This is My Land

Interview with Alfredo Figueroa (Caborca, State of Sonora, Mexico), November 12, 2001:

~ When I was a small kid in 3rd grade we were starting geography. The teacher pointed to a map on the wall and said, “Now this is the United States that we all love so much.” I got up like an Indian and raised my hand and said, “Well I don’t love it too much.” She asked, “What do you mean? You don’t know what you’re talking about!” I said, “My father says they stole this land from us.” I wouldn’t change my mind, so they sent me home and told my mother I was unpatriotic. They kept me away for two weeks. They took me to the principal’s office, where he had a big old paddle they used to call the board of education. And they paddled and whipped me. They made a play named after Philip Nolan’s book, Man Without a Country, and showed it at school, just to intimidate the Mexicans. They named it Boy Without a Country. I was just telling them, “This is my land.” I was just a little kid. Can you imagine, 9 years old? Man! But that’s why they had the Americanization schools, to brainwash all those young Mexicans and Chimahuevos living in Blythe.
My mother always used to say that we were Chimahuevos and my father was Yaqui. We never did classify ourselves as American. Never! It was a battle everyday, and we knew who we were. My mother negotiated with the principal, and I had to write on the blackboard, “I love the United States” in front of all the kids a hundred times. And then I was accepted back as a student at Blythe grammar school. ~

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