A caravan of writers and activists will cross several states to "smuggle" books into Arizona by Hispanic authors that had been "banned" in Tucson public schools as part of a move against Mexican-American studies.

The caravan will start out on March 12 in Houston, cross Texas and will then pass through the state of New Mexico and finally arrive in Tucson on March 27.

"In each city we visit we're going to organize community libraries, we're going to (give them) examples of the books that are prohibited," Tony Diaz, the organizer of the caravan - known as Librotraficante (book smuggler), on the Web at www.librotraficante.com - told Efe.

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He said that his aim is to involve Hispanic writers and writers from other cultures so that different groups learn about what is happening in Arizona.

After several years of controversy, last month the Tucson school board decided to suspend the district's Mexican-American studies program in the face of the threat of losing 10 percent of its annual state funding.

The move came after a judge ruled that Tucson's program violated state law HB 2281, which prohibits public school programs that promote racial resentment, that focus on a single ethnic group and that go against the U.S. government.

As part of the decision, the Tucson Unified School District removed from the classrooms more than a dozen books, some of them on Chicano history.

However, the TUSD said that at no time had it banned the books and that some copies are available in the school libraries.

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"Obviously, someone on the state level designed this law to end Latino studies, because this law says specifically that it will not apply to Native American studies nor to the Holocaust," said Diaz, who is also a writer.

While Tucson students, parents and teachers have mounted legal challenges to the scrapping of Mexican-American studies, Diaz emphasized that this will take time and meanwhile it's going to affect the Latino students, who are not going to be able to study their culture.

The activists expressed his fear that this type of regulation and cultural prohibition can be expanded to other states, just as occurred with Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law, enacted in 2010 and afterwards copied by other states.

SB 1070 was the first law to criminalize the presence of undocumented immigrants in the country.

"Arizona was the first to enact laws to make our culture illegal. We as Americans didn't do anything to stop it and it's clear that it went to other states and I have no doubt that if we let Arizona prohibit our literature other states are going to do the same thing," said Diaz, who is the son of immigrants. 

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