Sometimes fighting the law will win you an award.
The activist group known as “Librotraficante” -- Spanish for “book smuggler” -- won the 2012 Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, according to a release from the iSchool at Illinois.
“Librotraficante, a movement led by Tony Diaz, is being recognized for its efforts to oppose the censorship of ethnic and cultural studies materials in Arizona,” the release says.
"I'm torn," author Tony Diaz told The Huffington Post. "I'm ecstatic that the work I started 14 years ago with Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, which led to the team that would create the Librotraficante movement, is being recognized... However, I'm also mortified because Arizona House Bill 2281 is still on the books."
Diaz, journalist Liana Lisa Lopez and multimedia artist Bryan Parras banded together to form Librotraficante to combat the removal of Latino literature from Tucson public schools.
The Arizona legislature passed HB 2281 in 2010 banning public school courses promoting ethnic solidarity. Aimed squarely at a controversial Mexican American Studies curriculum in Tucson Unified School District accused by conservatives of politicizing the students, state officials told the school board to drop the program or face losing $14 million in funding over the fiscal year. When teachers and students challenged the decision in court, the school pulled seven books from classrooms -- all but two written by Latino authors.
The courts have yet to decide the case. Mexican American Studies courses may return to Tucson public schools under a new plan to comply with a desegregation order, but it’s not yet clear whether the courses will use a similar curriculum to the one banned by the Arizona legislature.
The caravan went on a road trip to Tucson to “smuggle” the literature into Tucson, where they established a library and held events celebrating Latino letters.
Librotraficante will be honored at a reception in Seattle during a meeting of the American Library Association on Saturday.
The ALA has condemned Tucson’s banning of Mexican American Studies and the removal of the books used in its curriculum from Tucson public school classrooms.
This post was updated on Friday, Jan. 25, to add comment from Librotraficante co-founder Tony Diaz.
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Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña
The most successful book written by professor Rodolfo Acuña, "Occupied America" represents all that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne opposed in the Mexican-American Studies program when he launched the attack against it. Horne viewed the curriculum as separatist and ethnically divisive. HB 2281, the law used to <a href="http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/hb2281s.pdf " target="_hplink">ban TUSD's Mexican American Studies</a> program, prohibits courses that "promote the overthrow of the United States government" or "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group." "These people think you're a separatist if you want to teach and include people," <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/14/local/la-me-0114-tobar-20110114" target="_hplink">Acuña told the <em>Los Angeles Times</em></a> in 2011. "I don't want to be part of Mexico ... That's a stupid thing to argue."
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, compiled by Elizabeth Martinez
This compilation tells the story of Chicano history from before the European conquest of North America, through colonization and into the present day. The book describes the Southwest as "Occupied America" -- a term that Arizona conservatives often view as unjust and disparaging. Actor Edward James Olmos felt differently: "If young people read this book, they will be strong and proud in new ways," he said on the dust jacket to the 1990 edition. "It's a real education, in the true sense of that word."
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
This seminal work by Brazilian education professor Paulo Freire argued that students learn best when treated as equals and engaged on their own terms. Freire argues against the "banking model" of education, in which teachers treat students as passive recipients of knowledge. His work is studied by education specialists throughout the hemisphere. In a 2012 interview, <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/04/19/neither-banned-nor-allowed-mexican-american-studies-in-limbo-in-arizona/" target="_hplink">Arizona Superintendent of Education John Huppenthal </a> explained why he viewed the book as problematic: <blockquote>The title of Paulo Freire's book is 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed,' and so the question is, who is the oppressed? And as we looked at what was going on in the classroom and looked at what was in the materials, we saw they were putting together a Marxian model in the classroom in which the oppressed are the Hispanic students and the oppressors are the white Caucasian power structure. We came to the conclusion that it wasn't O.K. to be preaching that model in the classroom.</blockquote>
Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow
A collection of essays, interviews, lesson plans and other materials, <em>Rethinking Columbus</em> aims to change the way students understand the first interactions between the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Europeans. One contributing author, <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/01/13/whos_afraid_of_the_tempest/" target="_hplink">Tucson's own Leslie Silko</a>, boasts a Native Writers' Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado
The academic field of <a href="http://spacrs.wordpress.com/what-is-critical-race-theory/" target="_hplink">critical race theory challenges</a> traditional ways of looking at race and racism. The field's theoreticians argue that supposedly neutral concepts and institutions, like meritocracy or the legal system, mask systemic inequality and institutionalized racism. Richard Delgado's books is one of the discipline's classics. Some conservatives <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/03/11/What Is Critical Race Theory" target="_hplink">view critical race theory as "dangerous"</a> because some of its proponents view the Constitution and the fabric of American democracy as imbued with racism. During the course of several interviews in 2012, Julio Cammarota, a professor of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona, "You can see the problem, can't you? One side doesn't want to talk about race, the other side wants to talk about race all the time."
Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez
The term "Aztlán" refers to the mythic homeland of the Nahua of Central Mexico. Intellectuals of the Chicano movement adopted the term to describe the southwestern United States. Mexican-American Studies teachers at Tucson Unified School District taught those concepts with books like this one, by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez, a writer and political activist who helped found the Chicano Movement in the 1960s.
Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, by Arturo Rosales
This well-regarded study of the Chicano movement serves as a companion to the 1996 PBS documentary of the same name.