From Our Archives

The biggest manhunt in New Mexican history took place in 1967. The National Guard, state, and local police forces, cattle inspectors, almost every lawman available in New Mexico, was sent to hunt down Chicano leader Reies Tijerina. Who was Reies Tijerina, and why was he persecuted? At a time in American history when racism was not only a normal situation, but also brutal, Tijerina did what no Mexican American was supposed to do: challenge the legality of the unjust land-grabs perpetrated against the original Mexican landowners.

By Franco



Tijerina had violated a sacred cow in America: Manifest-Destiny. He was hounded and persecuted, forcing him into desperate situations, culminating in a historical massive manhunt against Tijerina that resembled the search for Osama Bin Laden. Tijerina was just a youth when he received strict training from a Pentecostal Church, this gave him the confidence and fearlessness to speak truth to power. He was the Chicano who pointed and said “The Emperor wears no clothes. Return the ill-begotten land to its rightful owners.” Tijerina was born on September 21, 1923, in Falls City, Texas, and he died in January 19, 2015 in El Paso, Texas. Tijerina spent his life fighting for Chicano rights such as the right to speak Spanish, first-class citizenship, economic opportunity, and the preservation of Chicano culture. Tijerina fathered the concept of forming Chicano run schools to insure that children were getting a quality education, were safe, and free of distractions caused by discrimination.

His life led him to many adventures and hardships,

meeting historical persons, such as General Lazaro Cardenas, who had stood up to the imperial powers
of Britain and the US and taken back the oil fields for Mexico. Tijerina shared a jail cell with Joe Valachi, the subject of a mafia film starring Charles Bronson. The Mafia under orders were supposed to poison Tijerina, who survived by eating scraps of food saved by the Mexican prisoners. Tijerina was also placed in a cell with the rabid Walter Payton a member of the anti- immigrant white militia the minutemen. Walter was placed there to murder Tijerina. But Tijerina was a charismatic speaker who disarmed Walter, who spent four hours speaking kindly to Tijerina. After the guards saw that Walter was not going to murder Tijerina they removed him from the cell. Soviet style operations

were used against Tijerina, psychiatry was employed
to destabilize him which failed. Tijerina would spend many years in and out of jail suffering the rigors of persecution coupled with old age. He spent the last years of his life writing his memoirs and taking care
of his wife. He was disappointed with the Mexican government whom he discovered was extremely corrupt and was sold out to foreign powers. His only recourse was to fight on his own for Chicano rights in the US. Eventually most Mexican Americans stopped calling themselves Chicanos and adopted the all-inclusive name for Hondurans, Cubans, Dominicans, and Haitians, “Hispanic.” But Tijerina continued to stand for Chicano justice until the end of his days.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content