Some day, scholars will major in Librotraficante Studies, analyzing the movement that started in Houston and spread across the country, culminating with a caravan carrying “wetbooks” banned by the Tuscon Unified School District.
Our path from Houston to Tucson is carved out of the history of our people.
We were inspired to take to the road when Arizona passed House Bill 2281 and dared to prohibit our history, then confiscated books by our most beloved authors from classrooms, and actually in front of students starving for cultural enrichment through each book’s contents.
The Aztec Muse inspired us to take to the road to return to our young the texts torn from their hands and to celebrate the madrinas and padrinos of literature. We keep our history alive with the blessing of the authors whose lives were dedicated to these works.
The Librotraficante Caravan created sacred spaces and historical moments in its path.
We left from Houston, the very place where 14 years ago I founded Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say to promote Latino literature and literacy. This made us part of an informal and powerful network that spans the entire nation and which galvanized for the cause of saving our history and culture.
Read Related: The Making of a Librotraficante
The House on Mango Street written by Sandra Cisneros was one of the works prohibited under Arizona HB2281. Sandra not only opened her heart for our cause, she opened her checkbook, and her home in San Antonio. We stayed in la famosa Casa Azul between great events in San Antonio which showered us with an outpouring of support. (See video of author Carmen Tafolla at the Alamo.)
Face of an Angel by Denise Chavez was not banned. However, she is one of the madrinas of Chicano Literature, and we must not let oppression erase or define our cannon. She and Messilla, New Mexico, treated us to love, great food, cash donations, and a ton of mind-altering prose for our brothers and sisters in Tucson.
Bless Me, Ultima written by Rodolfo Anaya was prohibited by Tucson Unified School District. We were honored to stop at his home in Albuquerque. My fellow Librotraficantes are expert at setting up the display of the books we are smuggling back into Arizona after legislators dared to make our stories contraband. We set up our display in his home.
Rodolfo stood over our books and gave our journey his blessing, making our texts even more sacred.
And as powerful as each of these moments was, perhaps one of the most moving moments occurred by chance in San Antonio, during our Teach-In at the Bil Hau Art Space, when we met Manuel Galvan. Manuel wore his Spurs sportswear to the Teach-In. He wore his shades indoors. He had on a huge gold chain, was covered in tattoos, and he had his 3 daughters and son with him.
I respect no borders. Thus, during my workshops non-teachers can attend and can also give testimonials.
He told us that when he was young, he thought the only roads available to him were gang life or jail. He was thrilled to meet people to inspire him. He said he was 38 years old, and he knew it was not too late to get his education, and he wanted his kids to be exposed to the stories that were kept from him.
We changed his life. And he changed ours.
As we are showered with love for this cause, it is clear that these texts we are conveying are love letters from our ancestors, from the Aztec Muse, from the wonderful people of each town we stop in, from people all around the world donating books, their time, energy, resources. And our mission is to convey these love letters to the students of Tucson, our young who are on the front line of struggle for our culture and the American Dream.