It's been a busy week for the nation's first librotraficantes. The Houston-based book trafficking caravaneros have been on the road since Monday. Led by novelist Tony Díaz, the group of enthusiastic--if a little worse for wear--activists, writers, and students, will complete the end of their six-city tour today when they cross into Arizona's borders with illegal cargo.
Following Arizona's HB 2281, the state's insidious ban on ethnic studies believed to promote the overthrow of government, the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) shut down its Mexican-American studies program earlier this year. Not only was it the only program to be dismantled, a list of allegedly banned books soon appeared: classic award-winning texts like Rodolfo R. Acuña's Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, and works of literature by beloved Mexican-American authors of the likes of Sandra Cisneros, Dagoberto Gilb, and Luis Alberto Urrea. Then, news leaked that seven of the titles were actually removed from classrooms during school hours, while students watched, in fact. TUSD insists that those titles were "cleared" and/or "confiscated" from classrooms, and that none of the books have been banned, citing their availability in district-wide libraries.
In an opinion piece for CNN's InAmerica, Díaz credits Arizona lawmakers for his librotraficante ways:
"Arizona legislators became expert at making humans illegal. But they have gone too far by making our books - our thoughts - our culture - our history - illegal."
Last weekend, librotraficantes from the Southwest and beyond "smuggled" "wet-books" into Arizona. Books were dropped off throughout the city for the creation of "underground libraries." And riding the satire wave to the end, the books will be distributed by a taco truck. The caravan's last stop will be at the University of Arizona, set to host tomorrow's "Literary showcase of Mind Altering Prose." Appearances by Dagoberto Gilb, Luis Urrea, and some of the other cleared/banned authors are expected.
According to the group's website, it will be a Santo Patricio Battalion celebration.
This post has been updated. The events mentioned took place March 16-17.