So Mexican-American studies was dropped in many schools, or significantly watered down. Some course books were even banned.
During the following months, Acosta—slogging to school, forced to teach a censored class—learned a new type of dehumanization, he says. "More so than someone saying racist stuff to your face."
Then one day in April, around 5:45 p.m., the fight for Mexican-American studies changed directions.
As the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board prepared to discuss removing Mexican-American studies from a list of classes that would count toward core requirements (seen by many as another move to demean it), nine students rushed the boardroom. They pulled chains from around their waists. Behind a curved wood desk with microphones, they sat in the board's rolling chairs and locked themselves in place.
They pounded the table and chanted, "When education is under attack, what do we do?"
National media had covered the story before. But it seemed to take on new vigor. At the next board meeting, so many people arrived that large speakers were placed outside the boardroom so they could hear the discussion. Officers arrested several people, most of them students.+ Jose Lara, a social studies teacher in Los Angeles, was a awarded the 2015 Social Justice Activist Award by the National Education Association in part for his efforst to spread ethnic studies across California.Ã‚ (Courtesy of NEA)
Nonviolent Resistance 201
Seeing the protests in the news, Jose Lara, a Los Angeles social studies teacher at Santee Education Complex High School, wondered why his district didn't have its own Mexican-American-Studies course.
"What are we doing in our classrooms [to help]?" Lara thought. "What type of awareness are we bringing?"
And in Houston, Texas, a group of Chicano writers, poets, artists, and activists hatched an idea: They would bus all those banned books into Tucson.
"Librotraficantes," they'd call themselves—book smugglers.
A tiny program that leaders hoped to silently squash quickly became the focal point of a Southwestern Chicano movement.
Texas author and professor Tony Diaz, together with his band of book smugglers, raised money for their trip. Donations poured in from across the country, he says, as well as books sent directly from banned authors. The book smugglers rented a tour bus and made their first stop in San Antonio, where they delivered a package of contraband books ("wet-books") to the Southwest Workers Union.
"A mobile underground library," Diaz called it. He marched the streets in a suit and tie, fist raised.
They made several stops, including El Paso, Albuquerque, and finally Tucson, where Diaz handed books out to former Mexican-American-Studies students and created a library at a local youth center.
"[Arizona has] been oppressing Mexican-Americans for years," Diaz says. "And they were used to bullying and controlling immigrants, and they wanted to control our thoughts. They were wrong. I'm a Mexican-American citizen with a master's. I know my rights."