By MONICA DELEON, age 12

Tony Diaz, “El Librotraficante,” rides in a bus handing out the banned books in Tucson, Arizona. PHOTO: Tony Diaz
Tony Diaz, “El Librotraficante,” rides in a bus handing out the banned books in Tucson, Arizona. PHOTO: Tony Diaz

In January 2011, Arizona state officials declared the Mexican-American Studies curriculum (MAS) that was being taught in Tucson schools illegal. Soon after, several books that were used in these courses were removed from schools. State officials feared that the MAS curriculum would create anti-U.S. sentiment among students. In a statement after the law passed, a state representative said, “Public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people.”

Tony Diaz, “El Librotraficante” (Spanish for “book smuggler”), is against the law and the banning of MAS books. He told NBC Latino, “One of my big concerns was that this anti-intellectual law would spread.” Most of the banned books were by Latino authors, such as Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales, Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado, 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures by Elizabeth Martinez, and Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. El Librotraficante rides in a bus handing out the banned books in Tucson, Arizona so that young people can learn about Mexican-American history and culture.

Diaz thinks that everybody should learn about different cultures and believes that the ban is part of a wider attack on the Latino community. In 2012, he told New America Media, “Arizona has perpetrated a message to make our people illegal; other states copied those anti-immigrant laws. Now they’re making our history illegal. They’ve gone too far. If we allow this law to stand, it too will spread.”