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Reies Tijerina : el tigre

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Title:
Reies Tijerina : el tigre
Series Title:
This week in history
Creator:
Castro, Richard T.
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
Richard T. Castron
Publication Date:
Language:
English

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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Copyright [name of copyright holder or Creator or Publisher as appropriate]. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Full Text
This Week In History
"Reies Tijerina: El Tigre"
For most Americans, the drowsy little village of Tierra
\
Amarilla in Northern New Mexico was first placed on the map June 6, 1967, On the second morning of the Arab-Israeli six-day
WAR, NEWSPAPER READERS ALL OVER THE UNITED STATES TURNED FROM
the Sinai struggle to a national item that made them hastily
RECHECK THE DATELINE TO BE SURE THEY WERE STILL IN THE 20TH CENTURY.
The previous afternoon some 20 Hispanics bearing pistols
AND RIFLES, DESCENDED UPON A DELAPIDATED COUNTY COURTHOUSE IN
Rio Arriba County in northern New Mexico just south of the Colorado border, After two hours of shooting and threatening,
THE BAND FLED INTO THE MOUNTAINS. IN SETTING, CHARACTERS, AND ACTION, THE ITEM WAS STRAIGHT OUT OF THE GUN-LAW, OLD WEST.
Those who enjoyed the exploits of Joe Mondragon in the novel "Milagro Beanfield War", should read Peter Nabokov's book "Tijerina And The Courthouse Raid," and learn about a real life
LAND REFORMER WHO SPRANG OUT OF THIS INCIDENT IN NORTHERN NEW
Mexico.
The real life "shootout" ended with one policeman on the
EDGE OF DEATH, STATE POLICE CARS SHOT APART, A UPI REPORTER AND A SHERIFF'S DEPUTY TAKEN HOSTAGE IN A GET-A-WAY CARAVAN, AND A TOWN PARALYZED WITH FEAR, EXPLANATIONS IN THE MEDIA ALSO


2
READ LIKE A CINEMA SCRIPT. THE ATTACK WAS RELATED TO THE PROTEST EFFORTS OF A MILITANT RURAL HISPANIC ORGANIZATION IN THE SOUTHWEST KNOWN AS THE ALIANZA. THIS GROUP HAD BEEN
DEMANDING FOR FOUR YEARS THE RETURN OF MILLIONS OF ACRES OF FEDERAL AND PRIVATELY LEASED LAND. THE ALIANZA INSISTED IT WAS THEIR LEGAL INHERITANCE THROUGH OLD SPANISH AND MEXICAN LAND GRANTS GIVEN TO THEIR ANCESTORS.
Leading the group was a Hispanic ex-evangelist named Reies Lopez Tijerina. El Tigre (The Tiger). One of ten children
BORN TO AN IMPOVERISHED TEXAS SHARECROPPER. TIJERINA POSSESSED ALL THE QUALITIES OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP. HE WAS A MAN OF IMMENSE ENERGY AND RAW SKILL. HlS YOUTHFUL EXPERIENCES HAD GIVEN HIM THE KNOWLEDGE OF "ANGLO" PREJUDICE. HlS LATER YEARS AS A CROSS-COUNTRY EVANGELIST SHARPENED HIS NATURAL RHETORICAL
gifts. By the time he arrived in New Mexico in the late 1950's
HE HAD A CHECKERED PAST OF A FUGITIVE FROM THE LAW AND A BIBLE
Belt fundamentalist turned political insurgent.
At the time of the gun fight, it was unclear whether the AO year old Tijerina had personally commanded the Tierra Amarilla raiding party. First accounts identified him at the scene. Immediately he and a small band of followers became
TARGETS OF THE LARGEST MANHUNT IN NEW MEXICO HISTORY. NATIONAL
Guard convoys, state police from all northern counties, local
SHERIFFS AND UNOFFICIAL POSSES. JI CAR ILLA APACHE POLICE AND CATTLE INSPECTORS. ALL JOINED THE SEARCH. EQUIPPED WITH TWO


3
TANKS, HELICOPTERS, DRONING SPOTTER PLANES, A HOSPITAL VAN, AND PATROLLING JEEPS, THESE FORCES COMBED EVERY HAMLET, GULLY AND PASTURE FOR THE "INSURRECTIONISTS" WHO HAD STAGED THE BOLD DAYLIGHT RAID.
The events unfolded with such melodramatic predictability that Americans outside the five southwestern states were
SUSPICIOUS OF THE BASIC SERIOUSNESS OF THE PLOT. BUT THE
citizens of New Mexico, with its long history of cultural
FRICTION, DID NOT HAVE TO BE TOLD WHAT THE INCIDENT HAD BROUGHT TO A HEAD.
The raid was a contemporary fragment of an old epic. The
FIRST GUNSHOT IN TlERRA AMARILLA HAD ITS ORIGIN IN THE LAST DECADE OF THE 16TH CENTURY WHEN DON JUAN DE ONATE LED THE FIRST SETTLERS INTO THE NORTHERN NEW MEXICO VASTNESS. HERE THE
Hispanic village cultures evolved over the next two hundred years. In 1821, Mexican jurisdiction over the territory, BRIEFLY REPLACED SPANISH "OWNERSHIP." THEN IN 1848, THE UNITED
States won its two year war with Mexico and signed the Treaty
of Guadalupe Hidalgo- and a foreign way of life and an alien
JUDICIAL MENTALITY BEGAN TO ENTER NORTHERN NEW MEXICO.
The American presence was first manifested as an
OCCUPATIONAL FORCE RATHER THAN A HOME-STEADING INVASION. THIS CHANGED IN THE 1880'S HOWEVER, WHEN THE COMING OF THE RAILROADS


OPENED UP THE LUSH VALLEY RANGE. As THE HISPANIC VILLAGE LANDS BECAME ECONOMICALLY ATTRACTIVE, THE INEVITABLE OCCURRED.
The villagers' loss of land was often imperceptible and
USUALLY "LEGALLY" JUSTIFIABLE. TODAY, ALMOST ALL ANCESTRAL LAND-GRANT HOLDINGS ARE IN THE HANDS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OR HAVE BEEN ABSORBED INTO EXTENSIVE CATTLE RANCHES. THE TIER OF CENTRAL NORTHERN COUNTIES OF THE STATE IS STILL IN MANY WAYS, ON THE MARGIN OF MODERN AMERICA. THE PEOPLE STILL EXHIBIT THE CULTURAL PATTERNS OF A UNIQUE RACIAL MIXTURE - THE TRIBAL NATIVE AND THE COLONIZING LATIN - INCLUDING AN ABIDING RESENTMENT OF
the American way of life which continues to rob the northerner
OF THE LAND HE HAS WORKED AND LOVED. IN THE 19TH CENTURY, THAT BITTERNESS ERUPTED INTO SHORT-LIVED TERRORISM. SINCE THE TURN OF THE CENTURY, NOTHING HAD EQUALED THE FURY OF THE TlERRA
Amarilla courthouse raid. On that afternoon, the social fabric of New Mexico was irrevocably altered.
Tijerina was tried in Federal court for his role in the
COURTHOUSE RAID. HE SERVED THREE YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON, AND WAS SUBJECTED TO ADDITIONAL GOVERNMENTAL HARASSMENT AFTER HE WAS RELEASED. IN THE EARLY 70'S I HAD THE RARE OPPORTUNITY
to visit with Tijerina in his home in Albuquerque. He lived
IN A LARGE CINDER-BLOCK SECTION OF THE ALIANZA BUILDING. IT HAD NO WINDOWS AND HAD THE EFFECT OF BEING IN A BUNKER. HE
HAS SINCE MOVED OUT AND IS AGAIN LIVING IN THE MOUNTAINS OF
Northern New Mexico.


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When I think of Reies "El Tigre" Tijerina, I will always
THINK OF THE FIRE THAT BURNED WITHIN HIM THAT FUELED HIS FIGHT TO REGAIN THE STOLEN LAND GRANTS OF EARLY SPANISH AND MEXICAN SETTLERS.
The following quotation of Reies speaking before the State Board of Health and Social Services exemplifies his love for
THE POOR AND HIS LOVE FOR THE LAND. TIJERINA SAID, "THE RICH NEED THE POOR AS MUCH AS THE POOR NEED THE RICH, A LAND WITHOUT POOR PEOPLE IS LIKE A GARDEN WITHOUT FLOWERS. IT IS LIKE A HOME WITHOUT CHILDREN. IT IS THE POOR THAT BRINGS BALANCE TO
society. . . . Finally, the poor will lead the rich into
SALVATION, INTO ENLIGHTENMENT. NOT WITH BULLETS, NOT WITH ANOTHER WAR LIKE IN VlETNAME, BUT IN COMPASSION."
Richard Castro is the Executive Director of the Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations


Full Text

PAGE 1

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY . "REIES TIJERINA: EL TIGRE" FOR MOST AMERICANS 1 THE DROWSY LITTLE VILLAGE OF TIERRA AMARILLA IN NORTHERN NEW MEXICO WAS FIRST PLACED ON THE MAP JUNE 61 1967, ON THE SECOND MORNING OF THE ARAB-ISRAELI SIX-DAY WAR 1 NEWSPAPER READERS ALL OVER THE UN I TED STATES TURNED FROM THE SINAI STRUGGLE TO A NATIONAL ITEM THAT MADE THEM HASTILY RECHECK THE DATELINE TO BE SURE THEY WERE STILL IN THE 20TH CENTURY. THE PREVIOUS AFTERNOON SOME 20 HISPANICS BEARING PISTOLS AND DESCENDED UPON A DELAPIDATED COUNTY COURTHOUSE IN RIO ARRIBA COUNTY IN NORTHERN NE MEXICO JUST SOUTH OF THE COLORADO BORDER, AFTER TWO HOURS OF SHOOTING AND THREATENING 1 THE BAND FLED INTO THE MOUNTAINS, IN SETTING 1 CHARACTERS 1 AND THE ITEM WAS STRAIGHT OUT OF THE OLD WEST. THOSE WHO ENJOYED THE EXPLOITS OF JOE MONDRAGON IN THE NOVEL "MI LAGRO BEANF I ELD WAR" 1 SHOULD READ PETER NABOKOV' S BOOK "TIJERINA AND THE COURTHOUSE RAID/' AND LEARN ABOUT A REAL LIFE LAND REFORMER WHO SPRANG OUT OF THIS INC I DENT IN NORTHERN NEW MEXICO. THE REAL LIFE "SHOOTOUT" ENDED WITH ONE POLICEMAN ON THE EDGE OF STATE POLICE CARS SHOT APART 1 A UPI REPORTER AND A SHERIFF'S DEPUTY TAKEN HOSTAGE IN A GET-A-WAY AND A TOWN PARALYZED WITH FEAR. EXPLANATIONS IN THE MEDIA ALSO

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2 READ LIKE A CINEMA SCRIPT. THE ATTACK WAS RELATED . TO THE PROTEST EFFORTS OF A MILITANT RURAL HISPANIC ORGANIZATION IN THE SOUTHWEST KNOWN AS THE ALI ANZA, THIS GROUP HAD BEEN DEMANDING FOR FOUR YEARS THE RETURN OF MILLIONS OF ACRES OF FEDERAL AND PR I VA TEL Y LEASED LAND, THE ALI ANZA INSISTED IT WAS THEIR LEGAL INHERITANCE THROUGH OLD SPANISH AND MEXICAN LAND GRANTS GIVEN TO THEIR ANCESTORS. LEADING THE GROUP WAS A HISPANIC EX-EVANGELIST NAMED REIES LOPEZ TIJERINA, EL TIGRE (THE TIGER). ONE OF TEN CHILDREN BORN TO AN IMPOVERISHED TEXAS SHARECROPPER. TIJERINA POSSESSED ALL THE QUALITIES OF CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP. HE WAS A MAN OF IMMENSE ENERGY AND RAW SKILL, HIS YOUTHFUL EXPERIENCES HAD GIVEN HIM THE KNOWLEDGE OF "ANGLO" PREJUDICE. HIS LATER YEARS AS A CROSS-COUNTRY EVANGEL! ST SHARPENED HIS NATURAL RHETORICAL GIFTS. BY THE TIME HE ARRIVED IN NEW MEXICO IN THE LATE 1950's HE HAD A CHECKERED PAST OF A FUGITIVE FROM THE LAW AND A BIBLE BELT FUNDAMENTALIST TURNED POLITICAL INSURGENT. AT THE TIME OF THE GUN FIGHT, IT WAS UNCLEAR WHETHER THE 40 YEAR OLD TIJERINA HAD PERSONALLY COMMANDED THE TIERRA AMARILLA RAIDING PARTY. FIRST ACCOUNTS IDENTIFIED HIM AT THE SCENE. IMMEDIATELY HE AND A SMALL BAND OF FOLLOWERS BECAME TARGETS OF THE LARGEST MANHUNT IN NEW MEXICO HISTORY. NATIONAL GUARD CONVOYS, STATE POLICE FROM ALL NORTHERN COUNTIES, LOCAL SHERIFFS AND UNOFFICIAL POSSES, JICARILLA APACHE POLICE AND CATTLE INSPECTORS, ALL JOINED THE SEARCH. EQUIPPED WITH TWO

PAGE 3

3 TANKS, HELICOPTERS, DRONING SPOTTER PLANES, A HOSPITAL VAN, AND PATROLLING JEEPS, THESE FORCES COMBED EVERY HAMLET, GULLY AND PASTURE FOR THE "INSURRECTIONISTS" WHO HAD STAGED THE BOLD DAy Ll G HT RAID I THE EVENTS UN FOLDED WITH SUCH MELODRAMATIC PREDICTABILITY THAT AMERICANS OUTSIDE THE FIVE SOUTHWESTERN STATES WERE SUSPICIOUS OF THE BAS I C SERIOUSNESS OF THE PLOT. BUT THE CITIZENS OF NEW MEXICO, WITH ITS LONG HISTORY OF CULTURAL FRICTION, DID NOT HAVE TO BE TOLD WHAT THE INC I DENT HAD BROUGHT TO A HEAD. THE RAID WAS A CONTEMPORARY FRAGMENT OF AN OLD EPIC. THE FIRST GUNSHOT IN TIERRA AMARILLA HAD ITS ORIGIN IN THE LAST DECADE OF THE 16TH CENTURY WHEN DON JUAN DE ONATE LED THE FIRST SETTLERS INTO THE NORTHERN NEW MEXICO VASTNESS. HERE THE HISPANIC VILLAGE CULTURES EVOLVED OVER THE NEXT TWO HUNDRED YEARS. IN 1821, MEXICAN JURISDICTION OVER THE TERRITORY, BRIEFLY REPLACED SPANISH "OWNERSHIP." THEN IN 1848, THE UNITED STATES WON ITS TWO YEAR WAR WITH MEXICO AND SIGNED THE TREATY OF GUADALUPE HIDALGO-AND A FOREIGN WAY OF Ll FE AND AN ALI EN JUDICIAL MENTALITY BEGAN TO ENTER NORTHERN NEW MEXICO. THE AMERICAN PRESENCE WAS FIRST MANIFESTED AS AN OCCUPATIONAL FORCE RATHER THAN A HOME -STEADING INVASION. THIS CHANGED IN THE 1880's HOWEVER, WHEN THE COMING OF THE RAILROADS

PAGE 4

4 OPENED UP THE LUSH VALLEY RANGE. As THE HISPANIC VILLAGE LANDS BECAME ECONOMICALLY THE INEVITABLE OCCURRED. THE VILLAGERS' LOSS OF LAND WAS OFTEN I MPERCEPT I BL E AND USUALLY uLEGALLYu JUSTIFIABLE. ALMOST ALL ANCESTRAL LAND-GRANT HOLDINGS ARE IN THE HANDS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OR HAVE BEEN ABSORBED INTO EXTENSIVE CATTLE RANCHES, THE TIER OF CENTRAL NORTHERN COUNTIES OF THE STATE IS STILL IN MANY WAYS1 ON THE MARGIN OF MODERN AMERICA, THE PEOPLE STILL EXHIBIT THE CULTURAL PATTERNS OF A UNIQUE RACIAL MIXTURE -THE TRIBAL NATIVE AND THE COLONIZING LATININCLUDING AN ABIDING RESENTMENT OF THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE WHICH CONTINUES TO ROB THE NORTHERNER OF THE LAND HE HAS WORKED AND LOVED, IN THE 19TH CENTURY 1 THAT BITTERNESS ERUPTED INTO SHORT-LIVED TERRORISM. SINCE THE TURN OF THE CENTURY 1 NOTHING HAD EQUAL ED THE FURY OF THE TIERRA AMARILLA COURTHOUSE RAID, ON THAT AFTERNOON 1 THE SOCIAL FABRIC OF NEW MEXICO WAS IRREVOCABLY ALTERED. TIJERINA WAS TRIED IN FEDERAL COURT FOR HIS ROLE IN THE COURTHOUSE RAID, HE SERVED THREE YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON 1 AND WAS SUBJECTED TO ADDITIONAL GOVERNMENTAL HARASSMENT AFTER HE WAS RELEASED. IN THE EARLY 70's I HAD THE RARE OPPORTUNITY TO VISIT WITH TIJERINA IN HIS HOME IN ALBUQUERQUE. HE LIVED IN A LARGE CINDER-BLOCK SECTION OF THE ALIANZA BUILDING. IT HAD NO WINDOWS AND HAD THE EFFECT OF BEING IN A BUNKER. HE HAS SINCE MOVED OUT AND IS AGAIN LIVING IN THE MOUNTAINS OF NORTHERN NEW MEXICO.

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. . 5 WHEN I THINK OF REIES "EL TIGRE" TIJERINA, I WILL ALWAYS THINK OF THE FIRE THAT BURNED WITHIN HIM THAT FUELED HIS FIGHT TO REGAIN THE STOLEN LAND GRANTS OF EARLY SPANISH AND MEXICAN SETTLERS. THE FOLLOWING QUOTATION OF REIES SPEAKING BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF HEALTH AND SocIAL SERVICES EXEMPLIFIES HIS LOVE FOR THE POOR AND HIS LOVE FOR THE LAND. TIJERINA SAID, "THE RICH NEED THE POOR AS MUCH AS THE POOR NEED THE RICH, A LAND WITHOUT POOR PEOPLE IS LIKE A GARDEN WITHOUT FLOWERS. IT IS LIKE A HOME wITHOUT CHILDREN I IT IS THE POOR THAT BRINGS BALANCE TO SOCIETY. FINALLY, THE POOR WILL LEAD THE RICH INTO SALVATION, INTO ENLIGHTENMENT. NOT WITH BULLETS, NOT WITH ANOTHER WAR LIKE IN VIETNAME, BUT IN COMPASSION." RICHARD CASTRO IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE AGENCY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS