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Librotraficante begin next chapter by marching on Texas capital in support of critical race theory

The group of Chicano activists and writers formed in 2010 are out to support professors that faced threats to their tenure for teaching the subject.

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As state governments across the country continue attempting to ban critical race theory as well as what books students can and cannot read, one organization is fighting back.

In 2010, a group of Chicano activists and writers, called Librotraficante, smuggled banned Chicano history and other books from Texas into Arizona, after the Tucson Unified School District dismantled the Mexican-American Studies program. Seven years later, a federal judge prohibited Arizona education officials from enforcing the ethnic studies ban.

Currently, Texas lawmakers are taking aim at subjects like critical race theory, and some school districts have removed books containing LGBTQ+ narratives.

“So now, 10 years later, because of the governor and the lieutenant governor's stance on critical race theory, we are in danger of losing the progress that we’ve made with Mexican-American studies and African-American studies,” Laura Razo, founding member of Librotraficante, told KXAN

On Friday, April 29, the group is going to Austin, Texas to applaud past activists but also to relaunch efforts to keep these teachings within classrooms. 

At 2 p.m, the group will gather at Palm Park, and after a brief program they will march with the Librotraficante Caravan to the State Capitol. 

Their protest could be the most visible book-ban pushback organized by Latinos so far. Librotraficante founder Tony Diaz told NBC News that the caravan and rally are more than just a response to the latest book bans. 

“We want these books in the classrooms, so people are uniting for that. This is not going to be a one-shot deal,” Diaz said.

Several of the books targeted in Texas are LGBTQ+ themed or were written by LGBTQ+ authors, some of whom are Latino. 

Attempts to ban books worsen the invisibility that many Latino authors, scholars and activists say they struggle with.

Paul Ortiz’s award-winning book, An African American and Latinx History of the United States, is on a list of hundreds of books that Texas Republicans have been removing from school libraries and classrooms. The list, compiled by State Rep. Matt Krause, includes books on race, sexuality, abortion, and other topics. 

“It took us years, decades of struggle to even be able to get Chicano, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and any of those histories into our schools,” author Paul Ortiz told NBC News.

Award-winning author Dagoberto Gilb, echoed this sentiment, saying that Latino authors are invisible to most literary lists. Glib participated in the Arizona Librotraficante movement after his works were banned. 

The nation’s oldest Hispanic publishing house, Arte Público Press, has donated a box of books by Gloria Velásquez to the caravans. These books will then be donated to various nonprofits, including one that operates a mobile library, assisting the activists in creating a string of “underground” libraries where forbidden books can be accessed. 

Velásquez’s book Tommy Stands Alone, is also among the hundreds of books banned in Texas. The book pays tribute to her cousin who lived with and died of AIDS. 

The Librotraficantes are launching their next chapter with a caravan to Austin on April 29 to confront Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick about his threat to remove tenure from professors who teach critical race theory at publicly-funded universities.

“Recently, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he planned to 'go after professors who teach Critical Race Theory.' He must clarify if he believes Mexican American History is CRT. We became Librotraficantes ten years ago to defy Arizona officials banning Mexican American Studies. We will not tolerate such bans in our own backyard,” Diaz said in a statement. 


 

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