When I was in middle school a local Latin@ literary organization called Nuestra Palabra coordinated two after school writing clubs, one for boys and one for girls. Once a week and in the summer, I became part of a group of girls of color came together to read the literary works of other women of color. We were able to see our history and culture play out in these works when they were being left out in our history books. It gave us an opportunity to develop our own identities and strive towards futures away from stereotypes.
That is why it’s a shame that the Tucson Unified School District terminated its Mexican-American ethnic studies and confiscated literature that they believed could be used to overthrow the American government. TUSD employees went into classrooms while school was in session and physically removed books from shelves in front of students.
In a country where many young people of color find it hard to graduate high school, why are we taking away material that engages them and prepares them for college?
As a response to this modern day censorship, contemporary Latin@ writers, educators, advocates and students have come together to defend the books that have given marginalized communities a voice in mainstream American culture.
In New York City, the May 1st Coalition announced that it would be organizing a solidarity press conference and book drive on Saturday March 11th on the front steps of the Public Library on 42nd and 5th. John Jay College recently hosted the organizers of The Librotraficante Caravan, a movement conceived by Nuestra Palabra, to smuggle “wet books” (books that were explicitly black-listed from TUSD classrooms) from Houston, along the I-10 interstate freeway to Arizona. With a little help from the most commercially successful Latin@ author, Sandra Cisneros and the author of the classic “Bless me Ultima” Rudolfo Anaya, among other notable writers and local institutions, they will be hosting readings and creating underground libraries in Tucson.
As Mexican immigrant in the United States, I took refuge on the history that came before me to stand strong against the xenophobia that was rampant post 9/11. It was that confidence that I found in Middle School that took me to college and brought me to New York City where I work for The NYIC, an advocacy organization that fights for the rights of immigrants.
It is an honor to be joining writers and activists from around the country in the Librotraficante Caravan representing New York and keeping the spirit of my cultura alive where it’s needed most: Arizona.
To learn more about the Librotraficantes and Nuestra Palabra visit their websites:
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