Students and activists set up â€œUnderground Librariesâ€ of books prohibited in suspended Mexican American Studies classrooms
VOICEOVER: On Friday, March 16th, a caravan of students, teachers, and activists calling themselves â€œlibrotraficantes,â€ or book traffickers, rolled into Tucson, Arizona bringing boxes of â€œsmuggledâ€ books that have been prohibited in the classrooms of the Tucson Unified School District following the controversial suspension of its Mexican American Studies program. The caravan traveled more than 1,000 miles over the span of 5 days after departing from Houston, Texas, with additional caravans arriving from other locations like Los Angeles. On Saturday, lead librotraficante organizer Tony Diaz and others staged a literary teach-in at the John Valenzuela Youth Center in South Tucson, where they also established one of several new â€œUnderground Librariesâ€ where the banned books will be available to community members.
TONY DIAZ, EL LIBROTRAFICANTE: Of course Arizona has become expert at making our people illegal now theyâ€
VOICEOVER: Curtis Acosta used to teach Chicano Literature at Tucson High before the Mexican American Studies program was disbanded. He says the librotraficantes event helps to further publicize the void created in Tucson classrooms which he says has already had an enormous impact on student engagement and quality of education.
CURTIS ACOSTA, TEACHER, TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: Well I think my students and myself we were all heartbroken and despondent about the fact that such an engaging academic space, an engaging curriculum and pedagogy everything was firing it was college prep it was rigorous it was loving it evoked issues of peace but it also really challenged my students as well as their critical thought and skills for college when that got ripped from us and in midstream and now itâ€
VOICEOVER: TUSD board President Mark Stegeman maintains that the books that were physically removed from classrooms have not been banned, but instead are just some of the many books that are regularly not approved for instruction.
MARK STEGEMAN, PRESIDENT, TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: Any district approves certain books for use in curriculum it might be a couple hundred books and it would be silly to call all the millions of books that are not on that list banned books, so these books are off of that list and so theyâ€
VOICEOVER: A number of students who were enrolled in the Mexican American Studies courses at the time they were prohibited attended the librotraficantes events. In spite of the school boardâ€
ASIYA MIR, STUDENT, TUCSON HIGH
I felt like, disbelief because thatâ€
VOICEOVER: The librotraficantes caravan exemplifies some of the ways that Tucson, Arizonaâ€