They call him “El Tigre” but he does not call himself that. He says that because his birthday lands on September 21 and that is the year of the Tiger in Chinese Astrology that it’s okay with him.
They attribute sayings to him such as, “Tierra o Muerte” but he says that he does not advocate violence and never has.
They want to make a movie about his life, the Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libre (Federal Alliance of Free Pueblos/People/Communities) and the land grant movement that he started that lead to a New Mexico courthouse raid on June 5, 1967 in Tierra Amarilla,NM where those who were fighting to preserve the basis of village communal life against centuries of land pirates, private and federal, moved in an organized manner and made arrests and leveled charges against the colonizer judges, politicians, and police. He laughs and says, “They want Mel Gibson to play me in the movie, no way hombre. I don’t like the script anyway. It has to be re-written.”
Reis Lopez Tijerina is bigger than a Tiger. He is every bit the greatness of our most revered cosmic animal in our Anahuac indigenous history, the Jaguar. As I sat with him in his bedroom with another great Chicano activist, Dr. Luis “Nacho” Quinones, I noticed immediately just how God-like my Tocayo is. He’s in his mid 80’s but stronger than a bull, sits upright, looks you in your eye, and constantly pushes, taps, pulls, and slaps you on your arms and legs to get his point across and make sure that you’re listening good. Good enough to want to make you go out and make more citizen arrests or round-up occupiers and invaders of our land who still think that they have a god given right to be here and be squatting on earth that is not theirs.
I asked him why they think this is so. He replied, “They are in trouble with God because they stole our land and put it on paper and signed their names to these crimes in the name of God in their constitution. You cannot use God’s name while you’re thieving from people. You will have to pay dearly for it. So God is and always has been on our side.”
Where do we go from here Don Tijerina? “Mijo, figure out how to unlock the key to their grand deception and let everyone know.” What is that grand deception maestro? “That they profess to be the chosen ones, that they have always been the chosen ones. Expose this lie and let everyone in the world know that they, as the creators and executors of the atomic, hydrogen, neutron, and nuclear bombs, have deceived every single person into believing that they are the true children of God when in fact they are nothing but devils by nature that come from Babylonian blood. What is coming for them they cannot or won’t even be able to stop. They are in serious trouble especially around here in the Southwest and their greatest fear is guiding them in to furthering their oppressive behavior. That fear is that we outnumber them and they can do nothing about it. Our land will be united once again.”
I could have sat and discussed the world and life with our great leader for the entire day and his wonderful and beautiful wife Esperanza would have allowed us to do so too. Without question she welcomed us over for our visit with the Jaguar. We took food and he took a quick bite, pushed it aside saying that he wanted to talk to us more than eat. Esperanza sat with us the entire time helping him at times to find some words that he needed to complete thoughts and get his point across. She knew exactly what he was saying and what he wanted to say at every moment. In an instant she would reach for papers, shuffle through folders, a file cabinet, and would pull books off of the shelf many times without him asking and would help him drive his point home to us about history. I wanted to hug her many times over and over again for helping to keep our revolutionary leader alive and healthy and for appreciating the fact that one day soon we may be without him and every second counts, every interview matters, every visit from people with genuine hearts will help spread and keep his example, his message to the world, and his fire alive for eternity.
I was honored to be invited and welcomed in Don Tijerina’s home. Especially now at this time in history when our books are being banned, our teachers are being attacked, our children are being sent to war, being incarcerated, beat, killed, and separated from their mother’s and father’s. Especially at this time when every single one of our most educated, capable, and talented intellectuals and activist’s still refuse to do what only the great, courageous Jaguar did over four decades ago…..go right to the heart of the matter and deal with the question of stolen land and our right to it. Coward’s, every single one of them, cowards chasing their tales around in circles telling people to vote, to ask uncivilized parasitic invaders who killed 100 million indigenous people of the “Americas” and who continue to commit acts of genocide against our people for freedom and democracy, for a spot at their dinner table, for recognition in their system of exploitation, poverty, murder, and death.
Don Tijerina, tomorrow is the anniversary of the Chicano Studies ban in Arizona. No worries. We will not let inactive vendidos lead our lives. We will remember. We will not forget that when everyone else was asking for a secure spot in the ranks of that illusive lie they call “the middle class” you were teaching us that all of us have a right to wealth through our heritage and that includes the thing that comes before all else, LAND.
Forever your student,