I teach a class called ‘Decolonize Your Diet,’ and I talk about the Spaniards arriving in Mesoamerica. One of the first things they tried to change—in addition to religion— was the way people ate. They introduced wheat and tried to make eating bread something that was seen as more valuable than eating corn. They outlawed amaranth, and in South America they outlawed quinoa.

I tell my students to think about how the dominant powers are invested in controlling what their subjects eat, and then to take that concept from the 1500s to our contemporary era and ask themselves, ‘What are the powers that be wanting us to eat right now? Where are all the food subsidies going? How is that influencing what we’re eating? Who’s benefiting and who’s suffering because of that?’ For students, drawing those connections is really powerful, and it gives them a tangible way to analyze relations of power.

Arizona’s law banning Mexican-American studies curriculum is constitutional, judge rules
March 11, 2013

A court upheld most provisions of an Arizona state law used to prohibit a controversial Mexican-American Studies curriculum in Tucson on Friday.

The ruling dealt a blow to supporters of the suspended classes, who had hoped the courts would overturn a 2010 law championed by Arizona conservatives determined to shut down the unconventional courses.

“I was really surprised at the decision,” Jose Gonzalez, a former teacher of Tucson’s suspended Mexican-American Studies classes, told The Huffington Post. “But as a student and teacher of history, I know in civil rights cases like this there’s always setbacks.”

The experimental Tucson curriculum was offered to students in different forms in some of the local elementary, middle and high schools. It emphasized critical thinking and focused on Mexican-American literature and perspectives. Supporters lauded the program, pointing to increased graduation rates, high student achievement and a state-commissioned independent audit that recommended expanding the classes.

But conservative opponents accused the teachers of encouraging students to adopt left-wing ideas and resent white people, a charge the teachers deny. Aiming squarely at Tucson’s Mexican-American Studies program, the Arizona legislature passed HB 2281 – a law banning courses that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, foster racial resentment, are designed for students of a particular ethnic group or that advocate ethnic solidarity.

Federal Judge Wallace Tashima said the plaintiffs failed to show the law was too vague, broad or discriminatory, or that it violated students’ first amendment rights.

The news wasn’t all bad for supporters of the suspended classes. Tashima ruled that the section of the law prohibiting courses tailored to serve students of a particular ethnicity was unconstitutional.

Originally filed in October of 2010 on behalf of the program’s former teachers, who lost standing because they are public employees, the case is currently brought by former Mexican-American Studies student Nicholas Dominguez and his mother Margarita Dominguez. They will likely appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals within the next 30 days, their lawyer Richard Martinez told The Huffington Post.

“This case is not over,” Martinez said. “It’s not only important to Arizona, but to the country as a whole that this statute be addressed.”

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne began a campaign to eliminate the Mexican-American Studies program from Tucson Unified School District in 2006, when he was serving as the state’s Superintendent of Public Education.

Angered that Mexican-American civil rights leader Dolores Huerta had said that “Republicans hate Latinos” in a speech to Tucson students, Horne sent Deputy Superintendent Margaret Dugan, a Latina Republican, to give an alternate view. But the intellectual exercise turned confrontational when students, who said they were not allowed to ask Dugan questions, sealed their mouths with tape and walked out of the assembly room.

“As superintendent of schools, I have visited over 1,000 schools and I’ve never seen students be disrespectful to a teacher in that way,” Horne said in an interview last year.

The final product of his efforts was House Bill 2281, which then-State Sen. John Huppenthal ® helped pilot through the Arizona legislature. Huppenthal, who succeeded Horne as state superintendent of schools, then found Tucson out of compliance with the new law and ordered the district to shut Mexican-American Studies down or lose 10 percent of its annual funding – some $14 million over the fiscal year. In January of 2012, the school board complied, voting 4 to 1 to discontinue the classes.

The decision drew national attention as administrators plucked Latino literature that once belonged to the curriculum from classrooms, explicitly banning seven titles from instruction.

Tashima wrote in Friday’s ruling that Horne’s anti-Mexican-American Studies zeal bordered on discrimination.

“This single-minded focus on terminating the MAS (Mexican-American Studies) program, along with Horne’s decision not to issue findings against other ethnic studies programs, is at least suggestive of discriminatory intent,” Tashima wrote.

But the federal judge stopped short of invalidating the law on those grounds.

“Although some aspects of the record may be viewed to spark suspicion that the Latino population has been improperly targeted, on the whole, the evidence indicates that Defendants targeted the MAS program, not Latino students, teachers or community members who participated in the program,” the judge wrote in the ruling.

Not everyone agrees.

Writer and activist Tony Diaz – who along with independent journalist Liana Lopez and multimedia artist Bryan Parras launched a “librotraficante” caravan to “smuggle” books banned from Tucson classrooms into Arizona – said the court had “failed our youth, our culture and freedom of speech” by upholding the Arizona ethnic studies law.

“But we remain inspired by the youth of Tucson, the teachers, the families, the activists who will appeal this unjust ruling and continue the struggle to the Supreme Court,” Diaz said.

Photo: Save Ethnic Studies by Julio Salgado


You say hispanic, I say latino

Most use the words interchangeably these days, but the “hispanic” identity originated from an initiative in the 1970s to give Latin American’s in the United States a more unified voice in politics. UC Berkeley sociologist Cristina Mora talks about the positives and negatives of this distinction in her new book:

You have the person whose great-grandmother came from Argentina, but has never visited Latin America, and does not speak Spanish, lumped into the exact same category as a Guatemalan who just crossed the U.S. border.  One argument the book makes is that in order for all these government, market and political interests to come together, the category had to become broader in order to fit in all these ideas about Hispanics being consumers, or Hispanics being disadvantaged people.

Over time, the Hispanic identity has become based on cultural generalities such as ‘We all love our families. We are all religious and we all have some connection to the Spanish language however far back that may be.’  That’s a weakness and a strength. It was because of that ambiguity that we have the large numbers who identify as Hispanic and who have made advances.  But when you have such a broad and opaque category it’s hard to elicit and sustain passion and commitment.

Read more in her interview here 

[Caption: “gringos go home” painted in red on a wall]

GRINGO GO HOME: a comprehensive list of (some) of the bullshit the u.s. has pulled on latinoamerica

this list is being published on december 27th; 2014. i’m 20y/o; argentinian, not associated with any particular political party. i don’t claim to know everything that’s happened or is happening in latin america and i welcome any addition from fellow latinxs.

i want u.s. intervention on my country and the rest of my continent to stop; and i want the usamerican people to be aware of the atrocities that your country has committed against ours. 

i strongly suggest @thisisnotlatinx and @fylatinamericanhistory for more readings on latinoamerican history, politics and why your country fucking sucks. now: the first part of this post is mostly historical events from 20 years or longer ago; the second part is about more recent events.

#murder cw, #torture cw, #sterilization cw, #police violence cw, #medical cw, #drugs mention cw, #rape cw (add any warning i missed, por favor)

 recent events:


  • Para colaborar menciono el golpe de estado a Jacobo Arvenz en 1954 impulsado por EEUU debido a las medidas proteccionistas en el pais que perjudicaba a la United Fruit Company (empresa PRIVADA) // “To collaborate, let me mention the coup d'etat against Jacobo Arvenz (Guatemala) in 1954, pushed by the US due to the protectionist motions that affected the United Fruit Company” - via @thehawthornepassage
  • Por favor, no olvides el boicot económico que los Estados Unidos ejercieron sobre Argentina para forzar la caída del peronismo y evitar que Argentina se convirtiera en la potencia sudamericana que prometía ser en la primera mitad del siglo veinte. // “Please, don’t forget the economic boicot that the US used against Argentina to force the fall of Peronism and avoid Argentina becoming the south-American potency that it promised to be during the first half of the 20th century” - via @olie-golden-wolf

  • Dominican Republic: Two Interventions and support to the worst dictatorship in the island. A lot of people say Trujillo was the most bloodiest mothefucker -pretty sure I made a mistake in those words but wathever- in America Latina. Thanks. - via @juanitastar
  • American invasions/occupations of the Dominican Republic: 1916-1924; 1965-1966 (let’s be real the US never left)
    Also this gem:
    “Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, the brutal dictator who ruled the country with Washington’s blessing for 31 years.  Trujillo used the U.S.-trained National Guard to banish, torture or kill his opponents.  As President Franklin Roosevelt’s secretary of state, Cordell Hull famously said of Trujillo: "He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he is our son-of-a-bitch.” - 40 years later, U.S. invasion still haunts Dominican Republic  - via @212023
  • In 1856 the numerous attempts of a man known as William Walker to usurp Costa Rican land  by force and push for the construction of an inter-oceanic canal in the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border, also the systemic elimination of and defamation of all leftist and socialist parties in Costa Rica, as well as constantly violating Costa Rica´s peace and non military measures by sailing military vessels in Costa Rican waters. - via @kidofstories
  • I may add, in the case of Colombia (-via @yabanned​)
    • After failing to reach an agreement with Colombia’s government about Panama’s canal, USA gave the financial and military support required to make Panama a new country, which is not necessarily bad until you notice they asked in return 100 whole years of profit from the canal, and they incited a lot of corrpution and violence in the process. USA also supports Nicaragua in their fight for the Colombian island of San Andrés, which currently has got the islanders with no sea for fishing at all.
    • Approximately 3000 workers where murdered during the strike of the United Fruit Company in 1928, because USA threatened to invade Colombia if the national government didn’t do anything to protect the interests of the company. People from the USA army were involved in the massacre.
    • As mentioned, USA’s “aid” against drug trafficking has only caused more violence. USA gives financial support to paramilitary groups, which have committed massacres like Maripipan (1997), when more than 50 people where murdered with electric saws and machetes.
    • USA army has exclusive access to seven militar bases in Colombia: Malambo, Palenquero, Apiay, Cartagena, Bahía Málaga, Larandia and Tolemaida. In 2004, USA agreed to start an investigation on their soldiers located in Tolemaida after years of rape reports: the results estimate that 54 underage women, the younger being 11 years old, where raped by the soldiers between 2003 and 2007. Several of those sexual assaults were recorded and sold as pornography. None of the soldiers were prosecuted thanks to the lobby made by USA’s government, it is not expected they get punished by their crimes.

also; as of today, the list of USAmerican military bases; training locations and planned military programs on latinoamerican soil includes the following (sources and readings on why you should be angry and worried: [x] [x] [x] [x])

  • cuba (guantánamo)
  • puerto rico 
  • colombia
  • perú 
  • aruba
  • curaçao 
  • paraguay
  • brazil
  • el salvador
  • honduras
  • haiti
  • las bahamas
  • antigua y barbuda
  • ecuador
  • bolivia

EDIT: this list had originally included costa rica, but, as someone pointed out, the military pact that the US had started talking about w/costa rica’s government was never actually acted upon (“In June 2002 the United States signed an agreement with Costa Rica for an International Law Enforcement Academy, but popular movements have so far prevented the pact’s ratification. - [x]

If Latin America had not been pillaged by the U.S. capital since its independence, millions of desperate workers would not now be coming here in such numbers to reclaim a share of that wealth; and if the United States is today the world’s richest nation, it is in part because of the sweat and blood of the copper workers of Chile, the tin miners of Bolivia, the fruit pickers of Guatemala and Honduras, the cane cutters of Cuba, the oil workers of Venezuela and Mexico, the pharmaceutical workers of Puerto Rico, the ranch hands of Costa Rica and Argentina, the West Indians who died building the Panama Canal, and the Panamanians who maintained it.
—  Juan Gonzalez - Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America


Maria is a photography project created by Turkish photographer Pinar Yolaçan. Pinar traveled to the Brazilian Island of Ithaparica in the state of Bahia, a 40 minute boat ride from the capital city of Salvador. The subjects of her portraits are all Afro-Brazilian women ranging from the ages of twenty-seven and ninety. 

“I found a lot of inspiration in the African culture: Salvador was once the largest port for the slave trade in the New World, and while Ithaparica is one the poorest islands in Brazil’s rural northeast, people seemed very eccentric and sophisticated.”

[Mara is] a very common Portuguese name of course, and is either the first or second name of almost all the women I photographed in Bahia, and of course, the icon of Mary is ever-present in Bahia. Women wear necklaces with the Virgin Mary’s face on them and decorate the walls of their homes and stores with her image. Obviously none of my models look like these traditional depictions of Maria, so I am referring to this religious icon when I call the women Maria. The title is also a commentary on the colonial process of renaming (or creating an identity for) people.”

“The women’s garments are made out of fabric I bought in local fabric stores and of placenta and other animal parts that I bought in Salvador’s São Joaquim market. I was particularly interested in placenta because it’s a female organ that develops during birth. Most of the clothes are inspired from the Baroque era and Portuguese colonial style architecture in Salvador. There is also lots of draping - similar to biblical statues.”

- Pinar Yolaçan

what is latinx?

first: here is a really short tl;dr on most of the issues mentioned in this post.

and, just to make things clear: 

while “latinx” as a word does come from “latin”, as a label to identify latin-americans and those of latin-american ancestry living outside of the continent, it was coined by diasporic latinxs living in the united states in opposition to the label “hispanic”. so, while etymologically it does come from europe, historically it’s a word that represents a resistance movement and actively rejects colonialist and imperialist influence, strongly tied to the latinoamericanista and chicanx movements.

european countries are not latinx. spain/italy/portugal were referred to as “latin” in medieval times, but that term is obsolete. they are romantic countries/countries who speak romantic languages.
latinx as an ethnic label was specifically created by diasporic latinxs in the united states to oppose the “hispanic” label. europeans without latin-american ancestry have no right to the label “latinx”, and saying that a language has latin roots is not the same that saying that a person is latinx.

there are latinxs whose “colonizer ancestors” are the spaniards who raped their black and indigenous ancestors. there are latinxs who don’t have a drop of spaniard blood on their veins.
there are latinxs who had spanish forced onto them. there are latinxs who had spanish ripped from them. there are latinxs who had never spoken a word of spanish.
“hispanic” in the current international racial politics is a label created by gringxs to homogenize latin-american people due to racism and xenophobia (which is in itself a good reason to reject it), but in any case, it’s still a word strongly tied to spain and plenty of latinxs have absolutely no interest in being in any way associated with spain.

also: there are plenty of people who don’t use latinx for a myriad of reasons.

  • certain indigenous movements and indigenous people reject “latinx”. labels like chicanx, tainx and indigenous/aboriginal/native are only for people of those respective groups.
  • caribbean people (haitians, dominicans, cubans, puerto ricans) are latinx, but some might not self-identify as such or prioritize “caribbean” as an identity.
  • some latinxs (specially those living in the US) do self-identify as hispanic and they have a right to do so individually, but they still shouldn’t apply that label to others.
  • latinxs living in latin-america often identify first with their nationality and/or race, and keep the “latinx” label for political discussions or for international contexts.

as a rule, latinx and latin-american should be the go-to words when speaking about groups/in general, but in personal conversation you should ask what each person prefers.

This nylon jacket belonged to Cesar Chavez, a civil rights, Latino and farm labor leader who in 1962 founded the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, the first effective union of farm workers in the United States. As founder and president of the UFW, Chavez brought to light the plight of farm laborers through community organizing, marches, boycotts and fasts.

A migrant worker during his childhood, Chavez pledged his life to improving the stark conditions of farm labor. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., he practiced the principles of self-sacrifice and nonviolent resistance while seeking justice for the poorest of America’s laborers.

Through his compassion and humble leadership, Chavez inspired millions of Americans to fight for social justice. His birthday, March 31, is an official holiday in 10 states. In 1994, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Bill Clinton.

Chavez’s legacy will be featured in the exhibition, “American Enterprise,” which opens July 1, 2015 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  

Learn more about the UFW on the museum’s blog, “Feeding America: The people and politics that bring food to our table.”

Rudy Martinez: The Beginning of the Latino Impact in World War II

On December 7, 1941, the date that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said would “live in infamy,” the Imperial Japanese navy launched a surprise attack on the U.S. military base at Pear Harbor, Hawaii.

Rudy (Rudolph M.) Martinez was a young sailor who had just left his family in San Diego to begin his duties as a sailor in the U.S. Navy in Pearl Harbor. On the morning of the attack, the 21-year-old Navy electrician mate 3rd class was aboard the USS Utah when the battleship was hit by two Japanese torpedoes.

A vertical view of the wreckage of the USS UTAH (AG-16), which is now part of the USS UTAH MEMORIAL.
National Archives Identifier: 6349935

A Mexican American, Martinez officially became the first Hispanic to be killed in World War II. His final letter written home asked for a photo of his mother. Martinez’s death marked the beginning of the surge of Latino military service in World War II.

About half a million Latinos served during World War II. Gen. Douglas MacArthur called the Arizona National Guard’s 158th Infantry Regiment, known as “Bushmasters,” “one of the greatest fighting combat teams ever deployed for battle.” The regiment was composed of many Latino soldiers.

Martinez was awarded the Purple Heart and World War II Victory medal posthumously. Since then, more than 400 Latinos have received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration.

Keep reading (and en español) at: Prologue: Pieces of History » Rudy Martinez: The Beginning of the Latino Impact in World War II

Colombian children play in front of a grocery store advertising products in Palenquero

Palenquero is Latin America’s only surviving African-Spanish creole, that is spoken natively as a first language. Its speakers are based in the maroon town of San Basilio de Palenque on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Palenque is considered to be the first self-liberated settlement of Afro-descendants in South America; founded in the 17th century by Africans seeking refuge from slavery. Although Palenquero employs the lexicon of various African languages, most of the Africans brought to the Caribbean coast of Colombia were from areas of modern-day Congo and Angola, and for this reason over 90% of the creole’s African-based lexicon has it’s origins in the Bantu linguistic family. The language is believed to be the most African-infused creole in the Americas, given it’s long history and isolation from European languages, and for this reason there’s little mutual intelligibility between Spanish and Palenquero speakers. 

In the last few decades there has been a language shift from Palenquero to Spanish, and for this reason the number of native speakers has dropped significantly. It is estimated that only about half of the town speaks Palenquero fluently, that 88.7 percent of high school students use Spanish as their first language, and that only 15 percent of those students have frequent access to the Palenquero language outside school. One of the reasons for this shift, is that many Palenqueros traveled outside of their town to work in nearby banana plantations, where they were discriminated and ostracized for speaking their language by Spanish speakers; which until that time they had little to no interaction with. Another reason for the language shift, is due to accessibility with the rest of Colombia through the media. 

However, with accessibility to the rest of Colombia via television and radio, also came accessibility to various cultures in Africa. Cultural interactions between Palenque and Africa have strengthened the black pride and consciousness of Palenqueros, which has also given the community an urgency to preserve the language. Many young musicians perform champeta songs in the Palenquero language; champeta is a popular genre of music which mixes Palenquero folklore and West/Central African genres such as soukous and highlife. Palenquero has also been made a mandatory language in schools, and linguists have also created the first dictionary of the language with the help of the towns elders. Recent studies have found a trend in younger generations, welcoming the concept of bilingualism.