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 Harbeer Sandhu
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REMEMBER THE ALAMO: Librotraficante Road Report #1

REMEMBER THE ALAMO: Librotraficante Road Report #1
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Photo by Liana Lopez

When and where can you see five dyed and mohawked chican@ punks posing for photos with a Texas state legislator dressed in a suit and tie? In front of the Alamo on spring break Monday, duh!
You know the Alamo; it’s that old building in San Antonio that Ozzy Osbourne once mistook for a bathroom, the building whose basement allegedly stored Pee Wee’s beloved bicycle, the old stone mission which is much smaller in real life than childhood memories or iconic photographs might have you believe.
The state legislator, Joaquín Castro (who also happens to be the twin brother of San Antonio mayor Julian Castro) has just wrapped up a passionate speech supporting the Librotraficante Caravan at a press conference in front of the Alamo. He is followed by the poet/publisher/professor (both women play all three roles) Lorna Dee Cervantes and Carmen Tafolla.
Tourists–all families with children, mostly white and Latino–slow down and even stop to hear what the hubbub’s about. Most are visibly supportive, and only one (a Latino) yanks his young son’s arm to drag him away while throwing a cross look in the direction of the speakers.
Dr. Cervantes tells a story about a conversation she had 40 years ago with a high school teacher who asked her about her life plans.

“I want to get a Ph.D. and become a university professor,” Cervantes told her.
“You are not college material,” was the teacher’s reply. “You are going to fail.”
Boy did she prove that lady wrong.

Dr. Tafolla delivers an equally passionate speech that lays bare the lies of the Arizona legislature and Tucson School District, who say that all ethnic studies are banned (Anglo studies are not) and that the books have not been banned because even though they’ve been removed from classrooms, they are still (sometimes) available in libraries.
After the Alamo, the next stop on the caravan is the Southwest Workers Union, where we are inaugurating the second “Underground Library” of these banned books. The first banned-book library was established at Houston’s Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA) last week.
SWU is housed in a complex that includes an old barber shop and a home that was shot in an apparent hate crime last year, near the Alamo Dome and the Tower of the Americas, in the shadows of San Antonio’s ubiquitous luxury hotels that dominate the skyline. Out back, there is a huge back yard with a community garden teeming with onions, cabbage, arugula, spinach, and a healing garden where they grow curative herbs.
At least 120 people show up for the event–sharing food before an evening of entertainment that includes two dance troupes, poetry, and live hip hop, before the local San Antonio funk band Bombasta closes out the night with a set that fires up the dance floor.
Today, Tuesday, is day two of the caravan. This morning, at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, there is a strategy meeting to perform a “First Amendment Review” of each school board member in San Antonio’s five area school districts. We will do this again at each of the stops: in El Paso, Albuquerque, Tucson, and even Houston when we return.
This afternoon, Houston Community College Professor Tony Diaz leads an “Ultimate Teacher Workshop” at Bihl Haus, which shares strategies with educators to teach the same material that Arizona has deemed “controversial” but with a different set of texts off Diaz’s “Supplanted Book List.”
Tomorrow we travel to El Paso. Stay tuned for more highlights, but in the meantime, check out the video made just two months ago that kicked off a movement–new media saving old media!