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Reies López Tijerina's Autobiography Sheds Light on the Civil Rights Movement

They Called Me "King Tiger" is Reies López Tijerina's visionary autobiography chronicling his activities during a tumultuous period in U.S. History. Along with César Chávez, Rodolfo "Corky Gonzales, and José Ángel Gutiérrez, Reies López Tijerina was one of the acknowledged major leaders of the 1960's Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement.

Of these four, Chávez and Tijerina were the most connected to, and involved in, grassroots community organizing, while the latter two were more dedicated to political change. But where Chávez consistently advocated non-violent protest, López Tijerina increasingly turned to militancy. He and his followers even took up arms against the authorities. And of these four, Tijerina was the only one to spend significant time in prison for his acts.

Tijerina is, significantly, the only member of this historical group to have penned his memories, perhaps in an effort to explain the trials and frustrations that brought him and his Federal Land Grant Alliance members to break the law: reclaiming part of a national forest reserve as part of their inheritance; invading and occupying a courthouse, inflicting a gunshot wound on a deputy sheriff in the process; and challenging New Mexico and national authorities at every opportunity.

But the acts that placed him in most danger were also the ones that won the hearts and minds of many young Chicano activist.

Originally self-published, They Called Me King Tiger is now published as part of the U.S. Hispanic Civil Rights Series. What is clear from López Tijerina's testimony is his sincerity, his years of research on the issues of land grants and civil rights, and his persistent spiritual and political leadership of the disenfranchised descendants of the original colonizers of New Mexico. All of the passion and commitment, as well as the flamboyant rhetoric of the 1960's, is preserved in this recollection of a life dedicated to a cause and transformed by continuos prosecution.

They Called Me "King Tiger" is an historical document of the first order, clarifying the motives and thinking of one of the Chicago Movement's now-forgotten martyrs-a man who sought justice for those who have been treated like foreigners on their own soil.

A onetime minister and traveling revivalist, REIES LOPEZ TIJERINA became involved in disputes over historical land grants and in 1963 founded militant Alianza Federal de las Mercedes (the Federal Land-Grant Alliance). In 1966, he and his followers briefly seized part of the Kit Carson National Forest. Subsequent incidents escalated into violence (including an armed raid by the Alianza in June 1967 on a New Mexico county courthouse), and Tijerina ultimately served prison time for state and federal offenses.

Arte Público Press is the nation's largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic author's. Its imprint for children and young adults, Piñata Books, is dedicated to the realistic and authentic portrayal of the themes, languages, characters, and customs of Hispanic culture in the United States. Based at the University of Houston, Arte Público Press, Piñata Book and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literacy Heritage project provide the most widely recognized and extensive showcase for Hispanic literacy arts and creativity. For more information, please visit our website at www.arte.uh.edu.

 

They Called Me 'King Tiger' : My Struggle for the Land and Our Rights (Hispanic Civil Rights)

 
 
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