EDITOR’S NOTE: The Librotraficante Caravan got underway today in Houston, bound for Tucson. The Arizona city has been the focus of media attention due to a ban on Mexican-American studies by the Tuscon Unified School District. This is the first of many pieces author and Librotraficante founder Tony Diaz will write on the subject for Mamiverse. Librotraficante means “book trafficker.” Mamiverse is a sponsor of the caravan.
I always wondered what the world would have been like if my mom could have gone to college. I realize that would be tantamount to asking for the world to be different. And maybe that’s all that I ask. But maybe, the wisdom and love my mom taught me was that the world is changed not just by everything we do, but everything we feel, and when those come together, we see the impact. I think she would believe that this impact is not the only time that change happens, or the only time that our acts matter. I think of all of this on the dawn of when I make an impact. A journalist asked me what I was thinking as I prepared for the Librotraficante Caravan to Arizona.
And I realized I was probably thinking like my mom did. All of my degrees, all of the essays and books I’ve written, all of the work that I’ve done, and perhaps finally now, just now, I’ve caught up to the wisdom of my mom.
IN SEARCH OF A BETTER LIFE
My mother’ name was Maria Anita Diaz. She was born in Mexico. Like so many others, she came to this country seeking a better life. She was married and had her first child when she was 15. Her parents worked a farm in Mexico. She came to the U.S. to pick crops on other people’s ranches. She didn’t go to school. She taught herself how to read. She gave me many of her gifts. She blessed me by making me open to gifts, from the beauty mark on my cheek, to my sense of humor, to my love of words and story.
My mother was our storyteller.
She would keep us spellbound on our porch in Chicago, at Christmas parties, at barbecues; my mother was the center of our universe, and in Chicago, after the migrant work era of my family in Texas, we had time and energy to sit and talk. I always imagine her sitting and reading the Spanish newspapers. She would pray every night, and then say the full rosary every Thursday night. I remember one Thursday evening, when I had moved my parents down to Houston from Chicago, after I had decided to pursue a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Houston Creative Writing program, she had asked me to come keep watch while she prayed. I knew she just wanted me around. I lifted weights as she prayed. And I got to hear her pray for me again.
I don’t care where you stand on religion, but to have someone love you so much that she would appeal, unabashedly, to all forces in the universe for your well-being—that is a powerful feeling. It made me understand why I was confident. It made me understand why I did not fear. It made me understand why I did not hate.
Sometimes, when my mother would tell me the injustices she had to suffer, I would get enraged. She would calm me down, and tell me that it was okay. She had my father, her children, and especially me. We had a home. I had an education. Everything she had gone through was necessary, leading up to such wonderful moments. And now, right now, everything has lead up to this wonderful moment.
THE DAWN OF A NEW MOMENT AND MOVEMENT
I think of that as I pack for the week-long journey from Texas to Arizona, to protest a law passed in Arizona that threatens to erase our history. I am blessed to have to be the scribe for the tribe. I carry my mother’s stories with me.
We launch the Librotraficante Caravan from Casa Ramirez, in the Heights, in Houston, Texas. This is the site that hosted the first book signings for my novel The Aztec Love God. That was the first time my mother heard me read from my work for the first time. The proprietor, Macario Ramirez, marched with Cesar Chavez. He is a defender or our community, our history, our art, our traditions. He conducts workshops on how to build altars for day of the dead. His altar to his father is on permanent display. When my mother passed away, he helped me heal by letting me share my loss during that year’s day of the dead observation. I built her an altar.
And perhaps this journey, too, is an altar to her, and all our ancestors whose stories might not be told, but who have infused us with a power that we can, and must, put into words.
I am not alone.
I am emboldened, inspired, and protected by many who have deferred their glory for the glory of their children. In the same way my mother did. And now, our time is here.
Tony Diaz is the author of The Aztec Love God and the Founder/Director of Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say.
I Am a Librotraficante
The word “librotraficante” should not make sense in the U.S. Yet here it is 2012, and I find myself translating the word as “book trafficker.” But that’s what I do.
One of my first jobs as a child was to translate English into Spanish for my parents. I remember being in second grade and translating for my father as he bought a used car. I didn’t like the way the salesman talked down to my father, and I didn’t like the way he talked down to me—even though I was just a kid. However, I knew we needed the car, and I knew I needed to concentrate on finding just the right words to leave with that car.
I had no intention of becoming a ‘Librotraficante.’ Arizona legislators turned me into one. Arizona legislators became expert at making humans illegal. But they have gone too far by making our books—our thoughts—our culture—our history illegal.
For the full version of this article, go to CNN.
Librotraficante Founder Tony Diaz provides an update on the caravan trafficking books to Arizona from Fort Stockton, Texas. The caravan left Houston Monday and made a stop in San Antonio. Next stop: El Paso.
NEW MEXICO—As the Librotraficante caravan winds its way ever closer to Arizona, author and Librotraficante founder Tony Diaz picks up more support, as evidenced by this gathering of book traffickers in Albuquerque, NM. Check back for more updates.