Roberto Rodriguez, an award-winning Chicano activist, author, and professor of Mexican-American studies at the University of Arizona, died Monday of heart failure in Teotihuacan, Mexico. he was 69 years old.
Rodriguez was a journalist, author, lecturer, and a beloved professor at UA. He authored his four books and numerous essays, poems and columns. Rodriguez was an advocate for a Mexican-American Studies class in a public school in Arizona and was one of the few UA faculty members arrested in 2010 for protesting a ban on ethnic studies.
“He was heroic,” said Patricia Gonzalez, Rodriguez’s wife and colleague of 20 years. “He was really a man of fate.”
Rodriguez was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico and moved to Los Angeles as a child.
In 1979, while working for Lowrider Magazine in East Los Angeles, Rodriguez captured the assault of a man by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy while taking pictures on Whittier Boulevard. Officers pointed at Rodriguez during a photo shoot. The police beat him so badly that he spent three days in the hospital, and when he was released he was arrested on charges of assault with a lethal weapon and assault and assault on a peace police officer.
Although the charges were eventually dropped, the assault inspired Rodriguez to devote his life to fighting atrocities and writing about Chicano culture. He filed and won a civil lawsuit against Los Angeles County for violating First Amendment rights.he is co-founder database Murders of Latino residents by law enforcement.
“His spirit did not allow him to remain silent on issues he thought were bad things happening to people, especially those of color and those who were likely to be brutalized because of their differences. ” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez and Rodriguez met in 1990 and worked together as associate professors at the University of Arizona after completing their PhDs at the University of Wisconsin. They co-wrote the nationally distributed column, Column of the Americas, in addition to numerous other publications and his 2005 documentary on immigration.
In 2010, Rodriguez was arrested in Tucson with a group of high school and college students for protesting HB2281, a ban on ethnic learning classes in public school districts.
“I always thought of SB1070[the bill that would have required law enforcement to determine the immigration eligibility of individuals during routine stays]as a means of attacking brown people, and it was a law to deport bodies,” he said. Rodriguez said in a statement. interview “HB2281 was a heart and soul deportation.”
Rodriguez received several death threats as a result of his work.
In a message to Gonzalez in 2019, Rodriguez wrote, “This is my fourth time in UA because of the death threat I received on Thursday, but last Thursday was my last day of school. ‘ wrote. I teach both classes online during the semester. ”
Gonzalez recalls that Rodriguez routinely participated in discussions with people on the other side of the political spectrum with an open mind.
“He was a very brave man, and that makes people uncomfortable,” Gonzalez said.
At the University of Arizona, Rodriguez, known to his students as Dr. Cintri, which means “corn” in Nahuatl, studied Mize and how it laid the foundations of Mexican culture.
“If you want to know where we came from, follow the corn,” Rodriguez said in an interview. interview From 2022. “People are simply Gente de Mayes.”
In 2019, he hosted the Maya Mize Roots Conference at the university, inviting more than 20 Maya scholars to share their research with students.
Gonzalez remembers him as a kind, warm, deeply loved teacher who loved being by his students more than anything else.
“Roberto’s influence is far-reaching and the breadth of his knowledge remains unfulfilled. His research and public intellectual role has blazed new trails and broken new ground. But , it is our hard work and dedication to our students that makes this loss so great,” Michelle Telles, UA Associate Professor of Mexican-American Studies, wrote in an email. “He developed personal relationships with his students and has always demonstrated a willingness to go above and beyond for young people trying to understand themselves and their place in academia. It has encouraged and inspired my students.”
For several years, Rodriguez lived near the Great Pyramids of Teotihuacan, Mexico, where he continued to meet and write with archaeologists, students and teachers.
Rodriguez wrote in October 2001, “Be open not only to yourself and your heart, but to others for your art.” “Sing, paint, write, dance, play an instrument. Your voice is your heart. Never take it away.”