An excellent history lesson


by David Safier

Alfredo Gutierrez, former minority and majority leader in the Arizona Senate, combines personal history with the history of racial prejudice and exclusion as it affected Mexican Americans over the years in a piece he wrote for the Republic. For someone like me who never had the advantage of taking a Mexican American Studies couse, it's a valuable lesson containing all kinds of information I didn't know. I recommend you read the whole thing. Here's how it begins.

There is a willful and profound ignorance regarding the history of Mexicans in the United States. It is with that hollow in mind that I wrote “To Sin Against Hope.”

Miami, Ariz., is where my father was born and from where he was deported. I was born there after he returned from exile with my mother and four kids.

Miami was booming in the ’50s. Mines were operating 24 hours a day, workers lined up at the gates for every shift, and at shift’s end, they stormed, covered with grime, into a town full of bars and churches. And whorehouses. There were three. The biggest one had a gambling hall and the town’s longest bar. I shined shoes, and that was the best place to wait for someone to win big or stroll down the stairs, smile and all, ready for a shine.

My father’s deportation was part of the landscape, a sacrifice Mexicans risked to work the mines, join the union and get steady pay. My father’s grandmother Isabel Luna and her two sons, Estanislao and Jose Maria, rode into Clifton in 1878 on an oxcart from Chihuahua. She met a man, Fidel Samudio, who arrived years earlier and together launched our tribe. But even a history older than statehood would not protect my father in 1932.

As an added bonus, the article has a photo slide show beginning with Gutierrez running for office in 1972 — he was 25 at the time — and ending with him being arrested in 2010 while protesting SB1070.


  1. I’m currently reading “Politics, Labor, and the War on Big Business: The Path of Reform in Arizona 1890-1920” by David R. Berman which discusses the labor movement in Arizona just prior to statehood and describes how Mexican-Americans were discriminated against when they tried to work at the mines in Arizona. It’s an eye-opener and makes you realize how racial discrimination weakened the labor movement in our state. With that big exception, it is encouraging to read about our progressive beginning as a state. I would recommend this book to people who are interested in Arizona history, especially our labor history.