Interview with Dr. Charles Truxillo

I’ve returned from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where I met with Dr. Charles Truxillo. We also drove to a smokey, windowless pub called The Copper Lounge, located near the campus, where we joined several representatives of Estudiantes Contemporáneos Del Norte (ECDN, or Contemporary Students of The North). This is the group that is working toward the formation of La República del Norte, which by the year 2080 – a mere 68 years from now – will be an autonomous nation comprised of the southwestern U.S. states and the northern Mexican states, according to their goals.

Similarly, as a professional journalist, I’ve traveled to San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and San Juan Chamula in Chiapas, Mexico – where likewise a self-determination movement is underway – in order to write stories that are authentic, accurate and below-the-surface. My Chiapas reports were published in international publications, both U.S. and Canadian. I go to the source.

In this same capacity, I went to Albuquerque to talk with Dr. Charles Truxillo, and indeed my meeting with him exceeded my expectations. He was a gracious host who not only allowed me one-on-one time with himself, but also arranged the meeting in that smokey pub with students from ECDN, so that I could hear their perspectives as well. Below are some of my observations following that meeting.

First of all, from what perspective is this new republic – as well as the student group itself – seen as “El Norte” (“The North”)? Isn’t this happening in the “southwest”? To the contrary: “For hundreds of years, the Southwest was El Norte viewed from Mexico City,” Truxillo states. I discovered during my meetings that Truxillo has written and published a new article entitled, “The Inevitability of a Mexicano Nation in the American Southwest and Northern Mexico.”

As we sat around a table at The Copper Lounge, the students shared with me some of their convictions and concerns. Their main objective at this stage is “to encourage discourse” concerning the development of this new nation. Dennis, a Chicano from L.A., said that their primary reason for wanting a new nation was self-determination; this is the key factor underlying everything else. Eric, a political cartoonist for the University newspaper, said that this type of new nationalism is not unique, but is happening throughout the world – and it is a movement on the political (and religious) right (i.e., conservative). Truxillo states, “A new age of nationalism is sweeping the planet. Norteños are like Palestinians, Quebecois and Sri Lanka Tamils – new nationalities.” In fact, when I mentioned my experience in Chiapas, they immediately identified the Zapatista movement as a similar phenomenon.

They are not opposed to an “open” border, yet claim that the Canadian border is far more open – and al Qaida would likely come in that way, rather than from Mexico. It is simply a divisive tactic and myth (falsehood), they claim, that an open border with Mexico is more dangerous. Likewise, they’re not opposed to the use of Spanish language in this country; i.e., not learning English – or knowing both. And some who hadn’t learned Spanish (e.g., Dennis) are now learning it. Speaking Spanish is no longer a sign of being second-class; no longer a sign of being “from our grandparents’ era.” In fact, Eric’s brother, in his mid-30’s, is currently working in Bolivia to gain experience, including language acquisition (Spanish), with the intention of coming back to the U.S. to apply it. To summarize, this group opposes neither the use of Spanish, nor an open border with Mexico.

I initially met Dr. Charles Truxillo in his office at the Chicano Studies building, a small, converted house on the UNM campus. Inside the Chicano Studies office, a plaque with the seal of the Republic of Mexican States hangs on the wall. While I was waiting, a Mexicano came in who spoke broken English, who wanted to study at UNM. The secretary helped him, who spoke broken Spanish.

Truxillo’s office is extremely neat and clean, contains a bookshelf with scores of books, and a map of La República del Norte (circa 2080) posted beside the closet door. While there, he told me that his original desire was to become a priest; he attended St. Michael’s Catholic Seminary in California. But the Church departed from the traditions, he said, and so he became a college professor instead. Now this professor, who wanted to be a Catholic priest, is still celibate (he never married) and his parish is a devoted following of college students – primarily male; they said they would like to involve more chicanas.

Truxillo is a New Mexico native. He is very articulate and becomes passionate; he said he doesn’t like to write (including e-mails) because his thoughts are so fast that writing them becomes tedious. He stands maybe five-foot tall, balding, and was recently diagnosed with diabetes, he told me as we were getting into his car. As a result, he said, he’s “facing his own mortality,” and the future of the movement is in the next generation (i.e., the ECDN – Estudiantes Contemporáneos Del Norte).

Truxillo is influencing this group in the same way that he himself was influenced by Reies López Tijerina, who is credited with initiating the modern Chicano movement by calling attention to the land-grant problem in New Mexico. Tijerina founded his own political party, Alianza Federal de Mercedes (Federal Alliance of Land-Grants), which attempted to regain the lands granted to their ancestors by the Spanish kings and, later, the Mexican government. After 1848, much of this land was lost, despite the fact that Articles 8 and 9 of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which terminated the U.S.-Mexico War, state that the property rights of land-grant heirs “shall be inviolably respected.”

Truxillo explained that land grants would function like modern Indian reservations – autonomous/self-governing, like “nation states.” In fact, in his current “Inevitability” paper, Truxillo himself identifies the “northern colonies – or kingdoms” and the dates that they were established by “Mexicano subjects of Spain.” Eric, whose political cartoons are published three times a week in the University newspaper, belongs to a family that traces its background to Spanish times in the region, including having original land grants.

One report states: “The grants, given by the Spanish monarchy and Mexican governmental officials before 1846, held that named families and their descendants would collectively hold title to acreage spelled out in specific land charters. After 1848, what was not lost by surveyors and politicians or conscripted into Forest Service use was stolen for profit. Of the hundreds of Spanish grants, dozens of them were shadily transferred, unscrupulously acquired or taken outright. Hundreds of thousands of acres were taken by lawyers known as the Santa Fe Ring.”

As a result, on June 5, 1967, Tijerina and a group of New Mexicans drove into Tierra Amarilla, the Rio Arriba county seat, to make a citizen’s arrest of the district attorney, “who they thought should enforce the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and restore property rights to the heirs of those who lived on Mexican territory at the end of the Mexican-American War,” according to another report.

Truxillo told me that as a teenager he personally met Tijerina, whose charisma and conviction profoundly influenced him. Truxillo says that Tijerina believes that since the U.S. government has not upheld the land-grant protections of the Treaty, then the Treaty has been rendered null and void, including its redefinition of the boundaries between Mexico and the U.S. This, then, is one of the fundamental factors underlying La República del Norte.

Consequently, Truxillo told me that he has received death-threats from white-supremicist groups in Idaho. He’s also seen his face on a “wanted” poster on the Internet. He mentioned these details as we got out of his car at The Copper Lounge, located along Central Avenue in Albuquerque, which proceeds directly in front of the University of New Mexico, including the bookstore and visitor parking lot.

Upon entering the dark, smokey lounge, we walked to a tall table surrounded by stools, where I met the four university students who participated in this meeting with Dr. Truxillo and myself. Besides Dennis and Eric, whom I previously introduced, I also met Ignacio, who called himself a Mexicano, as opposed to a Chicano. He emphasized the importance of discussing the movement’s name, which will be their unifying element. But their name will be neither Mexicano nor Chicano, which they believe are actually divisive terms. For Truxillo, Chicano signifies “entitlement,” while Mexicano denotes “entrepreneurial.” They agreed that American society is based on racism; thus, these different labels – Chicano, Mexicano, Hispanic – are intended to cause division. In fact, Dennis stated that the policy of the USA has been to use racism to divide and control.

Some alternatives for what they will call themselves include “Indio-Hispano” or “Norteño.” At this stage of their “discourse,” they are striving to find agreement on their identity as an element of the population, and therefore a common name that will accurately reflect that identity.

The fourth student seated around the table in The Copper Lounge was Vicente, or Vince, the quietest one, who wore a baseball cap. This group comprises the core of ECDN (Estudiantes Contemporáneos Del Norte). I asked them how their goals relate to the Plan of Aztlan. They stated that Aztlan is merely a myth – the myth of going out and returning to the homeland. In fact, one Internet report states: “the roots of Chicano nationalism (are in) its affirmation of cultural identity grounded in Aztec myths such as that of Aztlán, the mythical Chicano homeland” (which roughly corresponds to the American Southwest). Yet Truxillo stated that all of this is artificial; no one, he said, believes himself to be an Aztec warrior.

Conversely, the goals and work of ECDN are real – unlike Aztlan. ECDN’s purpose statement reads: “Dedicated to the Chicanos del Norte in the hope of recovering their lost sovereignty and assuming their place among the independent nations of the world.”

Although the four students from ECDN with whom I met were all male, Truxillo told me that the group’s president is female. Many of them express their views in an online newsletter called El Norte. A link to this newsletter is provided at my website. One of them writes in El Norte: “Since 1848 Mexican people have been engaged in a slow process of regaining lands that they lost to the United States as a result of war.” Another one writes: “We seek to re-ignite the embers of self-determination and nationalistic thought and stand in solidarity with all indigenous people of the world in their struggle for sovereignty.”

They said they would like to have more interaction with MEChA, the Chicano student movement, but currently there is none. MEChA, they said, is more activist with mainstream issues (gay rights, feminism, etc.) even though national self-determination is part of their founding documents. ECDN’s consensus seemed to be that MEChA could contribute to the discourse, but currently is not involved.

Eric (the political cartoonist whom Truxillo admires, and said he hopes Eric “won’t give up”) mentioned another point for “discourse:” “Why is our history not taught as history?” In other words, why are students not able to receive college credit for the courses that deal with Chicano and Hispanic history in the Southwest?

Besides a link to their newsletter, El Norte, the ECDN website also contains links to essays associated with maps that detail the evolution of the American Southwest (or El Norte) in sequential order from 1000 A.D. through 2080, when it will be known as La República del Norte. The essay for the map of “North America circa 2080 A.D.” is written by Truxillo himself. A link is also provided to Truxillo’s “Inevitability” paper.

Although it seems unlikely today that the location of the “Minuteman Project” along the Arizona-Mexico border may eventually be at the center of a new republic, Dennis said that new population statistics will clearly favor Hispanics. Furthermore, Truxillo explains in his “Inevitability” paper “a three-fold process by which Norteños – Chicanos, Mexican Americans, and Northern Mexicanos – slowly move toward a new national consciousness and then aspire for nationhood.”

Truxillo writes: “the existence of hundreds or even thousands of small-scale polities would produce a world order in which a global government could emerge. Smaller national states would satisfy ethnic-tribal ambitions, lead to local national renaissances, while a world government provides security, global economic planning, and environmental stewardship. The first Persian Empire (550-330 BC) is a model of how this type of system should ideally work. And no matter what its shortcomings, it would be better than the international anarchy produced by a few rogue superpowers acting unilaterally as in Iraq and Tibet.”

Following our meeting, Dr. Truxillo drove me back to my motel. As we were driving, he told me that the original article that appeared in the Albuquerque Tribune provided valuable exposure. He said it resulted in his being contacted by many talk-show producers. At one point, he told me that the Bill O’Reilly Show contacted him; however, they eventually decided not to have Truxillo on the program. He confided his belief that the reason for this decision was due to Truxillo’s superior mental and debating skill. In other words, he believes he would have made O’Reilly look bad. And after listening to Truxillo’s passion along with his articulate and informed explanations of history and current issues, I won’t disagree. While there, I also contacted the office of the Albuquerque Tribune in order to talk with the reporter who wrote the story, and I discovered that he no longer worked there.