How Banning Mexican-American Studies Ironically Backfired

Lead Photo: Photo by Getty Images
Photo by Getty Images
Read more

If they’d known what we know now, Arizona lawmakers may have thought twice about banning Mexican-American studies in the Tucson Unified School District back in 2010. Because what began as a bill to kill a Mexican-American studies class in a single district in one small city, prompted a nationwide backlash. In fact, it’s the reason Mexican-American studies are spreading to high schools across America at an unprecedented pace – California and Texas schools are now considering offering the course at all their high schools.

But how exactly did this happen? A recent feature in The Atlantic traces the path from HB 2281, (the bill to ban the course signed by Arizona’s majority-Republican legislature), to the movement of Chicano “librotraficante” activists who began smuggling the banned books back into Tucson, to what became a national education advocacy movement.

“[The ban] sped up the evolution by about 25 years,” librotraficante Tony Diaz told The Atlantic. “It’s clear to me that our intellectual advancement is a threat to some people, because they tried to make it illegal.”

For more on how banning Mexican-American studies led to its rise, read The Atlantic feature here. And while you’re at it check out our Tucson Banned Book reading list too, which is still just as essential today.