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


“The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports”

The 140th Kentucky Derby takes place today. 

Some fans of the Kentucky Derby know that African American jockeys were quite successful in the early days of the race. But very few know that the trainer of the first winner Aristides in 1875 was former slave Ansel Williamson.

Aristides was ridden by jockey Oliver Lewis, also an African-American. In fact, African-Americans dominated horse racing, America’s longest, continuous sporting event. 

Once upon a time the Kentucky Derby was a Black thang. African-Americans once dominated the horse racing game so thoroughly between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century that when the first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 thirteen of the fifteen jockeys at the starting line were African-American. The dominance of the sport also extended to and included African-American horse owners, trainers, exercise riders and stable hands.

The next two Derby winning trainers – James Williams and Ed Brown – were also black. Black athletes dominated horse racing for the next three decades, winning 15 of the first 28 Derbies.

Sooooooooo, what happened? Whites resented the jockeys, who were bringing in big salaries, and also couldn’t deal with the fact that Blacks were dominating what was, in the nineteenth century, America’s national pastime. 

Klan intimidation, collusion to deny Black jockeys and trainers work and access to US tracks were factors as well. In addition the mass migration of African-Americans from the farms of the South to northern cities combined to ethnically cleanse horse racing of its African-American presence by the turn of the early 20th century. 

Black jockeys also faced intimidation from white jockeys. The racing establishment never banned African-American jockeys but they turned a decided blind-eye to racism. What are the results? An African-American hasn’t won the Kentucky Derby in over a century. 

Today, jockeys and trainers from Latin America dominate the sport. 

The top 10 jockeys, based on earnings by the horses they rode (mounts) in the United States in 2010, include the following Latinos: Ramón A. Domínguez (1,474 starts, $16,911,880); John R. Velázquez (1,192 starts, $16,743,328 horses’ earnings); Joel Rosario (1,335 starts, $15,897,538); Rafael Bejarano (1,292 starts, $14,225,120); Javier Castellano (1,243 starts, $13,037,706); Martín García (933 starts, $10,151,584); José Lezcano (1,054 starts, $9,277,682).

Of course, owners take 60% of the earnings from winnings. And most owners are still rich white men. 

The owners of the horses are more often otherwise anonymous extraordinarily rich Southerners than they are urbane self-made millionaires. They have money because their fathers had money and he had money because his father had money and so on until you think there might be a father who owned somebody else’s father. They are the unknown rich, without whom, there is no horse racing. Yet, they are almost never the featured player in the media’s coverage of the event.

(The Montreal Review, Fox News Latino, Trans Griot, ESPN)

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


Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta

  • Dolores Huerta was born on April 10, 1930 in Dawson, New Mexico
  • At three, her parents divorced and her mother moved the children to Stockton, California
  • Dolores’ grandfather took care of her and her brothers while her mother worked
  • Dolores received an associate’s degree in teaching from the University of the Pacific’s Delta Community College
  • She married Ralph Head while in college and had two children
  • Dolores taught grammar school for a while but resigned after seeing so many kids come to school hungry and without adequate clothing
  • In 1955, Dolores began her career in activism by helping Frank Ross start the Stockton Chapter of the Community Service Organization (CSO)
  • The CSO helped Hispanics economically and fought segregation , police brutality, and held voter registration drives
  • In 1960, she helped create the Agricultural Worker’s Associations (AWA) which led her to meet fellow activist Cesar Chavez
  • Dolores divorced her first husband and soon married Ventura Huerta and had five more kids
  • In 1962, Dolores and Cesar Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA)
  • Dolores served as the president of UWF until 1999
  • In 1965, Dolores helped organize the Delano Grape Strike where 5,000 grape farm workers protested against Delano grape growers
  •  In 1967 (or 1966), the United Farm Workers Union was formed (UWF), a combination of the AWA and NFWA
  • Dolores then helped negotiate contracts for workers and managed a hiring system
  • She also fought against the use of dangerous pesticides and advocated for unemployment and healthcare benefits for farm workers
  • In 1973, Dolores helped organize another large boycott which resulted in the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975
  • The act allowed farm workers to create unions and bargain for better wages and work conditions
  • In the 70s and 80s, she worked as a lobbyist on behalf of farmers in order to make sure they got proper representation
  • Dolores’ marriage to Ventura Huerta eventually ended and she began to have a relationship with Richard Chavez, brother of Cesar Chavez; they had four children together but never married
  • She has received many awards including the United States Presidential Eleanor D. Roosevelt Human Rights Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Source: biography, wikipedia, nwhm

Kids Pose as History’s Most Influential Latino Leaders

“Eunique Jones Gibson — photographer and creator of the non-profit organization Because of Them, We Can — has launched a new art campaign called Por Ellos, Si Podemos to send a positive message to kids by highlighting influential Latinos in history.

Most of the time when I hear about Latinos on television or even online, they’re negative stories…but very few about the positive impact and contributions that Latinos have had,“ Gibson tells Mashable. By turning her camera on these well-known Latino leaders, Gibson hopes to send a positive message to counter the dozens of negative ones children consume on a daily basis.

See all the kids and quotes here

Check out the website: Por Ellos, Si Podemos (in Spanish and English versions)


Women’s History Wednesday:

As part of its project to document the history of Iowa Latinas and their families, the Iowa Women’s Archives preserves and makes accessible the records of the LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) Council 10 of Davenport, Iowa. 

Mexicans arrived in Iowa as early as the 1880s, and by the 1920s boxcar communities had grown up near railroad yards in towns such as Fort Madison, Davenport, and Bettendorf. During the mid-20th century, second- and third-generation Mexican Americans fought for civil rights through organizations such as Davenport’s LULAC Council 10, founded in 1959 and still going strong today.

Pictured here is a LULAC Christmas party from the early 1960s, showing a blend of traditional activities such as pinata games alongside an early example of what has become an internet phenomenon – the “Scared of Santa” photo.

Iowa Digital Library: Mujeres Latinas Digital Collection

Iowa Women’s Archives: Guide to the LULAC Council 10 records

Iowa Women’s Archives: Mujeres Latinas Project


Harvest of Empire: The Untold Story of Latinos in America

“We are all Americans of the New World, and our most dangerous enemies
are not each other, but the great wall of ignorance between us.”

Juan González, Harvest of Empire

At a time of heated and divisive debate over immigration, Onyx Films is proud to present Harvest of Empire, a feature-length documentary that reveals the direct connection between the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and the immigration crisis we face today.

Based on the groundbreaking book by award-winning journalist and Democracy Now! Co-host Juan González, Harvest of Empire takes an unflinching look at the role that U.S. economic and military interests played in triggering an unprecedented wave of migration that is transforming our nation’s cultural and economic landscape.

From the wars for territorial expansion that gave the U.S. control of Puerto Rico, Cuba and more than half of Mexico, to the covert operations that imposed oppressive military regimes in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador, Harvest of Empire unveils a moving human story that is largely unknown to the great majority of citizens in the U.S. “They never teach us in school that the huge Latino presence here is a direct result of our own government’s actions in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America over many decades — actions that forced millions from that region to leave their homeland and journey north,” says Juan González at the beginning of the film.

Harvest of Empire provides a rare and powerful glimpse into the enormous sacrifices and rarely-noted triumphs of our nation’s growing Latino community.  The film features present day immigrant stories, rarely seen archival material, as well as interviews with such respected figures as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz, Mexican historian Dr. Lorenzo Meyer, journalists Maria Hinojosa and Geraldo Rivera, Grammy award-winning singer Luis Enrique, and poet Martín Espada.

Here’s who to thank for color television (submitted by Cat Machine):

Guillermo González Camarena (February 17, 1917 – April 18, 1965), was a Mexican engineer who was the inventor of a color-wheel type of color television, and who also introduced color television to Mexico.

Born in Guadalajara in 1917, his family moved to Mexico City when Guillermo was almost 2 years old. As a boy he made electrically propelled toys, and at the age of twelve built his first Amateur radio.

González Camarena was born into a family composed by Arturo González and Sara Camarena, originally from ArandasJalisco. One of his older brothers Jorge(1908–1980), was a prominent paintermuralist and sculptor.

In 1930 he graduated from the School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineers (ESIME) at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN); he obtained his first radio license two years laters.

He was also an avid stargazer; he built his own telescope and became a regular member of the Astronomical Society of Mexico.

González Camarena invented the “Chromoscopic adapter for television equipment”, an early color television transmission system. He was only 17. A U.S. patent application (2,296,019) states:

“My invention relates to the transmission and reception of colored pictures or images by wire or wireless…”

The invention was designed to be easy to adapt to black-and-white television equipment. González Camarena applied for this patent August 14, 1941 and obtained the patent September 15, 1942. He also filed for additional patents for color television systems in 1960 and 1962.

On August 31, 1946, González Camarena sent his first color transmission from his lab in the offices of The Mexican League of Radio Experiments, at Lucerna St. #1, in Mexico City. The video signal was transmitted at a frequency of 115 MHz. and the audio in the 40 meter band.

He obtained authorization to make the first publicly-announced color broadcast in Mexico, on February 8, 1963, Paraíso Infantil, on Mexico City's XHGC-TV, a station that he established in 1952. By that time, the government had adopted NTSC as the television color system.

He died in a car accident in Puebla on April 18, 1965, returning from inspecting a television transmitter in Las Lajas, Veracruz.

field-sequential color television system similar to his Tricolor system was used in NASA’s Voyager mission in 1979, to take pictures and video of Jupiter.[1]

In 1995, a Mexican science research and technology group created La Fundación Guillermo González Camarena (The Guillermo González Camarena Foundation), which benefits creative and talented inventors in Mexico.

Source: Wikipedia (visit their link for more info) 


Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 through October 15) by checking out events at your local library, or browsing through one of these classic Latino/a Studies books!

Clockwise from top left: The Latino/a Condition: A Critical Reader, Second Edition; Beyond El Barrio: Everyday Life in Latina/o AmericaLatino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of RaceLatino/a Popular CultureLoca Motion: The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture.


When we lived in the boxcars, we just ran like wild Indians…  We used to play outside and use our own imagination… We used to make up our own games and make our own toys ‘cause we didn’t have toys. I remember I’ll never forget, I always wanted a doll. So I took two sticks and I nailed it like that and made a cross and I wrapped rags around it and I carried that… like it was a doll.

Then when my sister went to work, I think she went to work on a WPA [project] and she bought me a doll, a real doll. 

– Estefania Rodriguez oral history interview, 2005. Mujeres Latinas Project, Iowa Women’s Archives

Iowa Digital Library: Richard, John, and Estefania Rodriguez in front of their boxcar home, Holy City, Bettendorf, Iowa, 1928

Iowa Digital Library: Nestora and Estefania Rodriguez, Holy City, Bettendorf, Iowa, 1929

Iowa Women’s Archives: Guide to the Estefania Joyce Rodriguez papers, 1902-2008

View all Women’s History Wednesday posts