On August 20, 1914, the Los Angeles Times ran an article titled "Race War in Arizona; Death List Is Sixteen" at Ray, Arizona. Two days later Regeneración echoed the Times, "Guerra de razas en Arizona." The Times reported that four white men and twelve Mexicans were killed in a bloody riot precipitated by a posse hunting "horse thieves," a euphemism for Mexicans. According to the Times:
"Infuriated at the news of the death posse members, white residents of Ray invaded the Mexican section of town, driving the terror-stricken men, women and children of the section from their homes.
One American and seven Mexicans were killed when a number of the Mexican residents resisted the attack upon their homes. The others fled to the hills.
Reports said that many Americans were searching the hills near Ray tonight; bent upon killing every Mexican they meet.
Officers and citizens have been sworn in as deputies, were sent to patrol the entire section to prevent a spread of the race rioting, if possible."
Regeneración concluded that "The American working class is ... [a] mentally retarded class," not knowing its interests as workers.
Tensions had escalated with the Mexican Revolution and the passage of the 80 percent law. For white Americans, every Mexican crossing the border was a Villista and they clamored for government to control the border.
Racism was nothing new in Arizona. In 1903, the Arizona legislature passed the eight-hour day law; a law that already benefited white miners. Mexicans worked ten hours a day for $2.50. The new law reduced the Mexican hours and the mine owners cut the Mexican workers' wages by 10 percent.
This injustice touched off the Clifton-Morenci-Metcalf strike. The largest strike to that time in Arizona, it was a precursor to the 1906 Cananea, Sonora, strike.
Agitation to exclude Mexicans continued throughout the 1910s. In 1914, through the initiative process, voters passed the Arizona Anti-Alien Labor Law, which required 80 percent of a firm's employees to be native-born Americans. Arizona's newspapers equated the law to patriotism, editorializing, "The Flag and Eighty Per Cent."
The following year the law was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. The Court held that the law would exclude immigrants from Arizona. According to the court, immigrants had the right to work and the law discriminated against alien lawful residents.
This was the context for the "Race War in Arizona," and the Bisbee and Jerome Deportations of 1917. At Bisbee, 2,200 Minutemen arrested over 2,000 strikers, mostly Mexicans, without due process and loaded 1,286 arrestees on railroad cars and dumped them in the middle of the New Mexican desert.
After this point, the copper barons, determined to break the unions and convinced that their docile Mexicans could not be controlled, began a campaign to cleanse the mines of Mexicans. The repatriation (better still, the deportation) began in January 1919. It was similar to that of 1913.
The copper barons required naturalized status to get a job. In April 1921, they assembled Mexican families at Morenci Southern station at 5 am, boarded 1,600 to 1,800 Mexican men, women and children on a special train and shipped them to El Paso. Simultaneously, tens of thousands were deported from the agricultural fields and literally dumped across the border.
The story does not end there. Since then the Mexican-American has suffered numerous instances of discrimination. During the 1930s an estimated million were blamed for the Great Depression and deported.
The similarities with what happened in Arizona's past and the mob mentality of many Arizonans today is frightening. I just returned from a five-day conference in Tucson and numerous participants of all colors referred to current events as a "Race War in Arizona." It is doubtful whether most of them had ever read about the eighty percent law or about the numerous deportations.
Take the rhetoric of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who this past week claimed law enforcement agencies had discovered "bodies in the desert" either "buried or beheaded" in addressing crime related to "illegal" immigration. The governor's claim was disputed, even by some of Arizona's compliant press, days before Brewer claimed "illegal aliens" were transporting most of the drugs into the United States.
T.J. Bonner, president of the union representing border agents responded, "some illegal border-crossers carry drugs but most don't. People with drugs face much stiffer penalties for entering the US illegally, and very few immigrants looking for work want to risk the consequences."
On the sane side, last week The New York Times reported "Militia With Neo-Nazi Ties Patrols Arizona Desert." This item was picked up by Arizona's compliant media because it came from the New York newspaper. Arizona's media has itself abandoned the art of investigative reporting.
The article identified Jason Ready as a neo-Nazi, the same Ready previously identified as a close associate of Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, the author of SB 1070, and Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio. All of them have close ties with the Federation of American Immigration Reform. Brewer and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, the author of HB 2281, the bill that seeks to ban La Raza Studies from the Tucson Unified School District, have never dissociated themselves from this cabal.
When KGUN 9 asked me why we had not tried to convince Horne about La Raza Studies, which has all but eliminated the dropout rate of students taking the classes, I replied that I would if Horne would visit La Raza Studies program and test his assumptions. Incredibly, Horne replied that he did not have to observe the schools or listen to facts to form his ideas.
Arizona is a state without laws, without leadership, without an independent media. It has laws that allow psychopaths to carry guns, vigilantes to take the law into their own hands, and there is no such thing as inciting a riot, which is exactly what elected officials are doing today in Arizona.
With this mindset, with this lack of responsibility, there can be no resolution. Like the Mexican proverb says, "No hay mal que dure cien años, ni cuerpo que los resista" (There is no wrong that lasts 100 years, or body that can withstand it.) This makes a confrontation inevitable, since there is a growing mass of people born here who are not afraid of the big bad wolf.