, Reis Lopez Tijerina   and Corky Gonzales spearheaded valiant organizations. In respective order, they founded and   built into significant engines of change the United Farm Workers, La Alianza (Acuña 2011, 360),   and the Crusade for Justice (Vigil 1999). These individuals-turned-heroines-and-heroes fought   hard for farm worker rights, land rights, and civil rights. All of the while, they spread an   awareness and analysis of the Chican@ condition, and tilled a fertile ground for further activism.    But just like with Tucson today, more than experienced and willing social actors were   needed. Spaces of resistance, welcoming to the tasks of organizing and cultivating an activist   response to oppression, are crucial. The push-back to the forces of oppression generate a physical   place which comes to both embody resistance and facilitate its advance.  The John A. Valenzuela   Youth Center in South Tucson hosts the Underground Library today, and as such it operates a   space of resistance. But before the arrival of the Underground Library, before it was even   necessary and MAS was still alive (though under threat), it was a space of resistance for TUSD’s   30  aggrieved students during the process of organizing against the mounting attacks. Several people   involved with actions before the fate of the program was sealed shared with me that as the   political maneuvers unfolded, MAS students felt both intimidated and infiltrated as they tried to   organize from within the schools. The youth center, fought for by previous generations of the   community, became a space of resistance that allowed for guidance from adult activists and a   place from which the youth could sprout its grass-roots efforts. It was here that sit-ins and walk-  outs were planned, posters for events were made, and above all activist youths were provided   with a safe haven.    The Community Service Organization (CSO) founded in 1947 in Los Angeles (CSO   History Project 1997) and based largely on Saul Alinsky’s organizational philosophy, provided   such spaces for the parties invested in the creation of the original Mexican American Studies   programs. The CSO not only helped train leaders such as Chaves and Tijerina (among many   others), but its chapters also provided the locations in which these ‘people’s heroes’ met and   mingled with the youth groups that were about to surge into a significant social movement of   their own. In these spaces of resistance provided by the CSO we also see a concrete integration   of Chican@ generations, another strand in the traditional tapestry of resistance that is kept alive   in Tucson today.    These spaces of resistance also were central to what could be interpreted as a process of   radicalization by some, or as a new process of identity formation by others. It is out of   involvement with the Community Service Organization, for example that the group known as the   Young Chicanos for Community Action evolved into the Brown Berets (Acuña 2011, 361). It   also was at the CSO that many of the youth groups organizing through the beginning of the   decade had a space of communion and strengthening. Among these were the Mexican-American  31  Students Association (MASA), Mexican-American Student Confederation (MASC) and the   United Mexican-American Students (UMAS) and the Mexican American Youth Organization   (MAYO). These moments of spatial coexistence would facilitate consolidation further down the   road.    2.2  Boiling Point: The 1968-70 Blow-outs    “[O]n March 1968 close to 10,000 Chicano students walked out of five Los Angeles high   schools...These schools were in East Los Angeles, with populations that were overwhelmingly   Mexican [Garfield High School, for example, was 96% Latino]”  (Acuña 2000, 362). Harkening   back to the San Angelo blow-outs of 1910, and under the leadership of Los Angeles high school   teacher Sal Castro, the participants in the L.A. walk-outs “demanded an end to discrimination,   more Chicana/o teachers and administrators, bilingual education, and facilities and educational   standards equal to predominantly Anglo schools” (Alaniz and Cornish 2008, 184). These events   are not to be written off as simple civil disobedience, as they consisted of multi-sited actions   with very specific demands cutting to the systemic core of Chican@ educational issues.   Demands which, just like the methods employed to bring attention to them, can be traced back to   the start of the century and the origin of the Chican@ condition in the U.S.     What started as a peaceful action was not well received by the city of Los Angeles. The   mere presence of the Brown Berets, who were participating in a show of solidarity with their   community’s youth, was used as a scapegoat, which led to “sheriff’s deputies and police   react[ing] by treating the protest as an insurrection, beating students and arresting those who did   not move fast enough” in a shameful display of police brutality (Acuña 2000, 363). The quelling   32  of this major march did not slow down the movement, and momentum seemed to now be on the   side of the Chican@ youth. If anything, the violent over-reaction on behalf of Los Angeles law   enforcement inflamed the movement at a national scale.    On March 20, 1969, “solidarity walkouts in every secondary school in Denver’s   barrios” (emphasis mine) took place, and it did not take long for the demonstrations to leave the   ‘brown areas’ and become present city-wide (Vigil 1999, 81). Just like in California, the official   response was swift and violent. The march degraded rapidly, earning the sad title of “the   bloodiest school protests in Denver’s history” (Ibid) as police were quick to attack people with   billy clubs and throw them to the ground, leaving a trail of injuries (Kosena 2009). Beyond   these two infamous instances in the Chican@ activism hotbeds of California and Colorado, the   discontent and mobilization also spread to San Antonio, Elsa, and Abilene in Texas, Santa Clara,   California, and Phoenix, Arizona, among countless other Chican@ geographies (Acuña 2000,   363). A boiling point had been reached, and in the face of violent repression, the Chican@ youth   movement was about to reach a defining moment.     2.3  Turn and Aftermath of a Tumultuous Decade: Plan de Aztlan, Plan de Santa Barbara    Despite the violent reaction to the voicing of young Chican@ demands, the battered   students did not suffer from the brutality of the armed guardians of the status quo in vain. Out of   the momentum of the organizing, ramping up to the blow-outs, and the added fuel of the brutal   reaction came two events that marked the course of the struggle for the future. A course that   would see the arrival of Chican@ studies in nation-wide university and high school campuses.    March of 1969 in Denver marked both the blow-outs and the coming together of the   activist community in the face of a surmounting push-back against Chican@ resistance over  33  educational justice. Corky Gonzales and the Crusade for Justice hosted the first national Chicano   Youth Liberation conference. This conference produced an enigmatic and poetic plan, the Plan   Espiritual de Aztlan. This utopian plan advocated for a form of cultural nationalism “that joined   Mexican Americans together by ties of history and culture in the service of liberation (Vargas   2011, 320).”  The plan was not unproblematic, receiving in particular well-founded accusations   of patriarchalism from the movement’s female and queer participants (Alaniz and Cornish 2008,   195). This is yet another thread that may be followed from the civil rights era through to Tucson   and the aftermath of SB2281, as what was originally a diverse and united front of resistance   encompassing a variety of generations and genders suffered from similar accusations.   Despite these divisions (but with no intention to downplay them, for they are not only   well-founded but also historically influential in the movement), the Plan de Aztlan was crucial in   the forging of a Chican@ identity, in the shunning of the hyphenated ‘Mexican-American’ with   its qualifying implications. This galvanization of identity, this move from an imposed to a self-  ascribed demonym, strengthened the movement, which rode the momentum of the Denver   conference.    With the decade closing, it became evident how along with the germination of the seeds   of significant social change in the U.S, these years also had witnessed a meaningful change of   identity. While the Gadsden Purchase and annexation to the U.S. effectively turned parts of a  heterogeneous group of indigenous and mestizo peoples with a commonality of forced   subordination to the Spanish crown and the Mexican government into ‘Mexican-Americans’   practically overnight, the ‘60s brought a change that emerged from within the community. The   vocabulary for self-identification gradually went from Mexican-American, to Chican@, and the   conference in Denver with its estimated 1500 youths in attendance gave this change a significant  34  push.  With this change in identity came a renewed sense of pride and power, and a whole lot of  mobilization.   The following month marked the coming together of Chican@ teachers, administrators,   students, and activists, who converged on the Santa Barbara campus of the University of   California for a symposium that culminated with the publication of the Plan de Santa Barbara.   This document outlined problems and prospects for the Chican@ educational movement brought   to the table by delegations from across the country. The other greatly significant outcome of this   symposium was the banding together of the majority of student associations under the umbrella   of the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (Chicano Student Movement from Aztlan), or   MEChA (Vargas 2011, 322). It is of great importance that most (if not all) of the organizations   that banded together as MEChA had previously identified as ‘Mexican-American’. The coalition   became exoterically powerful due to its large numbers, but also esoterically powerful by   signifying the wide-spread adoption of a new, self-ascribed identity under which to fight   together.    MEChA (the acronym spells the Spanish word for ‘spark’) outlined in its founding   document, de Plan de Santa Barbara,  “proposals for a curriculum in Mexican American studies,   and community control of schools”, among other educational goals (Ibid, 323). The Plan is a   fascinating document, a manifesto that would serve as a roadmap for the institutionalization of   Mexican-American Studies programs across the specter of secondary and post-secondary   schools. The effects of the symposium were immediate: “Guided by MEChA’s vision,” students   and faculty worked together in a massive effort “to secure recruitment programs, financial aid,   student support services and Mexican American studies programs” (Vargas 2011, 323). What in   many campuses started as clubs, eventually turned into programs, then departments, and in many  35  cases full faculties that stand to this day.   These two large events at the close of the decade were of utmost significance to the   movement. The national gathering in Denver may be interpreted as the symbolic cornerstone of   of Chican@ critical consciousness, with the Corky Gonzales-led celebration of an almost tragic   identity borne out of ethnic, cultural and class struggles. What I see as a sort of Barrio   Vasconcelos. Chicanismo as a ‘Raza Cosmica’ vision hard-boiled by life in the heart of the   Anglo empire.    Denver also popularized the imagined geography of Aztlan, reflected in Santa Barbara   through the moniker of MEChA. This added to the process of identity exploration and definition   through the artistic manifestation of an alternative territory of belonging which contested the   very existence and legitimacy of what Rodolfo Acuña would call ‘occupied America’. The   national gathering in Santa Barbara, on the other hand, can be seen as the official birth of what at   the time was called Raza Studies, Chican@ studies, or in its slightly more palatable to the   general population version, Mexican-American Studies. The particular version of the program   that was dismantled from the Tucson Unified School District and the bulk of MAS programs   active across college and school campuses across the U.S. are all direct pedagogical and   theoretical descendants of the Plan de Santa Barbara and the organizing and resisting that led to   the watershed accomplishments of 1969.    MEChA chapters also remain strong and active across the country as student clubs and   groups in colleges, universities and high schools. In fact, many of the actors on both the youth   and elder sides of the resistance in Tucson are proud present and former MEChistas. Despite the   attack unleashed against TUSD’s MAS program, and the lived and symbolic consequences of   this legal hit, Tucson activists resist against HB2281 and its ramifications with a source of  36  strength that emanates from a century-old tradition of educational activism, and the knowledge   kept alive by those who saw victories as youths and now lend support as elders in the long fight   for social, cultural, and educational justice for Chican@s in the U.S.    2.4  Defending the Legacy and the Importance of Intergenerational Resistance: The Fight Continues      “The events in Arizona have returned us to 1965.” (Acuña 2011, 210).    This statement rang loud in my head throughout the entirety of my research. It closed the   book The Making of Chicano Studies: In the Trenches of Academe. An account of the program’s   history from one of its founders, Dr. Rodolfo Acuña. One of the first things to become obvious   as I started tracing back the Arizona book ban and dismantling of MAS, as I started trying to   contextualize that which without a context seemed to make no sense, was the fact that the fight   for educational justice in Arizona is not new. Just as HB2281 and the punitive and selective way   in which it was used are the legacy of the legislative apparatus’ efforts to actively oppress and   negatively impact the Chican@ condition, so too the forms and spaces of resistance employed   against it are the legacy of over a century of resistance, activism, theory and study.    But if the statement about the affront to Chican@ educational and cultural rights in   Tucson can sound like a cryptic description of a jump back in time, a jump backwards if you   will, stepping back from the Eurocentric linear conception of time may give a slightly more   hopeful reading. The ‘return’ to ’65 can be seen as an aspect of a cyclical interpretation of time,   such as that of the indigenous civilizations whose histories the MAS program used to root its   student’s sense of identity. Linearity would negate any future/past advance and affront, as they   would only be doomed to repeat themselves in a Sisyphian fashion. Yes, the Tucson youth were   37  fighting a new battle in an old war, but they had more than the youth of ’65 did at the time. The   emotional fuel of past victories, the tactical and moral support of the veterans who helped   achieve them, these all made for an outlook less bleak than a simple backwards-skip in history.    It became evident in my fieldwork that generational dynamics were of significance to the   resistance in Tucson, in no small part due to the rich and lived history of the struggle.    The extent of the long fight is reflected in the many intergenerational aspects that shaped  both the attack on TUSD’s MAS, and the resistance against it.  As I was learning about the   details of the process of dismantling MAS and removing the books from the classrooms, I heard   a story that captured the different generational dynamics at play in Tucson.  A graduate student   at the University of Arizona who attended the TUSD school board meeting which brought down   the vote to dismantle the MAS program recalled that it was a quiet and cold winter evening. This   was intentional, he suggested, and the call to meeting had gone out late at a time of the year in   which the pace is traditionally slower and Tucson more sparsely populated. This was a tactical   move on behalf of the TUSD, as the original May meeting to vote on whether or not to uphold   the MAS program in the face of millions of dollars of cuts threatened by the state legislature had   been successfully derailed by grass-roots action on behalf of both young and old, veterans of the   struggle, and new blood as well.   Three interviewees remarked on that May 2011 meeting, which sent the TUSD reeling   and made the board wait until the following January to try again.  Those who were there that   spring night remembered it vividly. As I jogged peoples’ memories during the interview process,   the significance of that evening seemed to change tones, to create more introspection than other   events. It makes sense. At that point in the state-orchestrated attack on Tucson’s MAS, the vote   was more of a formality, as everyone was aware of the way it would go. May’s school board  38  meeting was very much like a death sentencing, yet the community managed to have the   sentence postponed. The scene was described to me as rife with tension, which the presence of   police in riot gear seemed to only heighten. One MAS supporter who managed to be inside for   the attempted proceedings described to me how community elder and local Chican@ Studies   champion Guadalupe Castillo was arrested as she attempted to read from Dr. King Jr.’s Letter  From Birmingham Jail. He said that while he turned to those around trying to digest what had   just happened and what could be done next, the youth had already mobilized and blockaded the   building, demanding the release of the elder.     The events of that May evening exemplify how resistance in Tucson was spearheaded by   a brave youth, and backed by experienced adults. How it was and is a generationally   multilayered affair. Guadalupe is a veteran activist and teacher, seasoned in the trenches of the   fight to bring MAS to Tucson in the first place. She embodies the bridge between the youth of   ’69 (or ’65), and the youth of 2012. Former TUSD MAS Literature teacher Curtis Acosta,   described Guadalupe as mentor, and as everyone else who knew her, had nothing but   admiration for her. She was arrested while standing up for the youth’s rights. The youth, on their   own behalf, organized with such strength of conviction and numbers that they were able to   assure the release of the elder from custody (although with a citation nonetheless) (Lemons   2011). The youth were not acting with a lack of historical context, and in fact they were   supported by some of those who forged the very historical context that enveloped this new stage   of the long fight.   Despite the fact that the school board would eventually re-strategize their approach and   cut the program in order to comply with the economic elbowing coming from the state capital,   the events of that May evening are considered a success for the Chican@ educational movement.  39   A small battle won, even if the only accomplishment was the figurative chance to live to fight   another day. In the heat of the political struggle, the youth came to the elders’ support, and vice-  versa. The eras of Chican@ educational activism were connected through action, a connection   that proved to be powerful.    Tucson’s activist community, vast in both the range of issues represented and depth of   experience and activities,  seemed fully aware of its intergenerational connections.  Such   awareness can only come with a self-contextualization within what is a historical movement, and   an understanding (or in the very least a thoughtful consideration) of the forces that have shaped   the existence of such a movement. A Choya High MAS graduate involved heavily in the defense   of the program exclaimed to me passionately: “we’ve been fighting this shit since civil rights!”   Another student activist, now a University of Arizona MEChA leader, remembered realizing at   the time of the MAS struggle the importance of the classes themselves as spaces of resistance   carved out of former landscapes of exclusion: “ if [we] take for granted and...don’t realize how   difficult it was to get to these spaces, then history continues to repeat itself, because Ethnic   Studies was already a fought battle here in Tucson in the ‘60s.”    When Former Superintendent Tom Horne, the Arizona State Senate, and the voting   majority of the Tucson Unified School District sought to do away with Tucson’s MAS program,   they sought to dismantle a profound program that encouraged critical thinking, applied to the   pedagogical subjects of literature and the social sciences. “They were trying to take away our   history” was something I heard both in interviews and casual conversations. As an interviewee   put it: “Our identity feels like walking a tight-rope. Always cautious of proving how Mexican   you are to the Mexicans and how American you are to the Americans.” In the face of this inner   40  struggle, she experienced clarity through her MAS education and the connection with the past it   provided: “that’s where you find yourself [and] feel that strong connection.” Thus, this ‘taking   away’ implied a metaphysical history-as-thing which can be given or taken, shared or hidden. It   also implied that the community was being threatened with losing (or severely hampering) their    ability to know this history, to celebrate it, to be empowered by it, and to better understand their   present through it.     A large part of the fuel for the mobilization of youth in Tucson was the desire to give  future generations of students the life-affirming moments that a challenging pedagogy offers   to a people disenchanted with the educational status quo. Consistently through my time in   Tucson I heard about moments (different for each person) of what I would describe as   a certain attainment of knowledge of self. Pieces of information that ‘made things click’, and   made other things make sense. These foundational moments are not unlike what C.W. Mills   described as the empowerment of having a ‘sociological imagination’(2000), or the ability to   utilize knowledge and information to connect personal troubles to public issues. For Monica, a   young undergraduate student at the University of Arizona’s nationally-recognized MAS   department, it was realizing that her people are indigenous to Arizona, rather than foreigners,   immigrants, illegals, criminals, or whatever dominant narrative was upheld outside of the spaces   of resistance that MAS classrooms were able to provide in Tucson. Becoming aware of the long   history of Chican@s as the darkest member of a family that always seemed to exalt a Spanish-  European cultural heritage, she said, “centers you.”    The passage of time, whether we conceive it as linear, cyclical, or in any other form, is of  key importance to what has happened in Tucson. Activists are aware that they are fighting   against things like political terms and cycles of election. That the struggle is, as it always has  41  been, enduring for the foreseeable future.  In this regard, the youth fighting for what was at the   time their program have now largely moved on in their life-paths. While many remain steadfast   in their efforts to reestablish MAS as it was prior to HB2281, they and those whose paths have   since gone elsewhere fought in 2012 for the generations coming after them. An interviewee  remembers of the time: “I never felt so ready to go out there and say ‘I am a Chicana, I am   educated, and I want to give back to my younger Chicanas so they can also learn they have an   identity.”    While it was very common for me to hear that the community’s history or culture was   being taken away, it was also common for me to hear about a clear sense that once such   transformative and foundational educational experiences were attained, they could not be taken   away. “Once you feed somebody knowledge, you can’t take it back,” said an interviewee. Once   the youth learned what they considered a true history of themselves and of their country, the   effects on their understanding of life, and therefore their experience of life itself, would not be   the same. And no one could take this away from them. The youth-led resistance to HB2281 went   to work so that younger kids could accrue the life benefits of a relevant secondary education seen   to completion (something that the MAS program was well-known for achieving), but also for the   right of those going through the educational system after them to experience the consciousness-  changing movements, the glimpses of a knowledge of self that might contextualize their lives   and foster agency.  By fighting for the rights of others to obtain the gains that many of them had   already received from the program, the MAS students affected by HB2281 had become a link   rather than an end in the intergenerational chain of Chican@ educational resistance and activism.    Some of the elders I spoke with noted the importance of the intergenerational   transmission of history and tradition. Liz Salinas is the program coordinator at Multicultural  42  Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA) in Houston. A staple of Chican@ culture in   Houston, MECA provides after-school programs for kids of all ages, teaching Mexican   folkloric dance, singing, violin and piano, along with graphic arts and academic tutoring. MECA  is also home to one of the region’s Underground Libraries, as detailed in chapter 5, and is itself a   historical space of resistance against the erasure of Chican@ culture in the Southwest. Mrs.   Salinas is an example of this generational consciousness. As we talked about what led her to   open a space in MECA for the books banned in Tucson, she conveyed an understanding of the   many acts of resistance involved in this long fight as being crucial pillars of Chican@ history,   and as a part of the Chican@ legacy for its own community, country, and for the world at large.   “Those books are our history,” and through her position she was going to make sure the Brown   youth of her city would have access to it.    Beyond the disheartening dismantling of TUSD’s MAS program, Mrs. Salinas derived   hope from an understanding of the power inherent in the banned books as receptacles of a history   that she, like Guadalupe, embodied in life. Awareness that the texts would outlive her and her   ability to impart knowledge, history and tradition, only heightened their importance. “I like to   call myself a seasoned Chicana,” she said in a light hearted acknowledgment of her age and of  how much longer she can continue to work for the community. In her life, Mrs Salinas had felt   validated when first reading fiction in which characters were forced to ditch Spanish names for   Anglo equivalents, just like she had. She also remembered “when Sandra Cisneros’ book first   came out” the effect of seeing a name like that in print. Mrs. Salinas’ given name is Esmeralda,   but through her schooling she was forced to hide that jewel. She felt the transformative and   hands during lunch out of shame, or to be chastised for using her mother tongue, her mother’s   tongue.  She has an awareness of the power of published literature, interpreting the banned books 43  as a record of the cultural “evolution” of “Chicanos, Mexican-Americans, Mexican and Latino   immigrants in the U.S.” She also has an awareness of the importance of the representation and   voicing of those hidden from a national imaginary and a sanitized history, stating that the ability  to see one’s self in a distinguished medium such as books, affected a person’s “ability to be one’s   self.”    The kids in Tucson fought for their history to be freely taught and entered that very   history through their agency in resisting the forces that tried to do away with it.  Mrs. Salinas in   Houston and Mrs. Gloria Hamelitz, host of the Underground Library in Tucson, both embody   and guard the tradition of Chican@ educational history. All stood together to resist the state of   Arizona’s push to dismantle what was a source of knowledge which could not be taken away   from those who had attained it (that being one of its utmost beauties and strengths), but which   a politically ambitious and savvy Tom Horne figured could be (at least) temporarily withheld   from many who have did not yet have it through the physical removal of books and the alteration   and removal of curricula and pedagogical practices.     Here I want to bring attention to another site of intergenerational dynamics of importance   to the events of Tucson and their aftermath. That Tom Horne was born before school   desegregation is not lost on those affected by HB2281. Mr. Horne’s  fight against the MAS   program was interpreted by various people interviewed as either a purely political gamble in a   state in which loosely-veiled racism can lead to success at the ballot boxes, or as a quasi-  religious undertaking by a republican zealot. “Once Horne got this between his teeth, it was on,”   stated an interviewee. Despite disagreements on the true reasons behind his drive to shut the   program down, there was an agreed upon  recognition of an ‘old White man, telling Brown   youth what to do.’ He also was seen as a foreigner enforcing the values of the colonialist state on  44  a population which identifies as the traditional occupants of the land. Gloria Hamelitz of the John   A. Valenzuela Youth Center remembers: “our kids are aware of it [the disconnect between   lawmakers and their community] and they realize so much is happening at the state legislative   level, and it’s coming from out-of-town legislators and people who never stepped foot on our   community.”    South Tucson is home to the area’s Underground Library, and was and is home to   many of those student activists who found their classes threatened and eventually cut by   Horne’s reactionary politics. The students were bused daily to TUSD high schools due to a   lack of said institutions in South Tucson [see chapter 4 for more on the history of South Tucson].   Residents of the almost exclusively Mexican-American city are too familiar with a dynamic in   which their state politics are significantly shaped by white, elderly ‘snowbirds’ from out of state   [mostly East Coast and Canadian retirees looking for warmer climes during the winter months   who claim residence in Arizona], as Mrs. Hamelitz noted.    Horne, while not necessarily a ‘snowbird’, embodied this dynamic. He embodied the   status quo trying to do away with the hard-earned, history-altering victories of Chican@s with   regards to their place in the national imaginary. “White, East Side, older adults, a lot of   snowbirds, they vote. They got it together and that’s where we suffer,” said an interviewee with   regards to fighting against a strong political machinery. For as much as the veterans of the   educational struggle embodied the Chican@ activist tradition, Horne embodied the tradition of   U.S. state and social institutions creating and maintaining an oppressive set of conditions for   Chican@s since colonial expansion brought them under the mantle of Anglo-American power.   “We know that some big people have crumbled like Huppenthal” [Horne’s successor as   Superintendent, and the one in charge of following through with the MAS dismantling, who at  45  the time was going through a bizarre controversy centered around inflammatory comments he   posted on several local blogs under pseudonyms during his Superintendent tenure (Creno and   Faller 2014)]. Mrs. Hamelitz continues: “his credibility is gone. Tom Horne has moved on, but   there’s always someone else to pop up in their place.”    “The city of Tucson has some famous racists and they are not afraid,” mentioned an   interviewee. Politically, this translates into people like Horne acting on dangerous “political   opportunism,” as another interviewee phrased it. There is a generational dynamic at the heart of   the events in Tucson by which an old guard has continued to achieve political success by fighting   for a return to a past time, a time of a more encompassing, and unapologetic racism. On the   other end of the spectrum, the local youth fights for the preservation of present gains.   Toxic intergenerational dynamics did not only occur through interaction between   oppressors and resisters, however.  While the role of supporting elders cannot be stressed   enough, tensions between generations did emanate from within the movement as well. Interviews   with former student participants communicated the perception of a power struggle growing as   the fight turned months and years long. An interviewee mentioned how some of the youth   “didn’t feel validated, and these [feelings] were not addressed.” This is not uncommon in lengthy   projects of protest and activism, and underlying divisions in the general social fabric eventually   manifested themselves in what was initially a strongly unified activist community in Tucson.   These divisions grew into near-fatal cracks through disagreements and frustrations from both   outside and within: “there’s been some cracks in the movement and there was some definite  controversy and splits,”  recalled an activist.    This dynamic of growing separations was also expressed to me as gendered. The young   women of the movement, tireless leaders and organizers sacrificing time and energy, many of  46  them during their final year of high school as they were trying to maintain grades and apply for   schools (largely influenced by the pedagogical program in question), came to feel under   represented. In more than one interview, There became “a huge divide between the [young]   women and [the rest of] the movement,” recalled Gloria Hamelitz. This exemplifies problems   within the Chican@ movement that can be traced back to the very days in which the identity and   philosophy of the movement was brought into being. The young, female activists I talked to   and heard about organized protests, sit-ins, walk-outs, and barrio runs since the threat of   dismantling became clear. They had created literary and theoretical zines, and even organized   alternative educational workshops that sought to uphold the spirit and pedagogy of the banned   MAS program.     This leads me to state explicitly that in trying to understand any aspect of how the   Tucson Chican@ community reacted to having their education utilized as a political target   (whether from inside or outside of the community) there is no more important voice than that of   the youth who organically and (to a degree) successfully took the traditional torch of educational   activism and ran far with it. It is also worth noting that among that active youth, women played a   pivotal role which might be currently underrepresented in attempts from the arts, activist and   academic worlds of portraying and interpreting the Tucson book ban and pedagogical witch-  hunt.      When I visited Tucson to understand what happened two years ago when the books were   boxed in front of disturbed students and the program was officially cut,  and has been happening   since, these young women continued to play important roles in different functions ranging from   educational activism, to actively trying to create a new curriculum from within the TUSD   affected schools that can offset the loss of the MAS program. 47    2.5  Conclusion    In the midst of one more round in a long historical fight for cultural and educational   rights, identity, and terms of national belonging, multigenerational dynamics became important   because they anchored and contextualized the moment, provided reciprocal avenues of support   and inspiration, and promoted and preserved a rich tradition of political activism. They also are   important because they underlie many of the personal and political roots of the affront to   TUSD’s MAS program, and of the relationship between the Arizona state government machinery   and the states’ Chican@ population.  Finally they are important because they serve as reminders   that in a sustained social struggle, all dynamics of difference must be carefully observed in order   to protect unity within the activist community.    To analyze HB2281 and its aftermath, a look at the past is required in order to properly   understand the present and future. The history of Chican@ educational activism reveals three   themes also evident in Arizona today. First, since (and before) U.S. annexation and legalized   colonization, there has been a racialized power structure in the region that has created and   strengthened a pattern of social exclusion by which second-class citizenship has been imposed   on the original inhabitants of the area and those variously labeled (by either ascription or   subscription) as Mexicans, Mexican-Americans or Chican@s. Second, this historically   entrenched social, economic, and cultural oppression has been painfully reflected, among many   other aspects of lived experience, in a segregated and subpar schooling system for Chican@s.    Lastly, the Chican@ community has identified and mobilized against this educational disservice   for over a century.   48    This 100-years-plus history activism signifies an autochthonous tradition of resistance   that has not only greatly shaped the Chican@ community through its pedagogical   accomplishments, but should be interpreted as part of this community’s cultural legacy to the   United States. Historical legal precedents that allowed for significant transformations of U.S.   society were accomplished by communities othered and erased by the national imaginary. And, a   groundbreaking pedagogy was crafted and entrenched in universities, colleges, and secondary   schools across the country. During the process, a self-assumed identity was popularized, and in   the face of violence, the community responded powerfully and successfully.     History, whether in the classroom or in the making, is a source of power for a resistance   that foments critical understandings of the present. The knowledge of similar victories achieved   in the past serve as fuel for the victories that are needed today. The integral role of history in the   current struggles gives the intergenerational dynamics at play in Tucson high importance. Elders   like Esmeralda and Guadalupe serve as embodied historical bridges between generations,   carrying both activist traditions and granting context to the present. The bridge role is of   particular importance since the ban denied access to Chican@ history through the educational   system. Today, as the books removed from Tucson classrooms sit on the shelves of the   Underground Libraries, they house within their covers the pedagogical lifeblood of the program,   and the history and legacy of the Chican@ population. They remain available (to a significantly   smaller number of) the youth of Tucson and South Tucson.    There are many active members of the Chican@ community in Tucson and across the   nation who still embody the history of the MAS, institutionalized almost a half-century ago. The   hope that refuses to surrender in Tucson is that before those bridges cease to exist within this   physical reality, before the books sitting in the Underground Libraries become a   49  decontextualized installation,  the successful curriculum will be brought back into TUSD   schools. “There is still hope here in Tucson,” mentioned a student. “We won’t let it die away,”   promised another participant. The hope remains that TUSD classrooms might yet again become   spaces of cultural resistance against a historically consistent effort of Anglo-Eurocentric   educational oppression.    In the meantime, a few industrious, passionate and acutely knowledgeable young   veterans of the fight against HB2281 continue to act in a variety of ways, fighting for the coming   generations entering state-controlled educational institutions. They are fighting for their rights to   a personally-relevant pedagogy and its transformative effects, and attempting to provide a form   of it whenever and wherever possible.    While conducting my research in Tucson, anti-MAS political platforms won the school   board election once again, setting a somber tone for another election cycle for those fighting to  bring the dismantled MAS program back. Even as politicians profiting on racist rhetoric might  salivate at the idea of having set Chican@ education ‘back to ’65’, the resistance continues to   work towards a new ’69, a new historical era of victories.               50  Chapter 3                                                                                                      Smuggling Books as Cultural Resistance: The Librotraficante Caravan and Activism Across Chican@ Geographies    Arizona state’s House of Representatives Bill 2281 is a piece of legislation that was   crafted with the intent to target the Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) pedagogically   sophisticated and educationally successful Mexican-American Studies (MAS) program. The   brazen and public way (Horne 2007) in which the Canadian-born [a fact not lost on the   community which further emphasized the divide between state lawmakers and the people of   Tucson] Arizona career politician Tom Horne oppressed and eventually suppressed this   particular program was met by countless grass-roots resistance initiatives, spearheaded by the   affected youth of the TUSD and their community. The state won the battle it had created in 2012,  economically strong-arming the school board into dismantling the program through the threat of   significant budget cuts, leading to the spread of national outrage through the U.S. Chican@ and   Latin@ communities over what was seen as a cultural affront. In the immediate aftermath of the   dismantling and before the eyes of the educationally and emotionally affected students, all books   utilized by the multi-class program were effectively boxed up and removed from the classrooms.    Today, as educational activists in Tucson continue to fight for the reinstatement of a   MAS program that resembles the dismantled one, and continue to teach out-of-school programs   inspired by it, the banned books sit on the shelves of several Underground Libraries which   sprung up as spaces of resistance against the cultural oppression of Chican@s in Tucson. These   Underground Libraries are the legacy left behind by a group of Chican@ literature activists   called the Librotraficantes (book traffickers) and this chapter tells the story of how it was done.   I first met the Librotraficantes at Houston’s Pacifica Radio headquarters. It was a large,   51  old house in what seemed to be a very hip, trendy, and expensive area of town. Pacifica Radio   being a famous bastion of ‘liberal media’ in the U.S., the activities and folks inside the house   stood in stark contrast with the affluence of the surroundings. The place was buzzing due to the  fact that it was pledge week, and as one of the oldest listener-funded radio network, volunteers,   producers, hosts and managers were all preoccupied. When someone finally noticed me in the   lobby, I said I was there for the Nuestra Palabra broadcast, and was guided to a small studio on   the first floor.   It was clear to me that this funky house in the middle of the ‘creative’, ‘revitalized’ (read   gentrified) Montrose neighborhood is one of the many spaces of resistance involved in the   Chican@ response to the culturally oppressive educational climate in Arizona. The KPTF house  is one of those spaces carved in an act of resistance, which in turn allows for a break in the   geographies of power, a place from which further resistance may be planned, deployed,   supported and defended. I was told later by the traficantes that the station’s transmitter had  been   bombed off the air by the Ku Klux Klan at some point. Further investigation revealed that the   station has been bombed twice in its history (Shey 2010), and that a few years ago, precisely   during the hectic pledge-drive week, the “sometimes-controversial” station was shot at from   outside, narrowly missing the head of someone within (Moran 2007). The house is soaked in a   history of cultural resistance, and has withstood violent repression.   It is out of this house that Tony Diaz, Liana Lopez and Bryan Parras have been taking to   Houston’s airwaves for years now, with the Latin@ and Chican@ literature-based program   Nuestra Palabra (Our Word). The three Chican@ activists represent the foundation and core of   the Librotraficante movement. They would eventually lead a caravan through six Southwestern   cities raising awareness about HB2281 and collecting book donations with the goal of making  52  available the Chican@ cultural treasure (along with non-Chican@ texts used by the program)   that had been removed from TUSD’s MAS Government/Social Justice Education, History, Art,   and Literature classrooms to Tucson’s youth again.    It had not been easy to reach the Librotraficantes. After months of sporadic email  exchanges with a Nuestra Palabra account run by all three, and a couple of date changes in my   fieldwork plans, I made my way through the buzzing KPFT house and finally got to meet the   trio in a small broadcasting booth. After quick and friendly introductions, for air time was upon   us, I was promptly put to work on the station’s phone lines. At some point they bussed me on air   for a quick plug on my research, and without skipping a beat, they continued on with their   program and pledge-drive. I saw firsthand how these three individuals are incredibly industrious   and consistently busy. Besides the radio show and Librotraficante activism, Tony teaches   Latin@ and Chican@ literature at Lone Star State College, writes for the Huffington Post, and is   active in ‘Dreamer’ immigration activism. Liana is an award-winning artist, a media consultant   and, along with Bryan “The High-Tech Aztec” Parras, a full-time environmental activist.   On the afternoon I met them, Nuestra Palabra consisted mostly of a pre-taped interview   with writer and director Hernan Vilchez regarding his documentary Huicholes: The Last Peyote   Guardians (2014). By the time it all wrapped up and we attacked what is left of the food brought   by and for the many people involved with the fundraiser, which at that point is mainly a batch of   delicious tamales, it is dark outside. The traficantes finally had some time to breath and talk. We   drove away from Montrose and its hip restaurants, and found a place to sit. For the next few   hours I heard the story of the Librotraficante initiative and the resulting Underground Libraries. I   recount the tale of this creative direct action using my interview and communications with the   Librotraficantes, along with archival research.  53   3.1  Librotraficante Origins: The Inspiration    The underground libraries that today stand as literary repositories of Chican@ and   Latin@ culture in the United States are the tangible and most successful legacy of the whirlwind  of activism that was the week-long Librotraficante caravan of 2012. It was the aftermath of the   dismantling of TUSD’s MAS program and the forced removal of over 50 titles from the   classrooms of the affected students, and from the district’s approved list of literature. The core   idea was to collect as many of the censored texts around the Southwest, while raising awareness   of what happened to the youth in Tucson.   The caravan stormed through six Southwestern cities with multiple actions planned for   each stop, and it packed venues all along the route. It was successful in achieving its core   goal and beyond. While on the surface it seemed as though the action was almost spontaneous,   this belies the truth. While they found out about the book ban, organized the caravan, and   delivered the books all in under six weeks, the Librotraficante grass-roots initiative stood on   a strong foundation laid through years of hard work. This solid foundation was crucial in   allowing such a response to what they saw as step towards a process of cultural genocide.    Bryan Parras, known in the activist community as the High-Tech Aztec, sees it this way:   “We’ve been here before. We remember the codices.”2   His statement speaks to the historical   legacy of resistance against cultural oppression that has taken place in this region since the   advent of the colonial invasions.  It was Bryan who initially found out about the woes of the kids                                                   2Parras was referring to the burning, looting and suppressing of Aztec and Maya codices, richly crafted bound books representing all aspects of life for these cultures, by the Spanish crown and the Roman Catholic Church. Parras this paralleled to the literature removed from Tucson classrooms.   54  in Tucson. Liana, his partner, remembers that night. “We totally didn’t think it was going to   happen.” Very savvy with new media and deeply immersed in the underground Chican@, Native   and Latin@ grass-roots and community journalism scene, the High-Tech Aztec was sparked into   outrage and action immediately. “Very quickly I tweeted to Tony and [author] Lalo [Alcaraz]   and I said ‘let’s take the Librotraficantes and lets smuggle the books to Tucson’, and they were   like ‘what the fuck are you talking about!’ so I sent them the link to see what was going on.”   Outrage and disbelief were the clearest emotions expressed by the traficantes as they   recounted the beginning of the activist adventure that culminated in the Underground libraries   just weeks later. “We were angry,” remembers Tony of the moment when they realized what had   happened.  They had no idea at the time what was going to happen, but they knew they would   not sit idly by. Initially, both the disbelief and the anger were inspired by, and directed towards   the culturally-oppressive political machinery that descended upon Tucson’s MAS program, its   literature and youth. In addition, they noted the coverage (or rather lack-thereof) by mainstream   media on the issue. As Chican@ multimedia literature activists, it made complete sense.   “The big news outlets in the area” says Bryan, referring to Arizona, had perhaps a couple   of stories. “It pissed me off.” He found out what had happened through Brenda Norrell’s    community reporting published through the aptly-titled Censored News blog out of New   Mexico, as well as David Morales’ Three Sonorans blog. Interestingly enough, just like the   Underground Libraries came to exist as a response to the censorship of pedagogy and   literature instigated by the state’s legislative and judicial powers, so too did Censored News   come to exist as a response to Norrell’s termination from Indian Country Today after   repeated instances of censorship (Censored News). In similar fashion, Morales’ Three Sonorans   blog was dropped from the Tucson Citizen’s online collection of local bloggers in 2012, after he  55  had posts removed (censored) by the site (Smith 2012). The removal of the Sonorans blog was   presented as a difference of understanding with regards to conflict of interest, and came after the   Citizen received complaints against Morales’ partiality from TUSD board president and   members, anti-ethnic studies activists (Ibid).   "We had to step up because the kids were stepping up and they were doing things way   better than anyone [but] no one wants to listen to them." "Because they are kids," Bryan says,   "it's easy for the media to dismiss them." Over the course of the caravan Tony used his writing in   the Huffington Post as a voice for the cultural resistance against HB2281. An explicit goal was   to take whatever national attention there was at the time "to the next level." I myself became   aware of what was happening in Tucson post-MAS dismantling through the writer-activist work   of Diaz.    Beyond the anger and disbelief at the poor media coverage of what had happened in   Arizona, those emotions extended the political machinery that created the situation. With regards   to one of the Censored News reports, Bryan said: “Just hearing the details of what happened that   day... the kids having the books taken away from them and reacting to it, crying...” Liana chimes   in: “I still, when I talk about it, I get all teary-eyed.” “It just pisses you off,” adds The Aztec.   “How do you take something away when kids are excited about learning? When does that   happen!”    The disbelief and anger didn’t end there. As soon as they started digging in, making   contacts in the area, scouring any source available, the passion increased. “What they did to   those kids was the worst,” says Liana. “That was before we found out they had been fighting for   two years. These kids that aren’t even eighteen are going to school board meetings! They were   already civically engaged and they were doing it on their own.” Even with engaged and  56  embedded citizen journalism pumping information out of Tucson, there were realities that   geography blurred.  Bryan added: “That whole community [the Chican@s of Tucson and South   Tucson] had been so subjugated for so long, we didn’t know until we got there how bad it was.”    The Librotraficantes had been struck deeply by the dismantling of TUSD’s MAS   program and the censorship of what was basically a Chican@ canon. They had been pushed to   action against what they saw as cultural violence censoring the education of Brown youth, but   also working towards its silencing. In addition, they were deeply touched due to their direct   relationship with many of the authors or books removed from the MAS classrooms sprinkled   throughout Tucson’s high schools. “All these writers getting banned, we knew them” Tony said.   He mentioned Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, now a MAS professor at the University of Arizona   who I would later interview in Tucson. Bryan noted that for years, “we had been working with   those books and with the authors.” Tony added something of interest: the banning started before   HB2281 gave the state the teeth with which to rip MAS out of Tucson schools. Two of Dr. Cintli   Rodriguez’s books had been censored by TUSD a year or two before it all came down. “Manuel   Muñoz,” added Tony, with a hint of fire in his voice, “had his books banned across the street   from the college that he was teaching in.”   From the day they found out about the attacks against Chican@ culture in Tucson, the   Librotraficantes trio knew they were doing something. They were driven by the atrocious   political power-moves against the local youth, but also the valiant ways in which the   local youth had resisted for years against such a formidable force of oppression. What they   interpreted as poor coverage of the situation, along with their personal work, and activist   relationships with both books and authors from Tucson’s banned list further compounded the   drive to action that made them decide that, one way or another, they were going to, as Tony said,  57  “smuggle those books back to Tucson.”    3.2  What’s in a Name? The Coining of ‘Librotraficante’      Librotraficante translates literally to ‘book trafficker’ in English and originate at Nuestra   Palabra. Nuestra Palabra is not only a radio show. It started as a reading series imagined and   spearheaded by Tony while he was working toward his MFA in creative writing, with the goal of   showcasing Latin@ and Chican@ literature in Houston and bringing it closer to the people, to la   gente (see section 3.3 for more on NP) . When Bryan found out about Tucson and rallied his   closest allies, the Librotraficante moniker had already been simmering in his mind. “I remember   Tony had used the term before, Librotraficantes, because we used to sell books at the events   because the book companies didn’t want to bother to come to a community center and sell books,   even when we had 300, 400 people coming in.” The traficantes are proud to be barrio people,   with the cultural and class identities that this represents. The book shows were in part to bring   literature to the barrios because they were places ignored by the Anglo-focused literary   powerhouses that were controlling the book-show circuits at the time. “Tony was packing   community centers in the neighborhood,” says Bryan. He was promoting Latin@ literature often   overlooked by ‘Big Book’ [the large chain stores], and he was doing it in geographies often   ignored by ‘Big Book.’   This first iteration of Librotraficantes was successful and the shows grew in scope and   ambition. At some point the traficantes were counting on over two hundred young volunteers   and moving into larger venues, garnering the attention of different cross-sections of Chican@   and Latino@ communities in Texas and the rest of the country. The reading series that started in   1998 in the party hall of a Mexican restaurant eventually made it into downtown’s George R.  58  Brown convention center. After this particularly successful and ‘glamorous’ event, Tony recalls,   “the name Librotraficante came up.” After the bright lights went out and the crowd dissipated,   the Nuestra Palabra core was still hard at work. “All the glamour’s over, we’re helping a book   vendor load their books, but I remember, it’s like midnight dark. I’m putting these boxes in the   truck, and I’m like: if a cop pulls up right now, it’s like [slides effortlessly into a great cop on   loudspeaker impression] ‘Everyone pull over, what are you guys doing’?” He responds with   great gusto to the imagined police officer:  “We’re Librotraficantes! Check out our stash!’   Bryan adds: “We understood what it meant. Pushing books on people, whether they like   it or not. They get hooked! For life.” There is a lot to the Librotraficante name. There is the   immediate image of books as drugs that can a) change lives and b) create habits. There is also the   aspect of smuggling the literature into spaces where it had been either absent or underrepresented   for a myriad of reasons. “Tony smuggled a lot of authors into school over the years, so it had   been happening.” They reminisce about taking Luis Rodriguez into school back when he was   seen mostly as a former gang-banger with a book. Rodriguez, author of Always Running: La   Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A., is now known as Los Angeles’ Poet Laureate for 2014, the same   year in which he ran for the office of governor of California. Back then, he still had to be   clandestinely snuck into school events. “The librotraficantes had been around for years”   concludes Bryan.   The term also is a play on preconceived identities ascribed to Latin@s, Chican@s as   well as Mexican, Central and South American immigrants in the border regions of the Southern   United States. A villainous symbiosis between social spheres of power such as (but not exclusive   to) the media and all branches of government have popularized and naturalized a narrative of   ‘Latino Threat’ which owes a lot of traction to the criminalization of brown bodies and cultures  59  (Chavez 2013). The ‘threat’ narrative is fully present in Tom Horne’s public justification of his   vendetta against TUSD’s MAS program, his ‘Open Letter to the Citizens of Tucson’ (2007). The   criminalization of Latin@s is put on its head by the idea of trafficking in lawful, uplifting   cultural objects rather than socially-destructive substances.   This criminal role that has been repeatedly pinned on Chican@s is mocked through the   original aesthetic portrayed in the short video crafted by Bryan and Tony to announce the   Librotraficante book caravan to the world. The video depicted Tony in a tan leather jacket and   aviator sunglasses standing in front of the trunk of his truck, loaded with books, warning the   authorities in Arizona that the Librotraficantes were coming, “smuggling wetbooks” (Wetbooks)  [a pun on the discriminatory term wetbacks ascribed to brown folks in the Southwest]. At one   point in the video, traficante Tony holds up a book wrapped in saran-wrap, as are cross-border   drug shipments: It is Woodcuts of Women, an award-winning Chican@ collection of short   stories.  “There’s a lethal dose of Dagoberto Gilb coming at you, Arizona!” exclaims Tony   (Ibid).   But while the traficante part of the moniker represents a creative appropriation of   Chican@ criminalization of the narcotrafficking narrative in the borderlands, it is the other word,   libro [book], that symbolizes the passion of the activists and the power of the book. While   recognizing the legion of issues compounded by events in Arizona, Tony says: “My thing is still   the books. I believe only art can save us, but I think it is the books in particular that get people   fired up, inspired.” .   The High-Tech Aztec, Bryan Parras, expanded on the power the books removed from   Tucson classrooms might have on a Chican@ youth: The books convey the “context of what it   means to live on the margins... These books were things that were valuable in that they could  60  make you feel different about yourself.” Given the deep influence of Paulo Freire’s pedagogical   philosophies in the TUSD MAS program, the ability to contextualize one’s own reality through   education was there by design.    Bryan explains: “What these books are doing is teaching folks to think outside of the   paradigm under which we are all colonized here, and that’s the real threat to American society.  We have to allow everyone to think differently and look at the world and interpret it through the   lens of their own culture, and that is what they don’t want us to do [emphasis mine].” It was   precisely to fight this form of modern-day colonialist cultural oppression that the Librotraficante   term grew from inside joke between local Houston activists, to a successful, creative, nationwide   initiative.   “What is interesting to me,” says Bryan, “is that the term Librotraficante came out of the   book fairs, but it didn’t gain cultural currency until the books were actually banned.” While the   three core activists had always seen themselves as smuggling their culture and their literatura   into spaces from which they were formerly and typically absent, “no one saw it that way until   there was this backlash to where the kids [In South Tucson and Tucson] don’t even have access   to these books.” This lack of access is particularly acute for the youth of South Tucson, as their   city boasts close to thirty liquor stores, no high schools, no book stores, and only one small,   under-used and under-funded public library.   Now the term Librotraficante has gained notoriety and affection among Chican@s and   Latin@s in the U.S. concerned with the educational and cultural plights of their own people. It   went from a term that Liana heard Tony bandy around the radio program for a while, to [at some  point] a movement bringing hundreds of bodies and minds into the fold. “We saw the phrase get   coined,” says Tony with a smile on his face. Bryan, quick with humor, adds in a mock-conceited  61  tone: “It was printed in the New York Times!” In a day and age of rapid, massive consumption of   information, the name Librotraficante must be given recognition as a culturally and intellectually   creative example of social movement branding that gave the initiative traction across many   geographies (physical and virtual). The term captures the idea of books as cultural objects both   borne out of, and able to generate passion and as a source of power that both threatens   established patterns of social control, and invigorates the fighting spirit of those oppressed by the   upper echelons of such an establishment.   The title Librotraficante also captures the history of a dedicated group of culturally active   citizens insistent on spreading Chican@ and Latin@ literature in the spaces which ‘Big Book’   traditionally ignores. As the discourses of illegality, threat, and criminality so often pinned on   U.S. residents and citizens with origins below the Rio Grande grew to the point of physically   removing books from the classrooms of engaged young Chican@ students, to the point of   encompassing Chican@ culture itself, Librotraficante came to signal defiance of these forces.    An opportunity to actively create spaces of resistance in which access to the blacklisted literature   could be re-established for the affected communities in Southern Arizona.   3.3  Infrastructures and Networks: Keys to the Librotraficante Caravan Success      Only six weeks elapsed from the moment Bryan Parras informed his fellow cultural   workers and activists about the removal of books from Tucson classrooms, to the moment that   thousands of dollars’ worth of literature arrived at the doors of the John A. Valenzuela Youth   Center in South Tucson, where they would be housed, displayed and circulated through an   Underground Library. “I knew caravans were a thing, and I heard Tony use this word, it was like   ‘we got it!’ This is how Bryan recalls it. But the success of the caravan and the eventual  62  establishment, growth, and  maintenance of several Underground Libraries did not come solely   out of the efforts of those six weeks in what Liana described as a living-room-turned-planning   central. The success was possible thanks to a wide, deep, and complex set of infrastructures and   networks crucial to the entire initiative.   Perhaps the greatest infrastructure that was firmly in place before the Librotraficantes  decided to take to the road and deliver the banned books to South Tucson’s youth, was the  organization Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say. The organization, now  entering its twelfth year of action, started as a reading series of Chican@ and Latin@ literature  in Houston, spearheaded by Tony. It has since grown into a show run by the three traficantes,   which boasts the title of the “leading literary radio show in Texas” (Diaz 2014). It also outgrew   its restaurant-party-room origins, growing with each reading, advancing to book fairs, first in   modest barrio community centers and any spaces that were both economically accessible and   culturally relevant for Houston’s Chican@ and Latin@ community, and eventually to events as  large as the Latino Book and Family Festival, which at the time (2004) was the largest book fair   in Texas history (Dias 2014). In the words of Tony, “Nuestra Palabra got us ready for whatever   the Librotraficante movement would become.”   Nuestra Palabra has been keeping the traficantes busy for a long time now. “We did a   big book fair with initially no funding, and 200 volunteers from the community.” It forced them   to learn about event planning and strategizing with virtually no economic support. Through the   reading series, the activists were “training ourselves to do this without even knowing it,” in the   words of Tony.    While the showcases, book fairs and reading series gave them much of the organizational   experience that allowed them to  take on the caravan initiative as quickly as they did, the radio  63  show aspect of N.P. also pushed them towards this. “The radio show was going on weekly   throughout all of this,” said Liana. This continuity, the traficantes think, gave them “social   credibility.” In its many incarnations, Nuestra Palabra stands as a strong foundational   infrastructure, grown from the grass-roots level into a national phenomenon. It not only gave   them credibility and an audience, but through the process of promoting Latin@ and Chican@   literature for close to two decades, it forged invaluable networks of personal relationships with   authors, publishers, academics, and other like-minded, literary-focused folks.   This would prove crucial once the caravan was abruptly announced. For example, Tony  remembers an early moment of doubt with regards to the actual ‘cargo’ to be ‘smuggled’. While  the doubt lasted very little time, and he eventually decided to go “even if all we have is five   books,” it proved unfounded. The activation of their network made sure the traficantes would   arrive in Tucson with a surplus of the banned books, enough to start several Underground   Libraries. In some instances, authors sent their books. In addition, Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso   re-printed one of the banned books, which was out of circulation, just so that Tucson’s youth   would have access to it.   This network of cultural workers also had a strong influence in charting the roadmap for   the caravan. Sandra Cisneros, author of the award-winning banned book House on Mango Street   hosted the traficantes while in San Antonio at the Casa Azul, the blue house that serves as   headquarters for her literary social activism through the Macondo Foundation. The   aforementioned relationship with Cinco Puntos Press dictated a stop in El Paso, and similarly,   their personal relationship with banned author Rudolfo Anaya of Bless me, Ultima fame meant a   personal invitation to bring the caravan to Albuquerque, where over 400 people gathered to   support the caravan. When looking back at the size and success of the events along the caravan  64  route, Bryan exclaims: without “all of our friends and contacts we couldn’t have done all of   that.”   The networks forged through years by the traficantes provided another key element:   access to solid and supportive infrastructures across the border region. Once the plans was   envisioned, these quickly came into the picture; “there was a lot of infrastructure in place   already,” recognized Tony. “Like MECA.” MECA, a Chican@ cultural treasure in Houston’s   Historic Sixth Ward, would eventually host one of the larger and more frequently-used   Underground Libraries. But before things grew to that point, MECA provided a space from   which to mark and celebrate the caravan’s departure from Houston. MECA utilized its vast   network of students, student families, volunteers and alumni to give the Librotraficante cause  a powerful start.    As previously mentioned, Sandra Cisneros’ Casa Azul is a well-established space of   cultural resistance with a focus on Chican@ literature. Another such space is The Southwest   Workers Union, a strong local worker’s rights and environmental justice organization that   emerged almost thirty years ago out of the city of Hondo, Texas, and now operates out of San   Antonio.  It now hosts an Underground Library in what Tony sees as one of the best examples of   creating spaces for the literature outside of mainstream institutions of education and commerce.   The stop in Albuquerque, which was a huge success with over 400 people traficantes and   donating towards the ‘contraband’, could not have happened but for the type of cultural   environment that the city’s 50-acre National Hispanic Cultural Center has fostered in the city’s   Barelas barrio. Finally, there is the John A. Valenzuela Youth Center, a space of resistance   created by and for the South Tucson community.   Despite the formidable networks and infrastructures the traficantes were able to tap into, 65  the activists knew their resources paled in comparison to those amassed by their foes. Those led   by Huppenthal in the attack against TUSD’s MAS and the program’s literature, Tony remarks,   “have a whole state machine, and they were very clever.” This state machinery functioned from   the governor’s office on down. The traficantes remembered how Arizona had tried to pass    similar legislation, but it had been killed on its feet by then-governor Janet Napolitano. When   Napolitano moved to the post of Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, she was   replaced by Jan Brewer, who brought with her a virulent ‘anti-Mexican’ approach. Weeks before   the passing of HB2281 to the dismantle Tucson’s MAS program, she put ink to paper and signed   into law SB1070, the most draconian legislation aimed to ‘control’ illegal immigration seen in   recent U.S. history.   Despite facing the Arizona state Republican machinery, the Librotraficantes taped into   several existing networks and infrastructures of Chican@ cultural production and resistance to   score a minor victory to re-open access to the banned literature for the youth of Tucson and   South Tucson. This, however, has not been enough for anybody to rest on their laurels or   circulate pats on the back. It was personally gratifying for me to see the traficantes reflect with a   just sense of pride upon what they accomplished against HB2281 and its cultural repercussions   as we talked. They were all, however, fully aware that victory could only be celebrated when the   Chican@ youth thirsty for cultural knowledge and context is able to learn its own history from   within the classrooms of their own schools, on their own terms again.   3.4  On the Road: Stops and Actions     After five weeks of planning, starting from the day Bryan found out about the book   removal from Tucson’s classrooms, the caravan departed Houston after the kick-start event 66  in Houston’s Chican@ cultural jewel, Macario Ramirez’ ‘Casa Ramirez Folk Art Gallery.’   Liana remembers:  “We did this [the caravan initiative] in a span of six weeks. Five weeks of   planning, and on the sixth, we were on the road.” By the time the traficantes reached their   destination in Arizona, they had snaked their way along the I-10 highway, covering almost 1500   miles across three Southwestern states. “We did Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Mesillas,   Albuquerque, and Tucson,” she recalled.    If the number of cities they planned to visit in the short time span seems daunting, the   fact that most cities hosted several events adds to the magnitude of the initiative. “We must   have done like seventy interviews during that time,” adds Tony. Although the traficantes started   “with no funding to begin with,” they were initially fueled by their belief in “pulling it off,”   thanks to the skills honed through years and years of cultural activist work. Beyond the three   core traficantes I met, two others helped see the caravan through. “There were five of us, and we   all had full-time jobs,” remembers Liana. Most of the five weeks of “planning central” in Liana   and Bryan’s dining room were spent trying to create activities for each of the stops: “We had to   create activities!” remembers Bryan, “because the caravan is just getting from city to city.” And   activities they planned.   By the time the caravan left Houston on 12 March 2012, over twenty people took to   the road in the ‘Librotraficante bus’ and three accompanying vehicles (Acosta 2012).After   departing from the Casa Ramirez, and with full awareness of the significance of place, the   caravan’s first stop was a local symbolic of the cultural struggle the traficantes were engaged in:   they hosted a press conference at The Alamo. For this first event on the road, Tony was joined in   addressing the media by then-Texas state legislator Joaquin Castro and authors Carmen Tafolla   and Lorna Dee Cervantes (Sandhu 2012). Later that evening, the second Underground Library,  67  (as MECA Houston had unofficially opened theirs already) was inaugurated at the Southwest   Workers Union, a hub of Chican@ labor, cultural and environmental activism, followed by a   concert by a local band, talks by local authors, and Librotraficantes. Tony remembers the two   days spent in San Antonio as some of the busiest: In several events , they saw around two to   three hundred people.   Beyond the press conference and the library inauguration, a ‘school board review’ was   held at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. For this event, community research was   encouraged in order to present reports on “number of seats....names of the people who hold   [them,]... when their seats are up for election” (Librotraficante 2012) and other such information   with the aim of devising voting strategies to take control of community school boards. This   activity, which was encouraged of local groups in all stops, was strategically designed in case   ‘copycat bills’ were introduced in other states or municipalities. This strategy is notable in that it   not only empowers through knowledge, but aims to reverse the dynamic in which Chican@   activism reacts to oppression by encouraging preemptive action and political engagement.   There also was a ‘teach-in’ at the community-based Bihl Haus Arts gallery aimed at local   educators to address ways to incorporate Chican@ literature into the classroom. Lastly, San   Antonio saw the first of the ‘Banned Book Bashes’ at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. The   ‘bashes’ were essentially book fairs held at all stops at which local authors, Librotraficantes, and   Latin@ and Chican@ literary personages mingled with the public while raising awareness,   selling books, and collecting donations for the Underground Libraries.   From San Antonio, the caravan made its way to El Paso, the last stop in Texas. El Paso   provided a much less stringent schedule and the only activity planned for March 14th was a   successful ‘Bash’ in the city’s Mercado Mayapan, which drew an estimated 400 folks. The  68  following day saw the Librotraficante caravan make two stops as it made its way to and through   New Mexico. The first stop consisted of a breakfast gathering at Casa Camino Real in Mesilla   hosted by the bookstore’s owner and award-winning author Denise Chavez. From Mesilla the   caravan made its way two-thirds across New Mexico to Rudolfo Anaya’s house in   Albuquerque.   Rudolfo Anaya is widely considered the ‘godfather’ of Chican@ literature due to the   impact of his celebrated Bless Me, Ultima, a novel not only renowned for the quality of its prose   but also for its unapologetic depiction and exploration of Chican@ life and identity. Ultima   might be the first book in the Chican@ canon, and its presence in high schools and public   libraries has been challenged for a long time. Anaya is by all means a veteran in the fight for   Chican@ literature, education, and culture in general.  Besides awards and praise, his debut   novel has put him on the American Library Association lists for: Most Frequently Challenged   Authors of the 21st Century, Most Frequently Challenged books of 1990-1999, Top Banned/  Challenged Books of 2000-2009, and most recently, and surely connected to the Tucson ban,   Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books in 2013 (American Library Association).   From Anaya’s house, the traficantes made their way to the imposing National Hispanic   Cultural Center. At the NHCC, the traficantes held a press conference with banned authors   Anaya and Dagoberto Glib. Albuquerque's event seems to have been the largest Banned Book   Bash of the caravan with the 500-seat theater packed to standing-room only. It was now time for   the caravan to complete the last leg of the journey and make their way to Tucson in order to   deliver the traficante ‘payload’ which by that point in the journey consisted of well over a   thousand books with an estimated worth of $20,000.   The caravan arrived at the John A. Valenzuela Youth Center on March 16. It was spring- 69  break Friday, and, as described in the first chapter, the scene was tumultuous. South Tucson’s   police department mounted guard among the hundreds of young Chican@s, students-turned-  activists. Supportive parents and community members completed the scene. Another press   conference was held, and a teach-in took place, as a small caravan arrived with more books for   the John A. Valenzuela Underground Library from Los Angeles. This solidarity caravan was   organized by the Association of Raza Educators - Los Angeles, and was inspired by the   Houstonian’s initiative. The following day’s schedule was perhaps the journey’s busiest.   March 17 marked the last day of events for the Librotraficante book caravan. As with the   rest of the journey, as much activity as possible was planned for that Saturday. The day kicked   off with a breakfast with students held at Tucson’s StudioONE, a gallery and performance space   with a focus on social justice issues. The studio, which bills itself as “a space for art and   activism” (StudioONE), also hosted a school board review. Given the specifics of how the state   of Arizona dismantled TUSD’s MAS program through the local school board, this workshop was   of particular importance in Tucson.  On the Librotraficante’s original web posting of the caravan   schedule, this event listing reads: “Two seats open in November. We will win them.”   (Librotraficante).   Despite such democratically-focused initiatives, the school board of the Tucson Unified   School District remains anti-MAS in its large majority. When I visited Tucson in 2014 for my   research, two emblematic seats on the board were up for election. One had belonged to Adelita   Grijalva since 2002, and the other to Michael Hicks since 2010. Grijalva came to be known as   the only TUSD board member to vote to preserve the MAS program, while Hicks was to gain   some national notoriety shortly after the Librotraficantes left town over comments made in an   interview with Al Madrigal for political satire television show The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  70  In the segment, Hicks describes how he came to his oppositional stance without ever having   attended a MAS class. “Why even go? I based my thoughts on hearsay from others.” (The Daily   Show With John Stewart, 2012). Both candidates emerged victorious out of the 2014 election,   and while Grijalva, board president, received the highest percentage of votes (Pima County   Elections Department 2014), the board remains steadfast on its MAS stance. This is something   that all activists I met with were well aware of, and a reason for the organization of initiatives   and actions that don’t rely on the school board’s approval.    After the school board review, more actions took place back at the John A. Valenzuela   Youth Center in South Tucson: The ‘teach in’ at Valenzuela consisted of two separate   workshops: the High Tech Aztec led one for the affected students using exercises and concepts   derived from Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed, another initiative of creative cultural   resistance inspired by MAS pillar Paulo Freire. While the youth engaged in these exercises,   TUSD affected MAS teachers Sean Arce and Curtis Acosta, along with Tony Diaz and other   educators from California lead a workshop for teachers on best practices for engaging Latin@   and Chican@ literature both inside and outside of the classrooms. Among the issues discussed at   the workshop was the compilation of a ‘supplanted books list’ aimed at circumventing the TUSD   ban with texts which, while not themselves prohibited, were written by banned authors. The   ‘Ultimate Teach-In’ concluded with a workshop that gathered the youth, educators, authors,   and activists together in a forum established for those who wanted to share their stories and   experiences with Mexican-American Studies and Chican@ literature. The last event of the   caravan was a literary show case at the University of Arizona. After that, it was back to Houston   for the Librotraficantes.     Direct resistance against HB2281 is taking place through the court system in the case 71  Maya Arce, et al. v. John Huppenthal, et. al. Maya, former MAS student and daughter of former   MAS teacher Sean Arce, represents the students in the suit questioning the constitutionality of   the bill in question. John Huppenthal, as detailed in the first chapter, succeeded Tom Horne as   Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state’s Department of Education. It was Huppenthal  who was left to force the pulling of TUSD’s MAS’ plug, despite his department’s inquiry   findings that the program did not violate HB2281. The case was presented before the 9th Circuit   Court of Appeals in San Francisco on January 12 of 2015 (Freedom to Read Foundation 2015). It   has not been resolved, and a new date for early 2016 has now been set (Huicochea 2015).    The traficantes sought to resist the repercussions of HB2281. When Librotraficante went   from inside joke to movement, from three outraged literature activists to a caravan with over   twenty people who in turn engaged politically with close to (or more than) two thousand people   across the southwest, there were two clear goals. The first was to establish a safe space where the   youth of Tucson and South Tucson can have access to the books that the state machinery took   out of their classrooms and hands, and which both their socioeconomic conditions and those of   their neighborhoods make hard to access. Second, the Librotraficantes vowed to increase   awareness about what had happened.    Speaking to these goals, the Underground Library in South Tucson continues to provide   access and encourage use of the banned literature among the TUSD’s Chican@ student body.   Furthermore, three other Underground Libraries were founded through the caravan, and their   number continues to grow, turning Arizona’s plans to obscure the literature in question on its  head. The caravan’s three press conferences, the interaction with close to two thousand   supporters along the way, the number of interviews given by the traficantes, and the visual and   written journalism by the core of three published in local, regional and national outlets all make  72  the Librotraficante movement successful in its goals as a creative front of resistance against   cultural oppression against Chican@s in the U.S.   3.5  Navigating Resistance Across Chican@ Geographies    Looking at the 1500-plus-mile journey of the Librotraficante caravan, and spending time   in Houston, Tucson, and South Tucson, my attention was drawn to the different scales of   geographical belonging for Chican@s in the U.S. When considering that the Librotraficante   response to Arizona’s attack on Chican@ literature came from two states over, I got the sense of   Chican@ communion, a shared national experience, and in particular a shared borderland   experience in the region covered by  the caravan. I asked the three core traficantes if there had   ever been any ambivalence with regards to their place as ‘out-of-towners’ and ‘out-of-staters’   getting involved with such a localized issue.   Bryan understands the consideration of whether it was their place to act or not. “I think   for a long time people from outside of Arizona wanted to do something, but they didn’t feel like   they had the right to because they didn’t live there. They passed these draconian laws in Arizona   [referring also to SB1070] but I can’t do anything! I can tweet about it, write about it...” But for   the traficantes the effects of the attack against Chican@ culture and education in Arizona were   not contained to Tucson. As self-described veteran ‘cultural workers’ with a focus on literature,   they not only saw a chance, but an obligation to act. Bryan continues: “This [the removal of the   books from the classrooms and curricula] allowed us a direct intervention because we had been   promoting these books and this literature for so long, and it impacted our world. That wasn’t just   specific to Arizona.”   For some people, Tony acknowledges, “it might have been like, ‘why are these 73  Houstonians coming here?’.” He is aware of the ways their involvement has been interpreted:   “Sometimes people think we’re from Arizona, or sometimes people are like ‘why are Texans   helping Arizonans?’.” During my fieldwork in Tucson I indeed became aware of a tension with   outsiders among a section of the young activists involved in the fight with TUSD and the state   over their MAS program. I was able to gain access through acquaintances and time spent   involved in participant-observation, but I was made aware once access was gained that they had   seen many people come and essentially exploit the situation for personal gain. For those who   became aware and felt affected by this dynamic in Arizona, the tension surged and peaked with   the ‘Tucson Freedom Summer’ events that took place a few months after the traficante caravan   left Arizona. While the caravan is remembered fondly by the community members I spoke with,   further, less collaborative projects that came to town after it are not seen in the same light.     Tony, Liana, Bryan and the rest of the caravan came to Tucson with the support and   approval of the U.N.I.D.O.S. (United Nondiscriminatory Individuals Demanding Our Studies)   Youth Coalition of TUSD students and alumni that emerged as a direct response to HB2281.   U.N.I.D.O.S. spearheaded all actions leading up to the eventual dismantling and continue to   work actively and creatively to maintain the pedagogical spirit of the MAS program alive. They   also were welcomed with open arms by Gloria Hameltiz, director, and the entire community of   the John A. Valenzuela Youth Center. As they planned, they “talked to the community, the   students, the teachers,” Tony recalled. “We still do it too!” adds Bryan, underlining the continued   commitment and strength of the bonds of resistance formed through the initiative.   The good standing amongst the Chican@ literary community earned by the   traficantes through many years of hard work and multiple successful ventures of Nuestra   Palabra had a lot to do with this. The set of skills, and the confidence in those skills that 74  those experiences bestowed on the core three activists both worked towards their welcome   in the affected community in Arizona, but also propelled them to take such quick action. Liana  believes it was clear on all sides that the Librotraficantes were not out to “save Arizona.” Rather,    they felt an obligation because they saw themselves as being able to secure free and safe access   to the books for the youth of the community “because we know all these people [authors,   publishers], and we’ve run caravans before.” Bryan adds with a laugh: “And we were crazy and   stupid enough to do it.”   The sense of obligation was also fueled by an interpretation of what happened to   Tucson’s MAS program not as an event contained to a particular locality, but as a personal  affront to all Chican@s with a sense of pride in their cultural heritage. The way Tony felt  about the censorship of the literature used by the program was centered around a particular    understanding of the books, which echoed what I had heard in an conversation with Mrs. Salinas,   program coordinator of MECA and ardent supporter of the Underground Library initiative. For   Mrs. Salinas, the stories in the books not only represent the history of the Chican@ experience,   but the actual history of the books as objects also was part of that Chican@ experience. There   was struggle to get the first books published. There was and is a struggle to be able to teach   them. For Tony, the literature “talked about our moms, our dads, our grandparents, our   antepasados [ancestors].” It seemed to me as though this was the initial reaction to the ban, and   the biggest reason why the commonality of the Chican@ experience overcame questions of   physical geography and activist jurisdictions. Tony grew up in the barrios of Chicago, and the   books in the curriculum represented depictions of Chican@ life in its many geographies across   the U.S. Ultimately, the attack on Chican@ literature and history was experienced as an attack   on their very identity. “We were enraged and mad,” recalls Tony. “It was personal.” 75   When asked, the traficantes reflected on the particular places they visited. The journey   was not only based on the previously existing networks and institutions to which the traficantes   had access, but also by the very immediacy of logistics and the constrains of time and money.   “We thought of cities that were significant, like Crystal City [epicenter of the ’69 walkouts in   Texas], but the logistics didn’t make it possible,” Bryan remembers. “Austin wanted us to go,   same with Crystal City but it was all very far from I-10.” Tony adds: “I think it’s interesting that   it was the I-10.” There is something symbolic to the Interstate 10 highway as a concrete artery   running through the heart of the U.S. Southwest. “If you follow that map,” Tony says, “that’s our   [Chican@] literary legacy. That’s the history of our literature.” Of course the I-10 cannot contain   nor connect all of the history of Chican@ literary contributions to the world, as these have come   from all regions of the U.S., but when the stops of the Librotraficante book caravan are taken   into account, there is something to what Tony is saying. The ground they covered was all crucial   to the development of Chican@-lit as a genre.   The long journey of the Librotraficantes across six Southwest cities highlights a  commonality across different scales of Chican@ geographical belonging. A sense of shared   experience, one very much reflected by the literature the traficantes wanted to ‘smuggle’ back,   seemed to override difference of space and place and connect Chican@ geographies. These   commonalities of experience should not be employed towards an erasure or denial of tensions   between local community and activists, and concerned (whether selflessly or selfishly) outsiders.   I suggest the traficantes navigated these tensions first, by acknowledging the dynamics of cross-  local activism; second, because of their experience, reputation and networks, and third and most   important, by acting in concert and with the consent of locals.    76    3.6  Conclusion      The Librotraficante book caravan of 2012 represented a successful, creative form of   cultural  resistance consisting of many events within a short period of time. It was an impressive   multi-locale activist enterprise that was able to connect geographies of Chican@ identity across   the Southwest and the U.S. at large. The traficante movement succeeded in its original goals of   reestablishing access to the banned literature for TUSD youth, and spreading awareness of their   fight as far and wide as possible. A great component in the measure of success with regards to   book access are the Underground Libraries that were established along the caravan’s journey in   Tucson, San Antonio, Houston and Mesilla. The books that the Librotraficantes collected along   the Interstate 10 and delivered to the John  A. Valenzuela Youth Center are actually making their   way back into TUSD classrooms as youths are encouraged to engage with them for class reports   and other such projects. The following chapter will look in depth at these libraries as spaces of   cultural resistance, but it is consequential at this moment to consider that the libraries still   operate and have expanded to other locations in the U.S.   The Librotraficante movement and the subsequent Underground Libraries were inspired   by what the activists saw as a step towards cultural genocide. A cultural genocide with historical   precedents which, incidentally, Arizona’s Department of Education sought to obscure through   the banning of critical history works such as Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. They   were further spurred into action by what they perceived as conspicuously weak mainstream   media coverage of the cultural attack against a relevant Chican@ education. Finally, they were  inspired by the tenacity of the student activists, and by anger at what they saw as a petty   77  dismissal of the youths by the minimal corporate media coverage of the situation.   The organic branding of the movement and its participants as Librotraficantes emerged  from the group’s self-identification as Chican@ and Latin@ literature activists dedicated for   years to bringing reading clubs, showcases and book shows to the barrio community centers,   schools and anywhere they could gather as Nuestra Palabra. The name, originally a commentary   on the criminality with which Chican@s are profiled in the borderlands and the Southwest, only   gained traction and depth of meaning as the books that they had been dealing with for years were   actually banned and removed from Tucson classrooms and approved literature lists. It’s satirical  nature and the proud use of Spanish itself as a form of linguistic resistance contributed to the   success and spread of the initiative in virtual spaces of activist and literary production. The idea   of ‘pushing’ ‘wetbooks’ throws ‘Latino threat’ discourses into disarray through creative  appropriation. The concept of the movement, as well as much of the support it quickly garnered   is tied to a feeling that created a kinship amongst those involved with the Librotraficante  caravans: the transformative power of books. At the center of the whole enterprise  was the   denial to access this power that was being imposed on Tucson and South Tucson’s youth.    Beyond inspiration and an attention-grabbing name, the traficantes were backed by a   complex of social networks and existing infrastructures, starting with the fruit of their own work,   Nuestra Palabra, and extending outwards from that base. The traficantes counted with  experience and skill, a weekly space through which to vocalize and reach a steady audience, a   small army of volunteers, and they were connected to an array of authors, publishing houses,   and well established cultural and community centers across multiple Chican@ geographies. It   was a web that paled in comparison to the strength and complexity of the state machinery to   which they were reacting, but in activist terms the Librotraficante caravan exemplified an 78   amazing coming together of forces in a short time, which speaks to the credibility of the core of   cultural workers.   This set of conditions aided in navigating through the potential pitfalls of geographical   difference and scalar politics of activism. A conscious awareness of said politics and the   consideration to plan actions in concert with the local youth and other community members   leading the fight against HB2281 and all of its effects also minimized potential frictions with   a community experiencing the trauma of cultural oppression in many ways. While the traficantes   were conscious of this being a local community’s burden to bear, they were largely moved to   action by a feeling that the cultural offense implied through the dismantling of TUSD’s MAS   program and the removal of the Chican@ literary cannon from the classrooms was not locally   contained. In fact, the scalar containment of the issue is blurry from the outset when we consider  that a Canadian-born lawyer with a vendetta against Tucson’s MAS program machinated   political moves in Phoenix that ultimately lead to the cultural oppression of the youth of South   Tucson, and the removal of books written across the United States.    In sum, when the Librotraficante caravan returned to Houston after a spring break on the   road, Tony Diaz, Liana Lopez and Bryan ‘The High-Tech Aztec” Parras had put close to 2000   miles behind them. They had visited six vibrant Chican@ communities across the Southwest,   given close to a hundred interviews, and engaged close to 2000 people through the almost twenty   events that made up the caravan, including school board reviews, banned book bashes and   educational workshops. Through this whirlwind week of activism, Houston’s Librotraficantes  accomplished their goals of first, establishing free and safe access to TUSD’s youth to the   Chican@ cannon, and second, utilizing their networks and media presence to spread awareness   79  of the plight in Arizona. In the process, the caravan both crossed and weaved together several   Chican@ geographies, connecting different localized expressions of the Chican@ condition   through their common cultural birthright.   The following chapter will delve into the ongoing legacy of the Librotraficante   movement  through an exploration of two of the Underground Libraries founded during the  2012 caravan. The libraries in the traficantes’ hometown of Houston, as well as the one in South   Tucson will be explored as spaces of cultural   resistance.                               80  Chapter 4                                                                                                          Underground Libraries and Other Spaces of Resistance, Pt. I: South Tucson    The Underground Library in South Tucson is the visual centerpiece of the large   community room which houses it. It is surrounded by visual art based on protest pictures,   and the signs crafted at the center by the youth, and used during the fight for Tucson’s Mexican   American Studies program. Above the shelves, a large and colorful painting depicts ants working   together, a living stone Olmeca building, a pyramid, a corn stalk sprouting humans, and in the   corner a brown child smiling in awe at these cosmic landscapes contained within the book in his   hands.     The community room belongs to the John A. Valenzuela Youth Center (JVYC), a   buzzing hub of the South Tucson community which offers free after-school care and educational   programs for the largely economically impoverished, primarily Chican@ population of the city.   When the children and youth arrive, JVYC is vivid, full of energy and activity. As I lock my   bike outside of the center on an early weekday morning, however, the place is very quiet. The   only signs of life in the area emanate from mechanic garages and liquor stores, where early-bird   drinkers are already intoxicated.    I am here to meet Gloria Hamelitz, a product of the South Tucson community and the   center’s multiple-hat wearing director. She comes out to greet me and wants to make sure I   locked my bike properly. Despite her concern for my property, I do not feel any less safe in the   South Tucson barrio than in many of the places my life has taken me. It was not an intimidating   geography, despite statistics that rank it as the most dangerous city in Arizona (City Data). Mrs.   Gloria is eager to talk to me about the Underground Library and I am eager to learn why, in the   81  face of death threats, she opened the doors of the youth center to the controversial cargo brought   to South Tucson by the Librotraficante caravan.    4.1  Spaces of Cultural Resistance and Cultural Spaces of Resistance     In chapters four and five, I explore the concept of spaces of resistance through its   different incarnations during the Librotraficante activist enterprise which sought to restore   access to the Chican@ literature that was banned along with the Tucson Unified School   District’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program. I will look at the resulting Underground   Libraries in South Tucson and Houston as case studies of spaces of cultural resistance, along   with other activist geographies that played crucial roles in the journey of the banned books   across the Southwest, back into the hands of the youth from whose school shelves they had been   removed.   There was no velvet glove to the iron fist that stamped out TUSD’s MAS program in   2012. The political processes employed in order to stop the program developed in plain sight  of the citizens of Tucson and South Tucson, starting with the publication of Tom Horne’s Open   Letter to the Citizens of Tucson. While in the field, some described the dismantling of the   program and the boxing of the books as “cultural genocide”, and “open racism”, while all saw  evidence of cultural oppression. These interpretations stem from the lived experience of the   educational affront spearheaded by the state against Tucson’s Chican@ youth.    I am deploying cultural spaces of resistance as physical and virtual geographies in which   community resistance is crafted, nourished, or welcomed in an environment geared primarily   towards the study, preservation, or creation of culture. An excellent example of a cultural space   of resistance in this study is Houston’s MECA art school in the city’s 6th Ward, discussed in 82   chapter 5. A Chican@ cultural hub in the city, MECA’s primary focus is on youth counseling   through Mexican folkloric arts. The school opened its doors to the Librotraficantes and continues   to house an Underground Library today. Spaces of cultural resistance are incubators and havens   for resistance against cultural forms of oppression. Being that the Underground Libraries were   borne out of resistance to the culturally oppressive deployment of Arizona HB2281 against one   particular school program in Tucson, the libraries and all of the other activist geographies that   played a part in this particular struggle are spaces of cultural resistance.   Most of the geographies involved in this case study, from the virtual to the physical, from   temporary to permanent, may be seen as cultural spaces of resistance and spaces of cultural   resistance. It is the goal of the following two chapters to describe and assess how the   Underground Libraries have functioned as spaces of resistance, and determine common   characteristics among all activist geographies involved in this initiative. My goal is to illuminate   the way in which spaces of resistance work against cultural oppression in the U.S.    The spaces of resistance in this study are spaces created by social push-back to   oppressive forces. They are borne out of a resistance strong enough to generate a physical   space which, as said in chapter 2, becomes an embodiment of said resistance and facilitates the   growth and advancement of further forms of resistance. The Underground Libraries and the   places that host them were all spaces carved out against different forms of oppression (cultural,   economic, geographic),  and they’ve all continued to be shaped by different forms of oppression   as they strive to fulfill their different mandates. The Underground Libraries that defy what was   perceived as a cultural affront, a censoring of both education and conceptualization of existence,   are humble in both size and reach. However, they offer a glimpse of the organic creation of   83  spaces of cultural resistance within a regional context of  cultural oppression.   4.2  Case Studies: The Librotraficante Underground Libraries     As discussed in Chapter 3, The Underground Libraries were the brainchild of the core of   activists that steered the Librotraficante caravan into existence: Tony Diaz, Liana Lopez, and   Bryan ‘The High Tech Aztec’ Parras. Prior to the developments in Arizona, they had functioned   as the core of Nuestra Palabra, a literary-activist enterprise anchored by a weekly radio show,   which cut its teeth in the Southwest by bringing book shows, reading clubs and author showcases   to Chican@ communities easily overlooked by the book industry.    As the book donations for Tucson’s youth grew in number, it became evident that   housing them would become a crucial issue. For Diaz, the community in Tucson would need   access independent of local government. There was also the group’s common experience of the   ephemerality of literature events without a physical anchor. Despite taking the Nuestra Palabra   book shows from a restaurant party room to events with the literary weight of Hecho en Tejas   (Southwestern Writers Collection 2007), most of the energy and intention created by the events   would “evaporate” after they wrapped up. Tony explained: “the idea was to leave a base in some   way, shape or form. In the course of planning [the caravan] we decided to create Underground   Libraries.” According to the activists, the overriding hope was that one day the battle for the   program will be won, but spaces were needed because “first we have to survive this.”    On the move, the traficantes started developing some guidelines for the Underground   Libraries. Bryan Parras shared the most basic premise: ‘we thought there was a need for a place   where we don’t need to rely on the school district for the kids to have access to these books.”  Tony added that along with schools, the Underground Libraries should not be housed in  84  bookstores. “We are going to where Borders didn’t go, where Barnes & Noble didn’t go,   where MFA programs won’t go.” This meant they were going directly to the Chican@   communities to host them without dependence on commercial or local politics.    The reminder of this chapter will now look at the Underground Library in South Tucson,   Arizona, as a case study for spaces of cultural resistance, and the Houston Underground Library   will be addressed in chapter 5.     4.3  The John A. Valenzuela Youth Center and Underground Library: South Tucson, Arizona.     The youth center is large. Along with its parking lot, it occupies a whole block along the   west side of South 6th Avenue. 6th splits South Tucson into two almost-perfect halves, it runs   north to south, and no matter which direction you drive away from the JVYC, it will take you   back to Tucson. “We work in a really rough neighborhood,” says Gloria Hamelitz, the center’s   director. The center functions primarily as an after-school program, as well as running full-time   programs during the summer for South Tucson’s youth. Informally, it seems to function as a hub   of help for the community at large.    I ask Gloria about the center, which was entering its 20th year of programing in late   2014; we start with her role: “I’ve been here for about ten years. I started out as a social worker   and case manager. Now I’m the director, the plumber, the grant writer.” She speaks with humor   and enthusiasm about the large collection of proverbial hats that she has to wear daily at the   center. “We work with about two-hundred and fifty kids year-round. We provide free   programing including after-school and out-of-school time activities like tutoring, homework,   sports, dance, drama, art, cooking, just about everything.” I enquire about the youth attending the   85  programs: “The majority of our children are from this neighborhood. We have a really high drop-  out rate. There is only about 4 out of 10 kids in my neighborhood that actually make it through   high school.” The grim statistics stand out against the bright mood and happy children I get to   see on a different visit, vibrantly and positively participating in an art class. “Our demographics,   the families are about 99% Hispanic/Latino that we serve.” When I ask further about the   demographics she lets go of the census-sounding category; they are mainly Chican@ families,   she says, with a small number of recent immigrants from Mexico, but with a clear majority of   U.S.-born citizens of Mexican or indigenous cultural heritage.   Despite the ‘youth’ in the title, JVYC’s reach goes deeper into the community: “South   Tucson has deep cycles of poverty within our families. We help them through their D.S. [non-  immigrant visa] applications for family, through their food stamps applications.” Gloria sees   these cycles as impinging on the youth she serves: “We have a lot of generational families that   have lived here for years that have been able to overcome a lot of their challenges.” Despite the   success stories, “there is this systemic approach to keep you in poverty that punishes you for   working, so many of them [heads of household] give up.” While she understands the   hopelessness that leads to this, she can see the consequences: “Then they are role-modeling that   to the kids. The systematic oppression is there and it is real, and I think the kids are more aware   of it than the adults sometimes.   Role modeling is a theme in my conversation with Gloria, and it is evidently a guiding   principle of the JVYC. “We have a very clear mission to be as youth-led in our programs as   possible. In our activities the adults are more facilitators. A big part of that is to get our kids  in leadership. Here, it is not about talking, it is about doing.” Exposure to life pathways that may   not be too familiar to some of the youth is another part of the center’s approach, one that sees 86  the JVYC functioning as a space of cultural resistance against the different oppressions   experienced in a low-income, low-educational-achievement, high-crime-rate barrio in a   notoriously right-wing Southwestern state. To this extent, the center makes sure the “kids get   to constantly have interactions with college students, so that it can become a norm, become an   expectation.”   Through initiatives aimed at creating that role model connection, the children have   engaged in several programs including  mapping  liquor stores in South Tucson: “we found   out there was twenty-six liquor establishments in one square mile, and no schools.” I would talk   to a participant of that study later. The scope went beyond liquor stores: “[we] mapped all the   smoke shops, liquor stores, all the Section 8 [housing], the lack of bookstores and daycares,”   shared a former MAS student who participated in the initiative. Further proof of the JVYC as an   active space of resistance can be found in the fact that local youth were able to organize and   present the results of the mapping program to the city, successfully lobbying for the denial of   new liquor licenses. “Through those programs we also look at theories like the school-to-prison   pipeline, and they start to connect with the children of the city of South Tucson,” Gloria   mentioned with pride.    I was taken aback at her mention of South Tucson as a city. Looking back at my   transcripts, I noticed that Gloria did use the word neighborhood or community a lot to refer  to the area, so I asked about the city designation. I expressed surprised to find out that South   Tucson is not a barrio, but that it is a fully-independent city. It is also not South of Tucson, as   the name might imply, but it is completely engulfed by the city of Tucson. I need to hear more   about this history.    87    4.4  The City of South Tucson: A ‘Banned Community’ With a Culture of Resistance     “South Tucson is its own separate city from Tucson. It is one square mile smack-dab in   the middle of Tucson. We have our own government, mayor, council, police, fire, and with that   comes some pretty unique benefits for our kids.” While I am interested in hearing about the   benefits, I first inquire further into the story of South Tucson, and Gloria immediately connects   that history with the cultural oppression the city’s youth experienced first hand with the book   banning: “If we want to talk about banning, we are a whole banned community. Years ago [a   quick visit to the city’s website reveals that 2015 marked the city’s 75th anniversary (City of   South Tucson)] it was unincorporated because the crime rates in this neighborhood were actually   bringing down the city.” Digging into records for reasons why the barrio was effectively kicked   out of Tucson proved harder than I imagined.   The official city-redacted history tells that the ‘Pueblo Within a City’ [official motto] was   originally incorporated in 1936, only to lose city status during the years of ’38-’39. “The city of   Tucson annexed South Tucson for almost a year, but incorporation was returned” (Ibid).   Interestingly enough, no mention as to the reasons why the city was incorporated in the first   place, why it was annexed again, and why eventually Tucson ‘returned’ incorporation. A poorly-  referenced Wikipedia entry mentions the incorporation as occurring “chiefly to take advantage   of provisions in Arizona statutes of the time that permitted an incorporated city to have more   alcohol licenses than comparable county areas and to permit dog racing,” (Wikipedia) although   the information is sourced to a dead link on the Arizona Commerce Authority official website.   Despite the difficulty locating academic sources on the origin of the Tucson/South   88  Tucson schism, Gloria provides an educated account of how the separation plays out in the lived   experience of the South Tucson community: “We don’t have any local bookstores. The nearest   bookstore for our community is about fifteen miles away.” I asked about libraries, as I was pretty   sure I had seen one on the east side of 6th as I came in. “We do have a library right across the   street but it is the smallest within our county, so it has very limited space, hours, and   collections.” I understand the state of the library given that the tax-pool for South Tucson   may not stretch very far, but am floored by the lack of bookstores. But there were more   things lacking in South Tucson.   “We don’t have a school within our community at all!” This is why South Tucson’s   youth were so affected by TUSD’s dismantling. “Our kids are funneled. Their two main high   schools are Tucson High School and Pueblo High School.” This meant that the high school   students who organized the fight for what they considered their education were removed from   the source of their oppression by virtue of it emanating out of Phoenix, and by virtue of the   attack being focused on the schools of a city that was not even theirs. Tucson’s MAS program   was eventually neutralized by the school district’s board, despite the fact that the forces nudging   them towards this decision through budget-cut threats came from the state capital. The fate of the   particular curricula which was being taught in TUSD high schools rests largely in the hands of   that school board, and while South Tucson citizens might have a vote, it is the much larger city   of Tucson which really gets to decide the makeup of the board. “The city of Tucson has some   famous racists, and they are not afraid,” says Gloria when I ask about the larger city’s political   landscape.   “We are definitely a community in South Tucson that has been historically oppressed and   we are always fighting. There is definitely that consciousness [of resistance] because we  89  constantly feel under attack.” The differences in the landscape bear physical witness to the power   dynamics between Tucson and South Tucson. While Tucson has sizable low-income areas, it   also boasts of very wealthy zip codes. South Tucson is all barrio. The ride along 6th, the city’s   main artery, reveals sparse businesses and it lacks the staple stores of the U.S. capitalist   blueprint. Not only are there no bookstores in South Tucson, there are no Starbucks either. But   the South Tucson community has gone beyond the consciousness of resistance Gloria talks   about. The city of South Tucson has actively gone against various forms of oppression   experienced by its Chican@ community, and the JVYC has been a part of this.   In the very room that today hosts the Underground Library, South Tucson’s youth   organized of their own accord when, weeks prior to the passing of the bill that lead to the MAS  dismantling, SB1070, the immigration enforcement bill later condemned by the federal   government, was clearly making its way down the political pipe in Phoenix. The program’s   youth “were here making signs for the protest. We’re their Michael’s [art supply] store. They   need posters, paint, board, markers this is where they get it.” The youth center, in this respect   was a space nurturing resistance against SB1070 by providing the material resources necessary   for the actions. “They don’t have the money to go to the store and pick up supplies, so they come   here, make their protest signs, and are supported.”    The role of JVYC goes beyond providing a safe space and materials for protest. This is   best exemplified by the aforementioned victory in refusing the approval of new liquor licenses   within city limits. Through that victory, the youth of South Tucson’s Chican@ community were  able to play a part in the physical shaping of the city. Another example comes from a tile mosaic   program with a G.E.D. component aimed at addressing the educational effects of cultural and   economic oppression. Gloria tells of the fact that the community was dealing with “a lot of kids,  90  teenagers that were not in school or were not planning to go to school.” The reasons behind the   kids’ relationship with formal education are deeply tied to the consequences of poverty: “some of   them were trying to support their families, some had their own children that they had to support.”       Along with the perpetuation of the traditions of Chican@ tile mosaic construction, this   G.E.D. program became so successful that it eventually branched out of the John A. Valenzuela   and into its own space. The JVYC was the incubator for an initiative that addressed low-  educational attainment much like the MAS program had before HB2281, using the tools of   cultural relevance and fostering identity creation. This initiative in turn became a space of   cultural resistance: Las Artes Arts and Education Center moved into its own facility, a couple of   blocks away from the youth center and had the savvy to attain a contract with the state highway   department. Las Artes is the closest thing to a high school in the city, and  is another   manifestation of the South Tucson community’s ability to create spaces out of their resistance to   the conditions of life in the small city, the ability to shape the very physical makeup of the city.   The inclusion of Chican@ artistic themes into public spaces such as highways through the tile   work of Las Artes represents a powerful physical manifestation of cultural resistance in the   ‘toxic’ sociopolitical context of Arizona.    In fact, the JVYC is itself another example of a space of resistance created by the South   Tucson community. The center is named after a slain local cop. As the center’s director guided   me through the facilities, she showed me officer Valenzuela’s degree from the University of   Arizona, along with his picture and a few more mementos. I gathered two things from Mrs.   Hamelitz-Lopez’ words: that the community’s attachment to the slain cop went beyond the   dedication of the center, and was closer to a sense of devotion towards a local hero. I also   gathered that the center was not a top-down addition to the city, but rather, after officer  91  Valenzuela’s death, the community (including its youth) demanded that such a place be built,   and that it be named after the local hero. Subsequent archival research revealed the reasons   behind both the devotion to the police officer and the demand for a space for the youth.   The details behind the death of officer John A. Valenzuela reveal a man dedicated to his   community along with some of the darker aspects that life in a city rife with crime can produce.   According to the Tucson Citizen, Valenzuela was working as the school resource officer for   Ochoa Elementary while with the South Tucson Police department. It was there that in 1993   Valenzuela was approached by several school girls who “told him they had been molested by a   man living nearby.” (Kimble 2006) Valenzuela secured a search warrant. It was during the   warrant’s execution that the suspect emerged shooting, killing Valenzuela; the suspect was   subsequently killed by the other officers present (Ibid). According to Gloria, the neighborhood   has turned things around some, yet not enough: “this is probably the one city in Arizona next to   perhaps Guadalupe with the highest crime rate.” The JVYC, with its free programs and open   doors to youth during the statistically high crime after school hours, is there to be a safe space for   the youth of South Tucson.    Gloria’s thoughts on South Tucson as a community both oppressed and conscious of such   oppression are given weight by what the city’s community has achieved. Readiness for activism   and action have been displayed through the community’s response to SB1070, their addressing   of educational problems, and when the safety of the city’s children was in question.  It came as   no surprise to hear that when the anti-MAS public discourse started building, both the   community and the JVYC were ready to get involved in one more round of the historical fight   over Chican@ educational rights.    92    4.5  South Tucson’s Reaction to the Attack on TUSD’s MAS Program    South Tucson’s youth must travel outside of its city limits and into Tucson to attend   TUSD’s high schools. Gloria sees in this strategy part of the oppression of living in the small   city: “Instead of fixing or investing in some of the problems” among which she mentions hunger,   the effects of crime on families and households, and the separation of youth from over-worked   and under-paid parents, “they [the school district] decided ‘let’s just take them out of this   neighborhood, shut down the schools [and] move them up to the east side.” South Tucson’s   involvement in the struggle for educational justice and JVYC’s role in said struggle have a   strong recent history.   It was not long ago that South Tucson was fighting for the right to be educated within the   confines of their own community. “A lot of our kids got their first taste [of both oppression and   resistance] when we were trying to save our schools. We were doing a lot of organized protests,   contacting our elected officials.” The spirit of resistance against cultural and educational   oppression was being honed and tested before HB2281 affected the community, and the youth   center was a crucial space of resistance for their endeavors. The youths “were going to board   meetings, and writing their speeches, designing their protest signs. We [the community and the   youth center] had started to raise a really strong group of kids that had no problem doing that.”   Out of this local social context was borne a bulk of the fight against the consequences of   HB2281’s passing.    “We started working with the MAS program because so many of our kids were attending   Tucson High School and Pueblo High School. A lot of our students were in MEChA” and   93  attending the targeted courses. “That’s kind of what led us to a lot of the work with MAS. It was   affecting our community... so when this hit [the dismantling of MAS and the removal of the   books], the first inclination was to fight!” The center director remembers those days, and the   sense of anger that filled the youth. Being “part of the program, it was devastating to them to   know that this was happening. So many of the kids were in the class when the books were   literally boxed up in front of them.” The moment of the book removal appears to be one   of the most traumatic events of the entire Tucson MAS mess. A former student referred to it  as “psychological warfare.” Another MAS graduate added: “With [the book removal] it all went   to a whole different level. They [the books] gave us our voices. I saw myself in those books.”    The removal of the books and dismantling of the curriculum hit the youth hard, as Gloria   remembers: “They realized what was being taken away.” Awareness of the oppression coming   out of Phoenix and impinging on the TUSD school board spread quickly throughout South   Tucson and beyond the students enrolled in the MAS program. “Kids who were not in the   program started asking what was going on, and then it carried over to a lot of their parents, and   to their families and other community members.” Soon enough a large chunk of the city was   involved. “That’s how it got started: that oppression that they were feeling at their schools.”    There are several dynamics between the two cities and their spaces for education.   TUSD’s high school system  can be seen as a space of exclusion in that all schools are outside of    South Tucson. The MAS classrooms, physically, and the curricula, educationally, both   represented cultural spaces of resistance and spaces of cultural resistance until the TUSD board   decided to do away with the program, and inclusive sites that it created. The climate of   oppression and exclusion that South Tucson’s [and Tucson’s] youth experienced increased as the   fight over HB2281 ramped up, to the point for the youth felt threatened and unsafe. 94   At school, the kids from South Tucson “were feeling all these constraints: of meeting   times, or if MEChA [the student club most invested in the MAS curriculum] would meet, all of a   sudden there had to be an administrator there reporting on what the kids would talk about.”  The   level of distrust became toxic, and a dynamic of administrators vs. students, or more specifically   administrators vs. MAS and MEChA students developed in TUSD schools. “Our kids really   wanted to get off of the campuses and away from the administrators to feel open enough to   actually discuss their issues,” remembers Gloria. Tensions even spilled outside of school, as Mr.   Acosta remembers of the initial public protests: “It was dangerous for students. To go to protests   with militia folks there, threatening. Brandishing weapons. It was locura [craziness]” That is   when the JVYC’s community record as an inclusive space of resistance came into play. “They   started to meet here at our site and they started to bring all their teachers and hold their   meetings.” As the youth center provided alternatives for the environment in the schools, further   lines became evident between South Tucson and Tucson, between students and school board,   between young Chican@s forging knowledge of self and Phoenix career politicians with vested   interests in taking that away.   Despite Gloria’s view of South Tucson’s original incorporation as Tucson’s way to deal   with the ‘Mexican problem’, she is quick to point out that the community’s city status has been   of great aid when it came down to the fight over MAS, and even the installation of the   Underground Library once the dismantling took place and the book-boxing debacle hindered the   youth’s access to their literary cultural heritage. “Being our own separate city helped us in so   many ways.” The size of South Tucson and the tight-knit aspects of its community allowed the   city’s infrastructure to be responsive to anything affecting the small constituency at large. “I   was able to just call the mayor and say ‘hey, this is going on and we need your support.’” 95   In a city where the last mayoral election drew 342 votes (Diaz 2015), this kind of   community-government relationship is not outlandish, although it still speaks to the weight of the   youth center as community stalwart. At the time of the MAS fight, South Tucson “had a very  progressive mayor by the name of Jennifer Eckstrom.” Eckstrom passed an ordinance stating that  the city of South Tucson was “welcoming to Mexican American studies and in full support of   ethnic studies.” It was a symbolic political initiative spearheaded by TUSD MAS director and   teacher Sean Arce, who tried to get cities across Arizona to show support. “A few cities were   able to do it, but [South Tucson] was the first one to do it, so that people would know clearly this  was a safe haven.” At this point, the city of South Tucson itself emerges as a space of cultural   resistance. That the exclusion from the larger Tucson community was of benefit to the poverty-  stricken small city was an interesting turn.    As it turns out, the declaration went beyond symbolic support. “We needed that piece of   paper,” says Gloria. It helped, for example, with the feelings of intimidation and fear experienced  by the resisting youth: “they did not feel safe at their own school. They knew they were being   infiltrated and that people were reporting.” But the need for a safe haven, for a space open to the  activities of resistance, went beyond the children. “When the Librotraficantes came I received so   much hate mail and threats from outside [of South Tucson], even from out of state. That support   at the top level was great because it carried down to the police coming to keep them at bay so   that we could proceed with our programing without all of that negativity.”   The days of fighting for the life of the program were not easy on the community. “They   were stressful times.,” remembers Gloria. Different individuals and families were affected   differently by the attack on the MAS program and its literature. “One of our kids was so heavily   involved with the fight that it consumed his life and he ended up failing one of his classes. He  96  forgot what he was in school for.” The irony abounds, a child so involved with saving an   academic program he loses sight of his own academic goals. A community starved for local high   school graduates losing one to the fight over educational rights. “He had to go back to the same   school board that he was fighting to ask for permission to take a summer class, or walk the stage   with his classmates.” The fight that that young man, along with the South Tucson and Tucson   Chican@ youth lost against HB2281 was a sour local defeat in a prolonged and historical   struggle over educational and cultural justice by Chican@s.   4.6  Librotraficantes and the Underground Library: Banned Books for a Banned Community    The loss of the beloved MAS program was not the end of the story, as the community   that came together to retain the program did not give up entirely. “We definitely still want it   [Mexican American Studies, but in particular the curricula being used in TUSD schools] but   that doesn’t mean the community will let it go by the wayside.” For example, former MAS   teacher Curtis Acosta, who was able to keep his job but ended up quitting the TUSD due to what   he interpreted as his only choice other than “doing malpractice, or breaking the law,” attempted   to utilize the JVYC as a space of cultural resistance from which he ran an out-of-school version   of his literature course. “He was doing classes here every Sunday with his kids, doing everything   TUSD wouldn’t allow him to do,” confirmed Gloria. “He was doing it on his own time, but it   gets hard to recruit.” The out-of-school program did not last.   It wasn’t long after the deflation of losing the battle with the school board, and by proxy   with the state of Arizona, that the Librotraficantes came into the picture. With the program   effectively off the school campuses and the literary lifeblood of the courses sitting in sealed   97  boxes somewhere within the TUSD, there was a curiosity and a desire to see what the fight was   all about. An interest in the banned books spread throughout the community and beyond those   who had had the luck of taking the classes. “We don’t have bookstores and when the book   banning hit the roof, all the libraries within our county did not have enough books to meet the   demand.” The way in which economic and cultural oppression intertwine for the citizens of   South Tucson is highlighted by both a scarce public library, and by the absence of book stores in   the community. “People were having to go on Amazon [online retail] to order the books, or   [outside of the community] to bookstores to order the books, but the problem with our   community is that we don’t have money for books!”   A vicious cycle by which economic demands draw youth away from schooling, and   affect the ability to excel of those who have the privilege of formal education is at play. The   South Tucson community has had the strength and commitment to manifest physical spaces   borne out of resistance, and thus participate in the shaping of their physical and lived   community. I see the lack of bookstores, and the way this multiplied the negative effects of the   culturally oppressive ruling over TUSD’s MAS program as drawing my attention back to the   powerful forces against which the South Tucson community has had to resist in order to achieve   what it has. Economic oppression is unveiled by the lack of bookstores in the city and the lack of   disposable income to buy books. “We barely have money to put food on the table” says Gloria,   “so that’s a huge luxury for our families: our books.” The cultural oppression of dismantling  a   program designed to resist the depressive academic trends of the community is compounded by   the lived experience of economic oppression in a barrio-turned-city.    It was to this dearth of access to a desired literature that the Librotraficantes responded.   Once it was evident that the MAS program was no longer going to be taught in Tucson high  98  schools, access to the books that made up the curricula became the lifeline to a legacy of what   the educational program had once been. Gloria found out about Tony through the Youtube video   that announced the caravan to the online world (Wetbooks), committing to bring the books to   Arizona before any planning of how, when or where had taken place. “I sent him [Tony] a   message asking where in Arizona he was coming to, told him I was the director of this youth   center and offered it as a landing place for the caravan.” At the time, neither knew what would   become of the books, or how many there would be.   Mrs. Hameltiz understood personally the power of the books in question and their   importance to the youth of the community. “They are life-changing. I know it changed my life   and I’ve seen personally the way that certain books will affect certain kids.” Hamelitz ended up   as director of the JVYC and as advocate-at-large for the community surrounding the kids she   cares for in large part due to Mexican American Studies classes, and particularly to one of the   books boxed by the TUSD. “Rudy Acuña’s book Occupied America changed my life course. It   took one Chicano Studies class and his book.” Gloria credits coming to an understanding of the   “systematic oppression that was happening in the [school] districts,” which she achieved through   her MAS experience, with her desire to work directly for the community. “I went for social   justice and children and families.” The entire HB2281 fiasco seemed to give her pivotal   educational moment validity, as she was able to aid teachers and students in resisting   against the very oppressions that dissuaded her from a career as an educator. It also resulted  in several visit by Rudy Acuña himself to the JVYC, along with his California students. “That   really drove home the national importance of what was happening for our kids.”    Access to the MAS books would afford the JVYC youth a chance of experiencing the   kind of life-changing power that had led to Gloria’s current position and abilities. It was this that 99  led to the connection between the youth center and the traficantes. “That’s how I met Tony and   Liana and Bryan. I was assuming they were going to give out the books or something.” But, as   the Librotraficantes had learned through their years of literary activism, a tangible, physical  something is necessary for the results of the efforts to not “dissipate” with the events and fanfare.   “When they said they wanted to have a library here,” remembers Gloria, “we were all for it. We   knew it was going to benefit our kids specifically, our youth who had been so involved in all the   fights, and our families.”    It took a while for the space to take the shape it has today in the JVYC’ main room.   “When they first donated the books we didn’t know what to do. We were getting all this hate   mail, people wanted to steal the books, adults wanted to come by and take them!” These further   manifestations of cultural oppression had an effect on how the center initially dealt with the   books . “I first thought, I’ll put them in the back office where they’ll be locked up and safe. I   entertained that thought for a good few minutes; but how would that be any different from the   [TUSD] putting them in a box? That’s what they want!” She realized quickly enough that her   initial reluctance was based on fear. “The hatred is real, and it even infiltrates good minds.” The   threats and hate-mail poured in once it was public knowledge that the banned literature would be   housed at the youth center. “Luckily a lot of people were just talk. Very few actually made it to   the site.” But for a youth center even a couple of such visits is a serious affair.   On occasions in which the safety of the youth and the center was threatened because they  chose to provide  access to the books affected by HB2281, the city status of South Tucson again   proved to be of help. “There was a person who demanded to come in here and take all of our   books and read them for appropriate content.” The person’s demand was based on “being a   proud tax payer” wanting to “make sure we weren’t militarizing children.” The close relationship  100  with the city’s government and the MAS support ordinance was enough to keep them at bay. “I   was able to just forward [the demands and threats] to our city manager, who would send them a   copy of the declaration” from an official email address. In most cases, this sufficed to discourage   the individual making the threat.   Once the books finally settled in the main room and the wave of cultural vigilantes   receded, South Tucson’s Underground Library began to serve the city’s youth and larger   community. “We’ve systematically incorporated [the Underground Library] into our   programming and it is also part of our staff training: we have a whole section on why it’s here   and what our motivation is to do it.” Through this approach, the JVYC is maintaining alive not  only the literature at the core of MAS program removed from TUSD schools, but also the  memory of the lengthy struggle against the forces of cultural oppression that brought about the   changes to the community’s educational experience.    Once the Librotraficantes did good on their promise to bring the banned books back to  young Chican@ hands in Arizona, the day-to-day running of the Underground Library has been   completely up to the JVYC. “We have a check-out system, but it is very loose.” When the goal is   for the books to be used, policing their use through rigid policies becomes less necessary. “Half   of [the students] don’t fill out the form, we’ve had some books that have been out for a year, and   some of them have not returned at all, and I am fine with that!” For Gloria, to see the center’s   kids excited about having books with them, even enough to keep them, is a victory for the library   and the community. “Some of the kids that do want to keep the books, we ask them to find   something else to replace it. Some of the books have meant so much that the kids want to share it   with their family, which is great.” The Underground Library then, is reaching beyond the school-  aged youths to parents, siblings, and other community members. 101   One of the more interesting and subversive uses of the Underground Library actually   involves getting the literature back into the school system, back into TUSD classrooms. “Our   library is really popping when it comes time for book reports,” said Gloria. In a community with   no bookstores and tight family budgets, book report time has proven a perfect opportunity to get   the kids reading from the Underground Library, and it ties in well with the center’s mission to   help the academic performance of the youths it cares for. However, Gloria has made strides for   the library to ‘pop’ during the whole year. “We’ve really tried to change the mindset that reading   is just for book reports. We are trying to get them to do more reading for fun and enjoyment   which is not something that is being role-modeled in our community.” For Gloria, the missing   books out of the library shelves represent a step in that direction. “With the high dropout rate,   we have a lot of our kids whose parents never graduated high school, so there’s not a lot of   structure giving importance to books in our community.” The Underground Library here can be   seen as a space of resistance against the historical cycles of educational struggles that continue to   affect Chican@s across the U.S.   The slow changes that the center’s staff have noticed in reading attitudes, Gloria   believes, are in large part owed to the literature being “tied to our culture.”  The young staff,   some of them former students, have played a part in the role-modeling that has been missing in   South Tucson. “We’ve been getting our staff to read more and more of the literature,” so that the   children see the young adults they look up to and develop relationships by physically interacting   with the Underground Library and reading within the environment. Staff familiarity with the   literature sets more than an example. As the staff becomes familiar with the banned MAS texts,   they also learn ways in which to guide the kids towards the books: “When we see a kid   struggling we can be like ‘Hey! Look at this, there’s someone who is really similar to you in  102  this book, you can see how they struggled with it.” With the book list being heavy on fiction by,   about, and for young Chican@s [what a former MAS student called “Brown boy and Brown girl   stories”], this has been another successful tactic of integrating the Underground Library into the   youths’ lives.    The Underground Library at the JVYC has also emerged as a space of cultural resistance   from which new voices are being given the place, confidence, and tools from which to start   expressing themselves. It is something that has started to develop as the Underground Library   has become a staple of the center. When speaking with the youth about why the books are   housed there, something crucial has come up. “We talk about: ‘If they are banning our books,   who is going to tell our stories’?” It is a question borne out of one of the most powerful aspects   of the books boxed up by the school district. “Some of our kids will say: ‘Well, no one wants to   hear my stories’, but now we are able to say, ‘Oh really? There’s like twenty books that were   published right here [points at the shelves] that talk exactly about struggles [like yours].” Mrs.   Hamelitz speaks passionately: “We need those revolutions of the mind.” Those radical changes   in understanding of self, contextualization of circumstances, and self-worth that relatable   literature can provide. The very inner revolutions that Arizona wanted to stop, from the   Governor’s office down to the local school board, as a student activist recognized: “those  books gave us our voices, and that’s why it was so threatening [to the state].”    4.7  Conclusion    When I ask about the near future of the Underground Library, I ask also about the near  future of the fight over Mexican American Studies in Tucson high schools. “We are still not in a   winning position by any means. I don’t see it changing any time soon. The same [school] board  103  that was there when the book ban occurred have all won their seats back. The entire same board   has been retained for another four years.”    As for the future of the Underground Library, as long as the JVYC functions, it will   remain a focal point. The Underground Library is something the community at large has come to   hang on to. Thanks to the efforts of the Librotraficantes, all of the people and places involved in   the caravan, and the participation of the South Tucson and Tucson activist communities, “we   have our books. We can continue to use them. We don’t need the district’s permission, the city   [of Tucson’s] permission, or anybody's to share that with our kids, and that’s really powerful,”   said Gloria looking at the packed shelves.   The economic, legal and cultural separation between Tucson and South Tucson continues  to influence the situation. While it factors into the reasons why the community does not see   much hope for regaining what was once lost, it has also inadvertently allowed for the memory   and the literary lifeblood of the MAS program to remain alive and relevant. As Gloria points out,  “if we [the JVYC, but more specifically the Underground Library] existed within the city of   Tucson, I think the pressures of racism would have caused our demise.” However, the outlook is   by no means bright at the moment.   Despite the fact that the books might remain accessible, and the people at JVYC, and the   other spaces of resistance through which some form of the banned curriculum is being   transmitted, the impact is nowhere near the same. “The exposure in the schools, the teachers   making the books come to life for the children, that’s gone. Teachers and administrators have   had their hands tied so tightly and their mouths sealed in order to preserve their jobs and their   careers.” It is important to understand that as powerful as the books are for any one of the youth,   without the work of the professionals whose lives’ work was to know how to make them   104  accessible for young minds, the texts don’t have the same effect. In particular, Gloria mentions   how the more theoretical books do get picked up, but are put back on the shelves rather quickly.   Beyond the cultural and motivational benefits of retaining the books and the memory of   what happened, it is clear that any further cultural or educational victories will require fighting.   When it all happened, “the kids were the ones starting the fights, doing the organizing, collecting   donations for water bottles, contacting media. They were the ones really in charge of those   protests.” The biggest issue now is that time works against social resistance and in favor of   established, structural power. “We’ve cycled out. The kids that were in Tucson high schools are   in college now, so we have this new crop of kids that never heard of those classes.” Beyond that,   those who did fight and are still around have not fully recovered from the toll the resistance took   on them and their community. As one activist put it: “Our community [was] divided, and it is in   healing because we have been in struggle for... at least six years of constant struggle and   resistance against the TUSD.”   It is evident that the primary fuel for resistance, which is people willing to resist, has   decreased significantly since 2012. Several factors have contributed to this: There have been   fissions within the movement that were exacerbated into large, divisive cracks. There is also the   burnout of fighting for years in a battle that was eventually lost. As local activists say, the   resisting community is still in a healing process from those years. Thirdly, beyond the on-going  legal battle that is still raging over the constitutionality of the original ban, and taking into   account the re-election of the entire school board that did away with the MAS program, there is  no promising avenue through which to pursue the restoration of the program and a return of the   beloved books to Tucson classrooms. Lastly, the lack of exposure to the MAS classes means new   fighters are few and far between.  105   Gloria notices it in the community and the center: “The fire has definitely died down.   There’s sparks here and there, mainly for the siblings of the [former MAS students], but it has   died down.” At one point the fire raged far and wide, making waves nationally, and commanding   the attention of much of the Tucson and South Tucson Chican@ communities. As few sparks   still crack, Gloria sees the importance of the Underground Library, but also its limited power.   “It’s even more critical now that as a community we pick it back up, but we are just one youth   center trying to make a difference.” While the JVYC Underground Library has made the crucial  difference of re-establishing free, safe, and public access to the Chican@ literary canon boxed  by the TUSD, dim and unclear hopes are what remain. “We won’t let it die away,” says Mrs.   Hamelitz,  “I would love for it to catch fire again, but you know, we’ll get there someday. It   takes time.”    It is hard not to think that time, in many ways, is working against those hoping and   fighting for the reinstatement of the program that opened Tucson’s youth’s minds to the wealth  of knowledge contained within the banned books. But all hope was definitely not lost for the   people I talked to during my time in Arizona. A large part of this has to do with the ability to   contextualize what happened to TUSD’s MAS program within the larger, contested history of  Chican@ cultural and educational rights. “History repeats itself in funny ways” mentioned a   research participant, noting that this wasn’t the first Ethnic Studies battle in Tucson. This   capacity was attained by the community elders through participation in struggles to bring   Mexican American Studies to Arizona in the first place, and by the youth who stood up in   resistance through those very courses.   As an outsider, it was hard for me to connect with the deep-seated, if cautious   hopefulness of the community. This hope, however, helped me understand one of the most  106  important function of the John A. Valenzuela Youth Center Underground Library as a space   of cultural resistance: the library functions as the symbolic embers to the fire of resistance   described by the center’s director as well as former TUSD MAS teachers and students. Embers   can sometimes be as hot if not hotter than the fire that sparked them, and if not extinguished   properly, embers can rekindle that fire. There has been no lack of attempts to extinguish the   embers kept alive in the JVYC’s Underground Library, yet the banned books are still available to   the community’s youth.   As symbolic embers, the books and the library itself function as spaces of cultural   resistance against the corrosive effects of time on social movements, in particular after a   significant loss. Through the cycling-out of students educated by [or at least exposed to] the   MAS program, the length of school board terms, and the drain on activists, time works   against the cause of Ethnic [and Chican@ in particular] Studies in Arizona, time works towards   an erasure of the fire that was the resistance against HB2281 and its consequences.  Safekeeping    the books that fueled the dismantled program works to resist time by embodying the memory of   the fight, and denying the oppressive forces that denied the fight a complete victory.   The fact that the Underground Library is still functioning in South Tucson is a testament   not only to one more historical round of struggle for Chican@ educational and cultural justice   that took place in the community. It also is a testament to the deeply rooted culture of resistance   that has helped the impoverished city of South Tucson find ways to shape its own physical and   lived geographies. Without the John A. Valenzuela Youth Center, built by demand of the   community, there very possibly could have been no permanent place for an Underground Library   for the communities affected by HB2281. The JVYC already functioned as a space of resistance   against multiple forms of oppression experienced by its community, such as the lack of safe  107  spaces for children, and the struggle to obtain an education while navigating cycles of poverty   and crime. It also provided sanctuary, guidance and resources to those who lead much of the   educational resistance.   Now that the fight is against complete erasure of the memory of the dismantled MAS  program and the book list at the program’s core, the Underground Library at the John A.   Valenzuela Youth Center in South Tucson stands as a powerful symbol capturing the memory of   HB2281 and its consequences in the face of historical erasure. It also stands as a reminder that   there is still fighting to be done. Finally, the library holds the books that so many describe as life-  changing,  giving the community  tools with which to continue the struggle for the right to an   inclusive, empowering, and effective education.                          108  Chapter 5                                                                                                           Underground Libraries and Spaces of Cultural Resistance, Part II: Beyond Tucson    The Underground Library in Houston is housed by Multicultural Education and   Counseling through the Arts (MECA), a cultural staple for the city’s Chican@ population, and a   standing testament to the recent barrio roots of Houston’s historic Old Sixth Ward. The MECA   after-school program has occupied the heritage Dow school building in the Sixth Ward for   decades, after outgrowing its original quarters a couple of blocks away. The residential   neighborhood is bordered on the east side by the imposing skyline of downtown Houston, a   bustling and prosperous city center largely fueled by global resource extraction, yet surrounded   by pockets of poverty.    The bus ride from downtown to MECA reveals how the historic neighborhood is  flanked on the north end by a Houston Police Department building, a very large warehouse   labeled ‘Houston Police Department Property Room’ and a parasitic bail-bonds business  ‘district’, all peppered with small and medium-sized evangelical Christian churches. To the west   lays the massive Glenwood cemetery, and to the south, one of Houston’s many large highways   carves the Sixth Ward’s final border. I walk through the neighborhood, noticing several   abandoned houses in a row. Down one of the streets I cross, however, I see two big renovated   houses with expensive cars on the front yard. The Sixth Ward shows clear sings of demographic   changes including displaced and rapid gentrification.   I reach Kane Street and I can’t miss the MECA building. Flanked by its outdoor stage on   one end and a small park on the other, it occupies an entire city block. I make my way up the   stairs to MECA’s main entrance. I’ve arrived early, so I walk around a little, taking in the Dia de   109  los Muertos altars that have been built by families of MECA students to honor their deceased   ancestors and youths. I’m waiting to meet program coordinator Liz Salinas, but she is running   slightly late as preparations for the busiest weekend of the MECA calendar year looms ever   closer. She apologizes profusely and makes sure I can wait a little longer, because she definitely   wants to take time to talk about why the school opened its doors to the Librotraficantes from   the moment they were approached.   I take the opportunity to check out the school’s library, the room that hosts the   Underground Library. The Underground Library consists of a shelf custom-built for MECA’s   century-old library. The colorful shelf has metal handles on either end so that it can be “carried   like a Chican@ ark of the covenant,” in Librotraficante Tony Diaz’s words, to any Chican@   literature-related events in town. Its side panels display wonderful airbrush art, a staple form of   Mexican-American cultura, depicting on one side a regal brown eagle with a bright green snake   in its beak, and some desert vegetation on the other side. The middle of the art installation/shelf   is covered in pictures of protests against the dismantling of the MAS program in Tucson, and   hand-written messages of support for those leading the struggle from young folks all over the   country. To top it off, the whole shelf is decorated with bilingual reading pledges from local   children. The regular school day has not ended and that means there are not many people at   MECA at the moment. It is just a young Brown mother and myself in there at the moment. She is   reading Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, one of the many books banned from Tucson   classrooms.    5.1  MECA and Houston’s Sixth Ward: Cultural Traditions and Demographic Changes    The city of Houston was the first stop of my field research. I wanted to track down the  110  Librotraficantes and explore the city’s Underground Library. While the former proved a  hard task due to the hectic schedules of the literary activists, my intentions to spend time at the   Underground Library at MECA were welcomed with open arms by the art school’s  administration. Shortly after landing in the most populated city in the southern United States, I   was invited out for dinner by MECA’s founder and director. Without a real grasp of distances in   what is a sprawling urban and suburban hub designed for cars and structured by a series of   concentric highway rings,, I managed to negotiate public transit and arrive on time.    Mrs. Alice Valdez has been right at the center of MECA since the art school’s inception.   The art school itself, coincidentally, is virtually the geographical center of Houston’s Old Sixth   Ward. It started as a multicultural festival celebrating Houston’s diversity housed by the city’s   First and Sixth Wards (MECA 2014). After a meeting over a meal in the Montrose   neighborhood, Mrs. Valdez asks me if I want to check out the school. It is closed at this time of   night, she says, but she has a couple of minor housekeeping duties.    There is a stark contrast driving into the Sixth Ward from dinner in the hip,   entertainment-filled Montrose. The Sixth Ward is quiet and dark at night. Save for a stretch of   bars along the neighborhood’s northern limits on Washington Avenue, there is no night-life in   the Ward. The current and founding executive director of MECA, Mrs. Valdez’ formal training   is in musical education, and her instrument of choice always was the violin. To this day, she still   teaches the Susuki method at the school, from where young aspiring musicians can then move   into the school’s award-winning and internationally-touring Mariachi program. She has also been   a long-time community activist and organizer.    After the success of the ‘Old Sixth Ward Fun and Food Fest’ she organized almost four   decades ago, then-St. Joseph’s church Father Rosales encouraged Mrs. Valdez to develop a  111  program that could carry over the community spirit that the celebration had catalyzed (MECA   2014). She organized parishioners and Sixth Ward community members with the intention of   creating a year-round program centered around arts instruction as a vehicle to address juvenile   delinquency in the ward, drop-out rates and the common list of issues that affect the academic   engagement and performance of economically-disadvantaged and culturally-oppressed   minorities in the United States public school system.    At that point in time, the Sixth Ward was a barrio. Mrs. Valdez remembered there were   at least twenty countries represented in the ’77 festival; however, she said, “this was   predominantly at that time a Latino community, mostly Mexican-Americans and Mexicans.” It   was the tangible presence of Mexican and Chicano culture that originally drew the El Paso   native to the ward and it’s community. “My husband and I were drawn to that parish because   they had a Mariachi band. We lived in the Southwest, in Bel-Air, which is a very gentrified area   now,” a pattern among Houston’s barrios. “We read about this parish, and we were missing our   culture. Our area was predominantly white. That’s how we got involved with this area and then   we stayed.”    For many people, the Sixth Ward became a geography of cultural freedom and pride.    The type of place where the community could hold a Mariachi mass. But the Ward had not   always been a Mexican barrio at the heart of Houston. “There’s always been a lot of   migration here,” says Valdez, who has witnessed changes through several decades of   working with and for the Sixth Ward. She tells me to look out for the pictures on either side of   the main stage in the basement of MECA’s building when I get a chance. “Those are photos of   the community in 1914. It was predominantly a white neighborhood, but at some point Mexicans   started moving in.” It will become clear later that the building played a role in that particular  112  demographic change.   Jose, the award-winning dance maestro gives me a short tour of the basement of MECA ,   as Alice makes sure everything is locked and turned off. I remember hearing during my process   of establishing communication with Houston’s Underground Library that Mrs. Valdez’ work   hours were basically 10:00 am to 10:00 pm daily. After getting to see the striking and colorful   traditional dresses for the many dances taught at MECA, and getting a glimpse at the indoor   stage that Mrs. Valdez had mentioned earlier, Alice comes back and offers to drive me home. As   we leave the Ward she points at a dark park. “This is the park that we’ve been responsible for,   for the last 26 or so years. We created this park and are responsible for it.” Behind the park a   small church building is visible. “We started here next to the parish in this little house, in the   gazebo.” It was Saint Joseph’s, the Mariachi mass church.    While MECA taught many of its after-school classes out of the Dow building which we   had just left, it operated as a program for 15 years out of the humble space I had just barely   noticed in the darkness of the park. The space was open to MECA through the sponsorship of the   Liberation Theology Jesuits who ran the church at the time. As for the park, it was the direct   result of community work and talent channeled through MECA, one of the geographic legacies   of the art school for the Sixth Ward. “In 1988 we created this park [as] a construction,   architecture and engineering project for...students of ours.” Leasing the park from the city helps  with funding for the program, and to this day MECA still cares for it for the city of Houston. “It   had been a dumping ground, an eye-sore, and we created this park with the students, supervisors,   artists and professionals.” This is the type of organization that MECA is and was, one of direct   impacts both for its students, and its community.    Through the decades, MECA grew in size and scope, and the neighborhood continued  113  to experience changes. One of these changes stemmed from a change in church politics that led   to MECA’s departure from its original location. Father Rosales was replaced by a priest from   New York “who didn’t have a sense of Liberation Theology.” The spaces of resistance that had   been allowed to grow in the Sixth Ward suffered from the ideological shift away from the class  oppression-conscious Liberation Theology. “We had all kinds of non-profits working in there   [like MECA does now] and they ended up pushing us all out.” This set the stage for MECA’s   move into the historic Dow building, a significant increase in space after decades in the “little   house by the parish.” The move gave MECA a greater scope as a program. Out of the heritage   building, MECA is now able to offer culturally-centric arts education annually to an average of   3400 of Houston’s Chican@ youth (pamphlet). Back in 1977, the program originally started with   thirty students.    The Dow School has a rich history in Houston. It has long been central, both   geographically and socially to the Sixth Ward. The school was built in 1912 to serve as a model   educational building for the state of Texas (MECA 2015). Today, the Justin E. Dow Elementary   School can be found on both the U.S. and Texas’ registers of historic buildings. As a school, it  belonged to the Houston Independent School District (HISD). Due in part to the large amount  of rehabilitation work needed on the building, [which is still pending and hangs threateningly   over the existence of the program with an estimated 6.1 million dollar cost] the HISD closed the   elementary school in 1991. MECA moved in in 1993.    Mrs. Valdez tells me in passing that the school was purchased from the HISD and given   to MECA by an organization called the Old Sixth Ward Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone   (TIRZ). Subsequent research revealed the TIRZ is a mechanism  available to municipalities in   the state of Texas, aimed at subsidizing redevelopment and community improvement projects.  114  According to the city of Houston, once established, TIRZs enter into an agreement with the city   by which “property taxes due to the city based on the current valuation of [a] zone [are] ‘frozen’   for the life of the zone” (City of Houston 2005). From that point forward tax revenue based on   revaluation of property goes back to the community as it is all directed towards “public   improvements within the zone” (Ibid).   The Old Sixth Ward and its community continues going through changes, today through   a process of gentrification that started to displace the ward’s Chican@ community towards the   end of the 2000s. On the ground, this now prevalent dynamic of urban movement by which   former white-flight areas become gradually recolonized by wealthier Anglo-European   Americans was visible as a patchwork of stately houses with top-brand vehicles in the drive   ways, and small-to-medium bungalows, many in varying states of disrepair or abandonment.   While TIRZs seem to be able to offset to a degree the negative economic effects of gentrification   (namely revaluation of property rented by long-time, less wealthy residents), it is questionable   whether the benefits of the reinvestments will be enjoyed by the communities being displaced, or   if the fruits of the TIRZs’ efforts will be enjoyed largely by those who gentrified the areas in the   first place.    The Old Sixth Ward is only one among at least two dozen areas awarded TIRZ  status, but it presents an interesting example. Having purchased and donated the building to   MECA back in 1993, the Sixth Ward TIRZ was able to provide what was at the time a largely   Brown community with a large-capacity, non-profit, nationally recognized cultural institution   run for and by local Chican@s. If the effects of gentrification were truly not felt in earnest in the   Sixth Ward until the tail end of the millennium's first decade, then the TIRZ was successful in   improving the living conditions of a low-income, minority population for at least a decade and a  115  half. It was, however, unable to prevent the economically-enforced rapid demographic change   that is gentrification.    Today, due in large part to such urban dynamics, the youth that attend MECA come from   as close as blocks away, and from as far away as hour-plus commutes from different barrios in   the Houston and Greater Houston area. This has turned MECA, and the Dow School building   into a significant cultural node connecting different Chican@ geographies in the city, but has   also physically dispersed the community. But the role of the Dow School building as a place of   Chican@ gathering and communion pre-dates MECA’s move. Mrs. Valdez talks of how the   school “was also used as a[n informal] community center.” Once the Sixth Ward became   primarily a Chican@ and Mexican barrio, the building attracted more Spanish-speakers. “A lot   of Latino clubs would meet here, and eventually the area became a Latino neighborhood.”   MECA’S move into this culturally significant building didn’t only bring to the program   increased capacity to pursue its mandate, but it also cemented the art program’s importance and   visibility for the Chican@ community of Houston.    One thing that has not changed in the decades of MECA’s involvement with the   Chican@ and Latin@ communities of the Sixth Ward and Houston at large, is the organization’s   mandate. According to their literature, MECA is “committed to the healthy development of   under-served youth and adults through arts and cultural programming, academic excellence,   support services, and community building” (2014). The program was initially geared towards   using traditional Mexican arts education to give a young at-risk community something to do,   somewhere to be, and a sense of self, very much like South Tucson’s John A. Valenzuela Youth   Center. Parents I spoke to still seek this in the program, and the presence of several Day of the   Dead ofrendas dedicated to youths as young as seventeen who lost their lives to gang violence.  116  Beyond the benefits of arts instruction, the academic needs of the community quickly forced   themselves into the equation. “We were an arts organization that due to the needs of the   community, we had to take on other roles,” explains Mrs. Valdez. “So we have support services:   education support, scholarship, [we] prepare them for auditions [mostly for magnet arts high   schools, but also college music departments].” At the moment, this is done with a range of 10-15   teachers, and a staff of “about seven full-time” employees, including Mrs. Valdez, and program   coordinator Mrs. Salinas, who would talk to me about the school’s connection with the   Librotraficantes and the Underground Library.    MECA’s number of teachers has decreased. Mrs. Valdez recounts that not long ago they   employed at least 25 teachers at any given time. During my subsequent visits to MECA to spend   time in the library I noticed that while all parts of the school’s mandate were being fulfilled, it   took  everyone playing several roles to achieve this. Front office staff doubled as academic   tutors, for example. With an estimated cost of 6 million dollars in required renewals to the Dow   building, the staff reductions make sense. “Our budget went to about $800, 000 from about $2   million, so a few of us are wearing many hats.” It has been a struggle to keep the program   running with the large reach it has now, but they have managed to do it despite the funding  changes that Mrs. Valdez attributes to the 2009 U.S. economic recession: “we have just been   trying to stay alive for the last four or five years.” The future of MECA seems economically   challenging. Librotraficante Tony Diaz, reflecting on the significance of MECA and its building   to the Chican@ culture in Houston, lamented, “they need a lot of help.”    I interviewed the mother of a young student who gave some insights into why MECA is  so dependent on donations. Given the art school’s non-profit status and its mandate to target the   needs of ‘under-served’ youths, what comes into the program from student fees is minimal. “A  117  lot of parents will volunteer for their children to take classes here. Cleaning toilets, whatever is  needed,” she said. I met the father of a student in the library who asked to remain anonymous.    He was reading Barack Obama’s biography and had just finished two books from the  Underground Library shelf. He expressed concern about the discrepancy between enrollment   prices and the needs of the institution: “the classes are so cheap I don’t think they are enough.”   He worries, because the positive effects of the school on his daughter and his family have been   noticeable quickly. Maiaz, an outgoing mother whose young daughter was enrolled in traditional   Mexican dance and  visual arts, attributed the willingness of parents to pay either with limited   monetary resources, or with their time and labour, to how transformative and valuable   enrollment was for their children’s personal and academic lives.    A lot of this is attributed by Maiaz and other parents to active role-modeling, also   mentioned by staff at the John A. Valenzuela Youth Center: at MECA there are violin teachers   with doctorates and young staffers currently enrolled in college from the same neighborhoods as   many of the students .  MECA alumni stay connected to the program and provide stories   of success through participation in the very programs that today’s students participate in, and out   of social contexts very much like theirs. There are second and third generation students as well.    Maiaz drives an average of an hour each way several times a week. As we wrap up our   conversation and step out into a hallway, classes are letting out. The sense of community is clear   as Maiaz relays messages to students about where their parents are waiting.   Along with exposing the children to the possibilities of higher education, academic   tutoring is also an important reason for the parents to bring their children to MECA. As Maiaz  reasons, with a little bit of help any of the kids around us could achieve at least a ‘C’ grade   average: “A ‘C’ will get you into some college.” Doors open to a youth not used to having many 118  opportunities. Beyond an exposure to school there is also an exposure to culture for everyone   involved with the program. MECA estimates that, counting family members, the school impacts   the lives of over 5000 people annually. While many of the families that come have been able to  overcome the socioeconomic constrains of growing up in the Brown barrios of Houston, many  are still living the realities of the economic margins of the city. “A lot of the parents are   yarderos,y cosas asi [yard workers and things like that].” The parents, yarderos and   professionals alike, are enriched by exposure to the arts through MECA’s calendar. For example,   the program put on 15 events throughout the school calendar year 2014-15. These included   politically charged projects such as the ‘Children’s Prison Arts Project,’ and art performances   celebrating the past and present of Chican@ art in Houston, such as a Fiesta Guadalupana, or   the youth-written play ‘Speed Killed my Cousin.’    5.2  Cultural Pride, and the Chican@ Ark of the Covenant: MECA’s Underground Library    As I spent more and more time in the MECA building, I came to understand it as an  important space of cultural resistance to the oppressive forces of displacement through   gentrification, and to economic constraints on educational and cultural life. When I got to speak  with MECA program coordinator Liz Salinas about how the Underground Library ended up  as the centerpiece of the school’s library, I understood that it was most importantly a site of   cultural resistance against the forces of erasure. Cultural erasure that Señora Salinas had   experienced personally, that the students in Arizona were fighting against, and even the Sixth   Ward as a geography was experiencing.    I met Señora Salinas as Liz, but during our interview she that her name was Esmeralda.   119  She had become Liz within a Texas educational system that prohibited the speaking of Spanish  in schools and instilled in Mexican and Chican@ students a sense of cultural shame. It was the  personal experience of this cultural oppression, of this erasure of cultural value, that Mrs. Salinas   opened the doors of MECA’s building widely for Librotrafiante organizers Tony, Liana, Bryan,   and their ‘stash’ of books banned in Arizona. For Señora Salinas, much like for Mrs. Gloria in   Tucson’s Underground Library, the books had meaning beyond the ban in Tucson, and attained   added meaning because of the ban in Tucson. Esmeralda spoke about the events in Arizona as   ironic in the sense that, through the dynamic of White settlers taking offense at the history being   taught in Tucson and trying to “hide the ugly parts of history”, they were harkening back to those   ‘uglier‘ pasts by banning books and dismantling educational initiatives.   The so-called Chican@ Ark of the Covenant, the colorful and well-adorned shelf that  is the physical incarnation of the Underground Library sits in a room that has been a library   since the Dow building was an HISD elementary school. The room is used consistently during   MECA class hours, mainly for waiting purposes: both parents and children dot the tables every   afternoon as they prepare for class, or are there for a sibling or child. It is also used for tutoring.   Every time I visit the library, there are folks, young and old, reading. Beyond the Underground   Library books, the room is very well stocked with literature. The shelves cover three of the large   room’s four walls, and include by my count the following well-stocked categories: History,   Politics, Health, Environment, Psychology, Science, Sociology, Music, Fiction, Reference,   Teacher Resources, Photography, Mythologies, Biography, Self-help, Cooking, Sports, Non-  Fiction, and a particularly plentiful (and well-used) Kids section.   There is a turn of phrase in the MECA mandate that is reproduced on all of their literature  that captures the real reason why the Underground Library today has a permanent house in  120  Houston’s Old Sixth Ward. The institution aims to help instill in its students a “sense of   “discipline, self-esteem, and cultural pride [emphasis mine]” (MECA 2014).  The sense of   cultural pride is evident throughout the building, in particular during the last two weeks of   October, the time of my visit. The Dia de los Muertos decorations drove home the point visually.   Altars lined the walls of both the first and second floor main halls, each one about six-feet tall   and two-feet wide. I interpreted the time, effort, and resources put into each altar as a testament   to the significance of the community bonds created by participation in MECAs programs for the   Chican@ and Mexican families converging here. I also interpreted it as a communal display of   cultural pride, continuing the traditions of ofrendas for the dead that pre-date colonialism.    For a self-described “seasoned Chicana” like Sra. Salinas, whose education pre-dated the  idea of Mexican-American Studies, whose brothers fought U.S. wars only to be denied the   ability to vote based on their Mexican heritage, the ability to express cultural pride has   significantly changed through her life journey. From the days when she had to cup her hands   around her tacos in school from the shame that burdened Mexican heritage in the educational   system, to her ability today as an elder to touch the lives of thousands of youths who will not   suffer losing parts of themselves (like their names, or language, or cuisine) to the forces of   cultural oppression in the United States.    Perhaps influenced by the ability to look back at her own personal experiences, and the   defining times for Chican@s that she witnessed throughout her lifetime, Sra. Salinas framed   the books that travelled with the Librotraficantes throughout the Southwest, the books that   Arizona’s political-educational machinery targeted for removal, were both record and   embodiment of Chican@ history. That’s why she saw the mission of the Librotraficantes as   completely complementary to MECA’s mandates and philosophy. Esmeralda’s take on the books  121  echoed that of Jennifer, the Tucson MAS graduate and activist: for culturally-othered Chican@s,   exposure to stories of people like them within a cultural structure that tries to erase them, is   a very powerful thing.    MECA, an established, respected cultural institution aligned with Houston’s   Librotraficantes, established solidarity with the youth of Tucson’s Unified School District   who were suffering from what [on the surface] seemed like an anachronistic expression of   cultural oppression. Esmeralda understood that the books had power in that they told what   a former TUSD student called “Brown girl and Brown boy stories.” Through the social   significance given to published literature, and through the chronic underrepresentation of such   stories in mainstream literature, access to them has a transformative power.     She also framed the books themselves, as objects,  and record of Chican@ history.  They   served, in her mind, as a chronology of Mexican-American published thought that started with a   trickle in the early second half of the twentieth century and has since grown exponentially. She   knows that the right to write, the right to publish, and the right to validate the existence of a   cultural identity through its representation in art had been earned through dogged resistance and   against many forms of oppression. She saw the fact that there is today a Chican@ literary cannon   to defend in the first place represents victorious steps in the intertwined, long struggles over   Chican@ cultural and civil rights discussed in chapter 2.    Given their awareness of past and present struggles and their understanding of the   positive effects on identity formation that relatable narratives have on youths, it was clear to   Esmeralda and Mrs. Valdez that hosting the Underground Library could only enrich MECA’s   ability to aid in “the healthy development of under-served youth and adults through arts” (MECA   2014) and instill in its community a sense of cultural pride. After a couple of years in MECA, the  122  library has been woven into the organization and its community.    The Houston Underground Library was being used every time I visited MECA. Having  visited the site close to a dozen times over a two-week period I calculate that on average, one  Tucson MAS book is being read every day in Houston. In contrast to the JVYC, MECA’s library   is primarily used by adults, the student’s parents, who often wait from 45 minutes to several   hours (many parents have several children enrolled in different classes). One of the parents   wanted to show me a book he read from the Underground Library, although he couldn’t find it.   We got to talking and figured out it was Rudy Acuña’s Occupied America, both one of the   literary building-blocks of Mexican-American Studies as an academic discipline, and one of the   most divisive books during the Tucson MAS struggle. This particular parent was an avid reader   with an interest in history.    The rest of the books I saw being read during my visits were all fiction like Laura   Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, and Dagoberto Gilb’s short story collection Woodcuts of   Women. Twice, I saw teenagers take their time exploring the shelf’s books, pledges, messages of   support for Tucson, and images of the struggle. As far as the younger users of the library room,   they were kept occupied by the large Children’s Literature section of MECA’s shelves. Perhaps   due to the economic circumstances of most MECA families, there was a disproportionate number   of readers compared to people using technological devices. When I was finally able to talk to the  Librotraficantes, they were happy to hear that the Underground Library was being well-used.   After a couple of years, the bright yellow shelf with the protest pictures, the reading   pledges and the banned books is now part and parcel of the Dow Building, MECA, and it’s   mission with low income Chican@ families all over Houston. In a city that has recently   experienced the breakup of Brown communities, MECA now stands in a rapidly gentrifying  123  neighborhood as a space of cultural resistance through which community is forged despite   physical distance, and cultural pride is instilled by members who are conscious of the processes   of erasure that American culture deploys towards its minorities along with the importance of   cultivating cultural pride in the face of such conditions.    Houstonians talk to me of the local political trends  as making them a ‘blue dot in a red   state’, not unlike South Tucson.  In the time since HB2281 was passed and consequently used   against Tucson’s MAS, the Texas Chican@ community has been forced to organize and   mobilize against more than one culturally oppressive bill attacking ethnic studies in the state   university system (Hart 2013). Taking this context into consideration, I interpreted the Houston   Underground Library as a space of cultural resistance imbued with  symbolic significance. This   is not to say that its symbolic significance is greater than the daily readings from the banned   book shelves. It is not of larger importance either than the library’s ability to further MECA’s   mandate of instilling cultural pride not only in its students, but also their family members.    The symbolic significance of Houston’s Underground Library is different from that held   by South Tucson’s John A. Valenzuela Youth Center. The JVYC Underground Library serves its   community as a reminder of what was taken away from them, and as symbolic embers to the fire   of cultural resistance with which the area’s youth defended their education. It is a symbol of an   immediate past that must not be forgotten, and of the work still to be done to recover what was   lost. Meanwhile, Houston’s Underground Library serves symbolically as a warning of what   could be a near future.  Sitting in the heart of a long-established cultural gem of Chican@   Houston, a space of resistance from the forces of cultural erasure that marked the lives of its   elders, MECA’s Underground Library is a reminder that those same forces have been shown to   reemerge in Texan, Southern, and U.S. discourse time and again.  The community must not only  124  sustain its cultural traditions, but be ready to defend them against an oppressive legal apparatus.                                             125  Chapter 6                                                                                                          Conclusion: Spaces of Cultural Resistance and Geographies of Chican@ Belonging    The Underground Libraries are the outcome of an activist initiative aimed at re-  establishing access to the Chican@ literature taken out of Tucson Unified School District   classrooms. As such, they are entry points into an exploration of spaces of resistance aimed at   combating culturally oppressive forces and historical erasures. Throughout this study, spaces of   cultural resistance have been understood as geographies (whether physical or virtual) which   craft, nourish, or welcome community resistance against cultural forms of oppression. The   majority of spaces of cultural resistance explored during my research can also be considered    cultural spaces of resistance. The main difference is that the latter encourage resistance from a   space primarily focused on the study, preservation, and/or creation of culture.   This distinction is important. Cultural spaces of resistance highlight the power of artistic   traditions in conserving, transferring, re-creating and exercising culture. On the other hand,   spaces of resistance that do not fit under that rubric highlight that a cultural focus is not   necessary for organizations to resist against culturally-targeted attacks. This greatly strengthens   the latent power of any resistance against cultural erasure by acknowledging nodes of activism   outside of the cultural realm.    In the one-mile-square city of South Tucson, a predominantly (if not completely)   Chican@ geography, the JVYC hosts the Underground Library that successfully re-established   access to books removed from the schools. The JVYC is a free-of-charge after school program   that doubles as a community center and liaison between the community and the city. In Houston,    home-base to the Chican@ literary activists who wrangled thousands of the banned titles from  126  across the country, the Underground Library is hosted by MECA, the symbolic and physical   center of a former historical barrio now in the process of gentrification.      As spaces of cultural resistance, both MECA and the JVYC are unapologetically  proud Chican@ geographies. In Houston, despite the rapidly changing demographic makeup of   the Old Sixth Ward, Spanish was the main language spoken in MECA, and when I was   introduced to an Anglo-European-American visual arts teacher during one of my Underground   Library visits, she quickly and in an unprompted manner made light about being the only White   person at MECA. In South Tucson, given the history and demographics of the tiny city along   with cultural pride of the center’s leadership, it was no surprise that both staff and youth were   predominantly if not exclusively Brown.    I interpret the demographic makeup and the cultural environment hosted by these   geographies as one aspect of the cultural resistance enacted from these places. Resistance against   the forces of cultural assimilation and erasure that have plagued Chican@s since their (limited)  inclusion into the U.S. territorial boundaries. One of the mothers at the Houston Underground   Library said MECA provided a place to counterbalance her daughter’s predominantly Anglo-  European-American neighborhood and school, an environment in which the mother expressed a   fear of her daughter “losing herself.” It was the alienating nature of White-dominant spaces that   drew Mrs. Valdez to the Old Sixth Ward in the first place, resulting in the birth of MECA. It was   in order to further whiten the city of Tucson that South Tucson was removed from its fold,   creating the set of conditions that today continue to plague South Tucson and led to the absolute   necessity of a space like the John A. Valenzuela Youth Center.      127  6.1  Multiplication of Spaces    While the reach of the Underground Libraries does not compare to the reach of the   dismantled MAS program that graduated several generations of Chican@ youth from a   community suffering from low educational achievement, they both do achieve their goals and   impact their communities. For this, the Underground Libraries have to thank the two well-  established organizations that opened their doors to the Librotraficantes. Both the JVYC and   MECA were spaces carved out of their respective local geographies by Chican@ community   organizations pushing back against different oppressive forces. While the JVYC was demanded   by the South Tucson community out of a justified fear for the physical safety of their youth,   MECA was created to address juvenile delinquency and low educational attainment in what was   then a Chican@ Old Sixth Ward neighborhood. Both are testaments to community organization   and resistance so strong, that they were able to generate lasting physical spaces.    Both of these long-standing organizations point at a dynamic by which spaces of   resistance not only become embodiments of the activism that created them, but they in turn   facilitate the growth and advancement of other forms or resistance. While some of these might   address temporal issues and thus dissipate eventually, others address constant concerns and are at   times able to grow to the point of justifying and sustaining their own spaces of resistance.    This multiplication of spaces of resistance, very much in line with Pile’s proposal that   “resistance makes other spaces -other geographies- possible or impossible” (1997, 2) is   exemplified in Houston through MECA itself: What started as an art program for thirty kids run   out of a small house behind the local parish now occupies an entire city block and reaches over   5000 community members every year. Beyond out-growing its original host space, MECA has   128  reached the point at which it can itself host other organizations, like a Chicana immigration law   firm active in immigration reform activism. In South Tucson, the JVYC has been the incubator   space for the GED-granting Las Artes Arts and Education Center. Not unlike MECA, this   program started as a small initiative utilizing Mexican tile-mosaic techniques and themes as a   vehicle to address the educational struggles of the area. Beyond these newer spaces of cultural   resistance borne out of pre-established ones, the park designed by MECA students and the Las   Artes tile installations commissioned to brighten the South Tucson landscape are further   examples of the geographical impacts of successful spaces of resistance in oppressed   communities.    The Underground Libraries and the places that host them are all spaces carved out against   different forms of oppression ranging from cultural, to economic and geographic, among others.   This is not to discount the strength of the oppressive forces; it is worth noting that these spaces of   resistance are continuously shaped by multiple oppressions as they strive to fulfill their mandates   in climates of scarce funding and cultural tensions. Regardless, the ability to affect the physical  makeup of their communities is a point of triumph for both MECA and the JVYC.    There is an interesting temporal pattern that emerges when looking at the different   organizations involved with the Librotraficante effort to address the book ban in Arizona. The   majority, if not all of the organizations able to create and sustain new spaces of resistance, new   cracks in the matrix of oppressions facing the Chican@ community in the Southwest, are   between thirty and forty years old. This suggests that the history of the ‘Long Fight’ has had its   mark on the creation and multiplication of Chican@ spaces of cultural resistance.    These places, like MECA and San Antonio’s Guadalupe Cultural Center for example,   represent the fruits of a significant point in time for Chican@s. These organizations, started from  129  the mid-seventies through the mid-eighties emerged out of the victories of the China@ civil   rights movimiento, victories including the very theorization and implementation of Chican@   studies as a discipline. In this light, the Underground Libraries can be interpreted as a part of a   new generation of spaces of cultural resistance. Through this temporal lens we can also   understand the process by which spaces of cultural resistance multiply themselves. The different   generations of spaces discussed in this study stand as a geographical chronology of Chican@  accomplishments, very much in the manner that Señora Salinas describes the books in the   Houston Underground Library.   6.2  Beyond Networks: Imagined Geographies of Chican@ Belonging     Through the histories of both host institutions, it becomes evident that spaces of cultural   resistance can function in an independent fashion, as stand alone initiatives for long periods of   time. Through the symbiotic relationship between the Underground Libraries and their host   spaces it is also evident that given certain conditions, stand-alone spaces of cultural resistance   can function as nodes that may be weaved into an activist network across geographies. The idea   of the Underground Libraries themselves as a network would be worth exploring but would   require the ability to work the multiple sites that are spread out as far as Kentucky (Diaz 2013).   Within the confines of this study, the ability of Chican@ spaces of cultural resistance to   form a network is evidenced by the one the Librotraficantes were able to tap into during their   travels across the U.S. Southwest. In fact, the Librotraficante caravan’s itinerary reads very   much like the map of a Chican@ network of spaces of cultural resistance. Traficante Tony Diaz’   interpreted their map of caravan stops as evidence of a Chican@ “literary legacy.”    In order to accomplish the goals of the Librotraficante caravan, the initiative was aided  130  by a network of spaces of resistance that could be grouped into three categories. The majority   of sites in the network that was activated in solidarity with Tucson’s youth is comprised of    Chican@ cultural centers very much aligned with MECA’s mission of community improvement   through cultural pride and the arts. A smaller set of geographies of activism and resistance that   hosted the caravan are focused mainly on labor/economic issues, yet still operate under the rubric   of Chican@-identified organizations. Finally, there is another subset of spaces that were crucial   to the success of the Librotraficante initiative. These are mediatic and virtual spaces of cultural   resistance.   The many cultural centers involved in the network activated by the traficantes range in    size and capacity, but are all tied together by the drive to preserve and nurture Chican@ culture.   The smaller spaces are comprised by Houston’s Casa Ramirez Folk Art Gallery, from where the   caravan departed, and author Denise Chavez’ Casa Camino Real, a hybrid bookstore and Museo   de la Gente (People’s Museum, a historical archive of Chican@ literary history curated by   Chavez) in Las Cruces, NM (Ellington 2015). Similar in size, but with a larger scope and   mission was Sandra Cisnero’s La Casa Azul, the small house in San Antonio out of which the   author (celebrated in particular for her articulations of Chicana identity and whose House on   Mango Street was boxed and put away by TUSD authorities) grew and nurtured a writer’s   workshop into what is now the multiple-grant provider Macondo Foundation for Chican@   authors (Idealist).    Also in San Antonio, and bearing the most striking similarity to MECA, is the Guadalupe  Cultural Arts Center. Founded over three decades ago, the Guadalupe Center promotes “Latino,   Chicano and Native American Arts” in the Texas city through its six-building campus in the   historic Westside, anchored by the Guadalupe theater (Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center). The  131  center represents a space of Chican@ cultural resistance started by a group of artist-activists   concerned that “cultural traditions were disappearing” (Ibid) The artists were successful in   securing municipal funding, and thus another substantial Chican@ space of cultural resistance   was created. Interestingly enough, through my research I became aware that the Macondo   writer’s workshop born out of Sandra Cisneros’ kitchen has now grown so much, that it is hosted   by the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. This illustrates the pattern of spaces of resistance   growing to a point at which they invariably become hosts for other initiatives. It also attests to   the dynamic by which these spaces, tied by cultural identity, may be joined into a network when   necessary for the advancement of the culture they actively preserve and create.   Another San Antonio foundation that opened its doors to the Librotraficantes is The   Esperanza Peace and Justice Center which, “through artistic creation and cultural expression”   (Esperanza Peace and Justice Center) aims at addressing cross-cultural barriers, as well as   fostering community organization towards causes such as fracking and militarization   (Goodman, 2014). Finally, the impressive network of cultural centers includes the imposing   National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The large cultural compound,   with its stylized Mayan pyramid architecture and world-class theater that took Librotraficante   Liana’s breath away, represents the largest and most mainstream of the cultural spaces. It is   fueled by successful capitalists (NHCC) rather than improvised communities; it self-identifies as   ‘Hispanic’, a controversial term charged with asserting superiority to the European aspects of   what I identify as Latin@ culture, while semantically erasing Indigenous, African, and even   Asian contributions. Lastly, it is honorarily presided over by King Felipe VI the head of the   colonialist Spanish royal family, a monarchy grossly enriched by the pillage of the very lands the   center lies on, and the murder of many of its original inhabitants. Despite these seemingly  132  disparate political and cultural stances between the NHCC and the rest of the network, the   Albuquerque institution opened its doors with warmth to the Librotraficantes and was a willing   participant in a network of Chican@ cultural spaces actively resisting the oppressive conditions   facing Arizona’s youth.   In stark contrast to the NHCC’s polished aesthetics and the ties with industry leaders, the   only two non-culturally based organizations that participated in the Librotraficante network are   related in their class-based mandates. San Antonio’s Southwest Workers Union and El Paso’s   Mercado Mayapan both represent organizations that while proudly Brown, are concerned with   the plight of the Chican@ worker. The Mercado Mayapan presents a very interesting case of a   space of resistance, both cultural and class-based. It was conceived and realized by La Mujer   Obrera, a Chicana worker’s collective that was founded in order to address the oppressions   caused by the U.S. garment' industry’s move away from the Northeast and Midwest and into   “cheaper and non-unionized regions,” which included “foreign cities, but also Southwestern   cities with large Mexican-origin work forces” (Zapata 2013).   The grassroots organization’s focus turned from worker’s rights to the need to actively   create labor as NAFTA’s implementation syphoned what was left of the industry in El Paso   south of the border. It was to address the unemployment left in the wake of the free trade treaty   that the organization was able to convert a 40,000-square-foot former garment plant into an   economic center that includes “a local farmer’s market, artisan booths, and a large stage for the   performing arts” (Zapata 2013). It was here that the Librotraficantes held one of their successful   ‘Banned Book Bashes’. Sadly, since the traficantes went through town. La Mujer Obrera has   since had to downscale the venture and has moved into what is now Cafe Mayapan (Ibid).    The final form of spaces of cultural resistance that participated in the Librotraficante 133  network, although in a more indirect manner, are mediatic and virtual spaces of resistance. These  non-physical spaces are represented firstly by Nuestra Palabra, the weekly Latino-Lit radio   show ran by the trio of activists that started the initiative. I interpret the show itself as a space   from which Chican@ and Latin@ literary activism has been given room to develop and grow in   exposure. In the tradition of many of the spaces here mentioned, it is hosted physically by a   larger organization, Houston’s Pacifica Radio affiliate KPDF and its firebombed and shot-at   building from which the local arts and activist communities benefit greatly.    Beyond the airwaves, I identified two blogs that were crucial to the dissemination  of information about the Tucson struggle throughout Chican@, Latin@ and Indigenous networks   of independent, community-centered journalism. These virtual spaces of cultural resistance were   the original source of information for Librotraficante Bryan Parras, and the spark of inspiration   for the mobilization that shaped up as a caravan and left the Underground Libraries as legacies.   These blogs are Brenda Norrell’s Censored News blog, and Tucson’s Three Sonorans blog. As   detailed in chapter 3, Norrell’s blog came as a response to continued censorship of her work on   the Indian Country Today media network’s website. Norrell had reported for the outlet since its   print-paper origins. Also detailed in said chapter is the fact that D.A. Morales’ Three Sonorans   blogs was also effectively banned and removed from the Tucson Citizen's online collection of   local blogs due to disagreements over the dismantling of Mexican American Studies with the   editorial boards.   Given the mandates and philosophies behind the many different activists, cultural   organizations and other geographies involved in this study, I believe that knowledge, awareness   and experience of the historical struggles of Chican@s were conducive to the readiness with   which all of these independent spaces and organizations united for a very localized cause outside  134  of their jurisdictions. However, I would like to complicate this idea and propose that, beyond an   activist network, the coming together of geographies of resistance evidenced through the   Librotraficante initiative also represents the active re-creation of an imagined geography of   Aztlan, what Lee Bebout calls the Chicano movement’s “Mythohistorical Intervention” (2011).   Aztlan entered the national Chican@ discourse in 1969 after the unveiling of the Plan   Espiritual de Aztlan at the Chicano Youth Liberation conference in Denver. The Plan is a poetic   and mystical manifesto that rallied the community around a mythical homeland for Chican@s   named Aztlan and located across the U.S. Southwest [for more on the plan and the Denver   conference see Chapter 2]. Bebout interprets the plan as a “response to U.S. psychological   aggression” (Ibid,2), and Aztlan as a “counternarrative, asserting historical precedence and   cultural citizenship” (Ibid, 14). I would add that this was done not only in response to   psychological aggression, but in the face of cultural erasure and denial of national belonging.    The mythological nationalism of the Chian@ movement and its enduring influence on   the community today exemplifies the process of nations as imagined communities as proposed   by Benedict Anderson (1983). The Librotraficantes and all of the spaces and allies that   participated in the creation of the Underground Libraries were not dissuaded from organizing   because of the localized impact of HB2281. As Tony Diaz would say on a few occasions, “it was   personal.” This should not discount the weariness of ‘outsiders’ that began to ferment in Tucson   months after the traficantes had been welcomed by the community after the divisive effects   2012’s ‘Freedom Summer.’ The coming together of communities and organizations across the   Southwest (or Aztlan, depending on who you ask) and the resulting Underground Libraries   represent an instance of active creation of imagined territory, what Arturo Escobar calls “the   construction of region-territory” through the setting in motion of cultural politics on behalf of  135  social movements (2008).    6.3  The Underground Libraries as Symbols    I used the Underground Libraries of South Tucson and Houston as entry-points into an  exploration of spaces of cultural resistance. During my research I came to understand these   particular spaces as having a power expressed in their ability to both symbolize and actively   create memory about the current stage of the historical long fight for Chican@ educational   justice. Together, the libraries represent battles lost and won by different Chican@ communities.   In the JVYC, the Underground Library functions as the symbolic embers to the fire of  community resistance. They also warn of what the elders and (young) veterans of the long fight   expressed as a cyclical aspect to the dynamic of cultural oppression and resistance by which the   past can quickly become the present for those marginalized by the dominant Anglo-European   society. This is the case for Houston’s Underground Library, as Texas already attempted to   defund ethnic studies in the state university system.    The libraries were helped into existence by a large network of Chican@ spaces of   resistance which was rapidly activated through the effort of the Librotraficantes. This network  represents the multiplication through generations of such spaces, and is bound together by   awareness and experience of the trans-local and continual history of cultural, social, political   and legal attacks against Chican@ education, sense of self, place in history and national   belonging in the face of an exclusionary U.S. imaginary. Beyond a network, this collection   of spaces can be seen as the active construction of region through cultural commonality, a   resisting Aztlan.    Beyond the immediate goal of finding a way to re-establish free and safe access to the  136  MAS program literature for TUSD’s youth, the Underground Libraries now also act as small   spaces of resistance against the forces of cultural denial, erasure, and assimilation.  Whether it be   South Tucson youths ‘borrowing’ literature for more than a year, or culturally-proud working-  class parents in Houston spending their spare hours with and amongst the banned tomes, the   libraries create a small space through which the Chican@ canon removed from Tucson   classrooms can continue to plant seeds of cultural identity, agency, and pride in their readers.   The long fight for Chican@ civil rights and cultural justice is not over. Former MAS   student Maya Arce’s judicial challenge of HB2281 has been extended and given a 2016 trial date   after going before the 9th circuit court of appeals (Huicochea, 2015). During my time in Arizona,   a Chican@ victory in Los Angeles making Ethnic Studies a requirement for graduation brought   much joy to the Arizona MAS activists. However, as I craft these final words, California   Governor Jerry Brown [back for another term after his virulently anti-Mexican, anti-immigration   stint in Sacramento during the late Seventies and mid-80s] has vetoed a state bill calling on  “the California Department of Education to form an advisory panel to develop the Ethnic Studies   curriculum, which would then be approved by the state Board of Education and made available   for local districts to adopt if they wished to do so” (Ceasar, 2015). In the face of this continued   erasure from spaces of education, which greatly shape imaginaries of national belongings, the   Underground Libraries and the network of spaces of cultural resistance that helped bring them   into existence signal that the Chican@ community is well aware of the state of affairs, and ready   to continue resisting.       137  Bibliography Acosta, Belinda. 2012. Librotraficante: On The Road to Arizona. The Texas Observer. March   13. 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