Cuauhtémoc, Dolores Huerta, and the Raza Studies Timeline

Mexican oral tradition hands us the following narrative, a narrative that is arguably related to the ongoing battle over Raza Studies in the state of Arizona.

Soon after the Spanish invaded Mexico and laid siege to Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the Supreme Senate of the Confederation of Anahuac, sent out a decree. In Spanish, it is known as El Ultimo Mandato de Cuauhtémoc or Cuauhtémoc’s Final Decree. Cuauhtémoc – Eagle that Descends from the Sky – is considered the last Tlatoani (great speaker) and the last defender of the Aztec-Mexica peoples.

The decree speaks of their sun concealing itself, directing the Mexica to destroy all that which they hold dear: “Let us destroy our temples, our places of study, our schools, our ballgame fields, and our houses of song.” The people are directed, not to destroy their culture, but to preserve it and to take it inside their homes and to bury it deep within their hearts.

One could argue that the Raza Studies timeline begins at this point… with the call to both resist and preserve the history, knowledge and ancient culture. But in reality, this cultural timeline goes back some seven thousand years to when maiz was created on this continent. But the timeline that we’re interested in here is when Raza Studies became controversial. In 2006, farm labor leader, Dolores Huerta, addressed students at Tucson High School, telling them: “Republicans hate Latinos.” Enraged, state schools superintendent Tom Horne dispatched his deputy superintendent, Margaret Dugan-Garcia, to THS to counter that idea, arguing she was proof that “Republicans don’t hate Latinos.” The students, according to Leilani Clark, who is Pueblo and African American and who was present at the speech, were directed not to ask questions, except in written form, two weeks ahead of time. To protest this form of censorship, the students put duct tape over their mouths and as Dugan-Garcia spoke, the students turned their back on her and then proceeded to walk out of the auditorium.

Since then and with a vengeance, Huerta’s pronouncement has proven to be completely on the mark, particularly in Arizona.

The events of 2006 and the subsequent attempts to destroy Ethnic/Raza Studies are arguably related to Cuauhtemoc’s decree, a decree that many Mexicans hold to be sacred.

Unbeknownst to themselves, Russell Pearce, author of most of the state’s anti-Mexican, anti-Indigenous and anti-immigrant bills, along with Tom Horne, the intellectual author of the state’s anti K-12 Ethnic/Raza Studies bill, are players in a cosmic drama that they have no knowledge of. John Huppenthal, Horne’s successor, is also implicated as he intends to wage this campaign at the university level.

Despite their constant and disingenuous mischaracterizations of TUSD’s highly successful Raza Studies program, these state officials have not actually publically opposed the teaching of Raza Studies; they are okay with students being taught their culture and history at home, just not in public schools.

This private/ public debate regarding culture is not new. Motivated by shame and subservience, it has been infamously advanced by reactionaries in regards to language and culture: keep them at home, not in public, not in the schools. And yet, to preserve the culture, this is precisely what Cuauhtémoc’s decree instructed.

However, the decree also instructed that one day, the need to hide the culture would cease and that there would come a time when there would no longer be a need to conceal the culture.

Some will call this private/public dynamic and allusion to Cuauhtémoc’s decree a metaphor and yet, this is precisely what Arizona state officials are again insisting upon, seemingly unaware that the era of shame, that the era of keeping one’s culture within the home has long past.

The battle over Ethnic/Raza Studies represents this epic struggle. Speaking to Clark, she agreed. She said that the problem with Horne and Pearce “is that what they don’t realize is the size of our home; it is the entire continent.” This comports with another decree, proclaimed this September at a continental Indigenous encounter in Peru: “No somos inmigrantes en nuestro propio continente” – We can not be immigrants on our own continent.”

The other problem Arizona state officials don’t realize is that the idea of remanding culture to the home is no longer acceptable. Perhaps that sufficed for nearly 500 years, but as the students at Tucson High proclaimed in 2006 when they walked out on Dugan-Garcia: “You can silence our voices, but never our spirit.”

This is why students and community have walked out, have run, marched, walked, protested, rallied, gotten arrested, held vigils, sit-ins and teach-ins for the past few years. The sense of shame has lifted. The idea of concealing their culture – the idea of acquiescing in their own ethnic cleansing is no longer an option. Their/our sun will never again be concealed.

  • In response to these issues, a national conference will be held in Tucson on Dec 2-4.
  • Roberto Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at: Read other articles by Roberto.

    13 comments on this article so far ...

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    1. kalidas said on November 24th, 2010 at 8:59am #

      If the Spanish invaded Mexico (second sentence) , when there was no such thing as “Mexico,” then one wonders what else is being “taught?”

      Por ejemplo, who then are the indigenas and how do THEY figure into these revisionist and blatantly racist La Raza ambiguities?

      Except for, of course, their eternal position at the bottom, below “*La Raza.”

      (*hondurans, puerto ricans, guatamalans, etc., etc. need not apply)

    2. hayate said on November 24th, 2010 at 12:06pm #

      kalidas said on November 24th, 2010 at 8:59am #

      “If the Spanish invaded Mexico (second sentence) , when there was no such thing as “Mexico,” then one wonders what else is being “taught?”

      Por ejemplo, who then are the indigenas and how do THEY figure into these revisionist and blatantly racist La Raza ambiguities?

      Except for, of course, their eternal position at the bottom, below “*La Raza.”

      (*hondurans, puerto ricans, guatamalans, etc., etc. need not apply)”

      This leaves one with the question of what do white supremacists hate more: different skin colours or different cultures?

    3. Dr Cintli said on November 24th, 2010 at 12:13pm #

      What cute comments…

      What are they doing here? Dissident or reactionary?

      The notion that there was no Mexico is akin to saying that the Spanish invaded nothing because there were no modern nation-states… thus, innocent! Thus is typical… the notion of a mostly empty continent… and the rest as wild or savage… and this in 2010?

    4. bozh said on November 24th, 2010 at 12:46pm #

      i am now conjecturing. whites coming to americas have been told by their masters and clergy that americas contained only of few people and of very primitive, wld nature, without god-religion and told the immigrants to multiply and take the ‘promised’ lands.

      as far as i know, indigenes of americas appeared quite civilized; however, without clergy and religion.
      and when nobility and clergy saw that, they went ballistic with hatred-rage. the civility and civilization had to be destroyed.
      but they r still at it. they r doing it now to new ‘indians’ in palestina, asia, afrika, and s. america. tnx

    5. kalidas said on November 24th, 2010 at 4:09pm #

      Dr Cintli and hayate,

      Couldn’t help but notice neither of you even attempted to answer my questions?

      One (Dr Cintli) simply uttered total nonsense and one (hayate) changed the subject.

      Dr Cintli, whatever it was the Spanish invaded, it sure as Hell wasn’t Mexico.
      Who said anything about nothing, nobody being here? Obviously that’s what you wanted to hear and comment on. Oh, you’re so advanced. If you were so compassionate and modern, you’d can the denial as to La Raza racism.
      I guarantee you any indigene/native would understand in a heartbeat.
      First they were abused by the Spaniards and now , right now, this very moment, they are abused by the Mexicans. Soon to be abused (officially?) by La Raza.
      Same to them as it ever was.
      How do they feel about “La Raza?”
      I’m pretty sure you know what the indigenes/natives would say.
      So who do you think you’re jivin with that cosmic debris?

      hayate, there are many indigenes in Mexico.
      White supremicists, white people in general, are the least of their problems.
      Most of them have never even seen a white person.
      They’ve seen, and felt, Mexicans though.

      Since the Mexicans are a mixture of Spanish/white blood, to whatever degree, why not ask them?

    6. Dr Cintli said on November 24th, 2010 at 5:41pm #


      you espouse nonsense under the guise of anonymity… and you make bizarre assumptions. Are you supposed to be the rep for Indigenous peoples? You should try comedy. I live in a state where “La Raza” is under daily attack, including by the likes of you who pompously think that by flipping the meaning of words, that somehow, you win the argument. What are you arguing… that “La Raza” is oppressing Whites? That Mexicans and “La Raza” are oppressors? What does your bizarre accusations have to do with the column I wrote… other than you disparignly mis-use the term “La Raza?” If you are unsure who the bigots in society are, try going to the website: Sothern Poverty Law Center… you might actually learn something.

    7. kalidas said on November 24th, 2010 at 6:59pm #

      Dr Cintli, I suggest a course in English comprehension.

      What am I suggesting?

      Actually, you got it, it seems, by accident.

      Door #2. That Mexicans and “La Raza” are oppressors? Bingo!

      “Sothern Poverty Law Center!!!”

      Case closed.

    8. Dr Cintli said on November 24th, 2010 at 7:04pm #

      English comprehension?

      But of course. Mexicans can’t read, write or comprehend.

      Try stepping into the real world and address the issues raised in the column, rather than isolating a term, changing its meaning, taking it out of context, then proclaiming that Mexicans and “La Raza” are oppressors.

      Your analysis would not even pass muster in a middle school classroom.

    9. kalidas said on November 24th, 2010 at 7:11pm #

      And I’m not talking about the error in spelling.
      Don’t want to confuse you, Doctor..

      I’m talking about the SPL is gonna use you up and abuse you up faster than you can say Hernan Cortes.

      Do you think that outfit of Zionist criminals (SPL) really gives a rat’s ass about you and yours?

      Golly, I wonder why you like them and use them as an example of an ally?


    10. Dr Cintli said on November 24th, 2010 at 7:22pm #

      Again, your anonymous posts are good for little better than comedy.

      Your arguments, however you categorize them in your own mind, are little different than those advanced by the enemies we face daily here in Arizona… that includes Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, Tom Horne, Jan Brewer, John Huppenthal…

      And while I know that the SPLC denounces them, you denounce us. So I take it I’m supposed to listen to your nonsensical and denigrating rants… keep writing if you wish… I don’t know toward what end? On my end, we will continue fighting supremacists and ignorants of all stripes, colors and ideologies…

      and of course, what are you doing on this list. Sounds like you belong on Reactionary Voice, not Dissident Voice. Don’t expect any more responses from me as I can’t read English.

    11. hayate said on November 24th, 2010 at 8:53pm #

      kalidas said on November 24th, 2010 at 4:09pm

      “and one (hayate) changed the subject.”

      No, nicnac, I was just pointing out that your comment was white supremacist.

    12. kalidas said on November 24th, 2010 at 9:31pm #

      The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.

      — Chinese proverb

    13. kalidas said on November 24th, 2010 at 9:32pm #

      As in, any friend of Morris Dees is no friend of mine.