Tucson Bans 500 Years of Chicano History!

  500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martinez and published by the SouthWest Organizing Project, is included in a set of primarily  Chicano and Native American books that have been banned by the Tucson Independent School District. The school district says it’s not a ban, but the books were summarily removed from classrooms after the Mexican-American Studies program was eliminated. And teachers in that program have been instructed to not teach these books through the lens of ethnic studies. To us, this constitutes a BAN.

The book was produced by the Chicano Communications Center in the mid-1970s. The reason for creating the book was to educate young Chicanos about their true history, an education they weren’t receiving in the schools. One of the staff people at the Chicano Communications Center who worked on the book, Joaquin Lujan, says the book was a critical component of achieving self-determination. He, like others, was taught growing up that his history was no longer important for his survival. He experienced, like many in his generation, the erasing of identity—expressed through language and culture—the minute he walked into the schoolhouse.

“I walked in as Joaquin, and walked out as Jackie,” he says, “which was a very sad day for mi abuelito.”

Joaquin Lujan, during the time of the creation of the book, as a member of the Chicano Communications Center

“There was a need being expressed throughout our communities for a book that accurately represented our history as people of color in the southwest, so that our children had the tools they needed to understand themselves and the world they lived in,” Lujan says.

500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, as well as the other books that are on the banned list, collectively demonstrate through their content and their inclusion together, the interrelated nature of the Mexican, Chicano, and Native American communities. In effect, the BAN is oppressive to students of color across the board, because it negates their histories, their shared experiences today, and their contributions to their communities.

This BAN by the Tucson schools isn’t the first time 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures has been banned. Previously, the book was banned by the Vaughn, NM Independent School District. Many teachers at that time, like teachers now in Tuscon, were outraged and saddened by politicians and bureaucrats telling them that they couldn’t teach students of color their history, which is critical to their full development as people.

For more information, call SWOP at: 505-247-8832

3 responses to “Tucson Bans 500 Years of Chicano History!

  1. I HOPE I CAN FIND THIS BOOK I REALLY WANT READ IT MY NAME WAS CHANGE WHEN I STARTED SCHOOL TO MARY THEN MARIE MY NAME IS Maria De Carmen Rodriguez (Chavez) I didn’t know my Real name until I got in to High school IT WAS SAD AN OFFICE ASKED ME IF I WANTED TO CALL BY Mary or MARIE BECAUSE MY Name was MARIA

  2. I read “460 Years of Chicano History in Pictures” back in 1985 when I was in high school. My older brother attended the local community college, SMC, had joined MEChA and began bringing Chicano books home. This book changed my life, gave me a historical consciousness, and made me a proud Chicano with purpose. I went on to UC Berkeley, where I co-founded the teatro group Chicano Secret Service, then to UCLA film school and I am completing my PhD in English at UC Riverside. This book set me on my path, and I proudly teach with it in Long Beach/Los Angeles county schools. Johnavalos, a UCRiverside Mexican dance faculty, and myself started the Xican@ Pop-Up Book Movement in 2013, developing arts and curriculum around the banned Chicana/o literature in Arizona, and to proclaim “you can ban Chicano books but they still POP UP!” (visit our Facebook page for more info). La lucha continua … !

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