Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I was on active duty with the New Mexico Air National Guard at Camp Douglas Wisconsin in 1967 when Reies Tijerina  pulled off his courthouse raid in Tierra Amarilla in his quest to get Spanish Land Grants restored to northern New Mexicans.  (I doubt they would have agreed to go back in history a little more and give those lands to the original Native American residents.)

Governor Cargo had just visited our summer encampment and returned via Air Force Jet to 'manage' the crisis by sending anti aircraft tanks into the state's northern forests.  A bit much even in those days.

I always thought Tijerina was a mixed bag.  He seemed a loose cannon to me, although his charisma and rhetoric were impressive.  I ended up covering him as a news man a few years later, before his anti semetic era, and couldn't help finding myself admiring his skill in calling for social justice.

At one point Tijerina started something called 'Brotherhood Awareness Week.'  I was supposed to moderate a half hour TV discussion between Reies and the Albuquerque Chief of Police at the time. The tension was so thick in the studio between Tijerina's supporters and police officers that I thought there would be trouble.  We started the videotaped show and it was pure hell getting those two to say anything to each other.   After 30 agonizing minutes as the show was about to wrap up, a production assistant ran in from the control room and said, "We forgot to roll the tape!"  It was like being told we had to walk through the gates of hell for a second time.   It actually provided a little comic relief and when we started over again the words came a little easier for everyone.

Tijerina was a man of his times and one that continues to fascinate people to this day.


Anonymous said...

Before I moved to New Mexico in 1992, I was driving in Rio Arriba County. I saw the sign to Tierra Amarillo and thought of the raid as an historic event. I drove to the town, stopped and got out of my car to take a picture of the courthouse. A car load of Hispanic males drove up and shook their fists at me and swore in English and Spanish. I'm a Senior, Anglo woman and was alone. I got back into car and left. I've never gone back.

Bubba Muntzer said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

The media and many people are still afraid of the guy after all the years. The dude was a criminal plain and simple if he didn't get his way he started his crap. I for one will never visit that town it is way to Northern NM for me. If you are an Anglo you are stared at and threatened.

Anonymous said...

Wow two Anglos afraid to go someplace in the USA, try being me going to Appalacha. Welcome to my world

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be caught in Appalacha either and I am an Anglo.

Bubba Muntzer said...

Re: "... two Anglos afraid to go someplace in the USA..."

That's the thing. Anglos almost without exception have never conceived of such a thing. It comes with "white privilege," a term used by academics and young African American bloggers to refer to the benefits that come with being an Anglo that almost without exception Anglos aren't even aware they have. To us it's just life.

People who've handed in job applications and could tell right away they'd never be called in for an interview, who have store clerks watch them from the end of the aisle, who've experienced not being Anglo in many subtle ways, may know what it is.

With the demographic changes that are underway I predict that eventually Anglos, one by one, will have a moment of discovery that if not like the visitor to Tierra Amarillo had will have a similar emotional impact, and that when their numbers reach a certain mass we're in for some interesting times.

There are already people who wake up in the morning and fear for their white privilege. Some wear white robes, some wear black robes, some wear choir robes. But when a lot of them begin to realize what's happening and begin to identify as a group you'll see how deep peoples' moral convictions are. People don't readily give up their advantage. What we've acceded so far hasn't cost us anything.

And I'm looking for a lot of white Liberals to begin urgently stressing the need for racial equality when it dawns of them that one day it won't be them handing it out any more, and deciding whether or not there should be fairness in hiring and in a lot of other things.

Incidentally, I want to be on record as saying that I do know how to do yard work. If you need your pool cleaned, I'm your man. And don't even think about having to keep an eye on me so I won't steal anything.