Juan Valdez (activist)

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Juan Valdez (1938 - August 25, 2012 in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico) was a land grant activist who fired the first shot during a 1967 New Mexico courthouse raid that grabbed international attention & helped spark the Chicano Movement. He died peacefully at his Canjilon ranch after recently suffering two heart attacks according to his daughter Juanita Montoya.[1]

Biography[edit]

Heir to a northern New Mexico land grant, Valdez was 29 years old when he and a group of land grant advocates, led by Reies Lopez Tijerina, raided a Rio Arriba County courthouse in Tierra Amarilla. Their goal was to attempt a citizens' arrest of then-District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez over Hispanic land rights issues.[2]

Valdez had gotten involved with Tijerina's group, known as Alianza Federal de Mercedes — an organization founded to help Mexican-American heirs to old Spanish land grants reclaim land that was illegally taken by white settlers and the U.S. government.[3]

"Tijerina impressed me when he and most of the people who had walked from Albuquerque set up a camp and refused to leave," Valdez told retired lawyer Mike Scarborough in the book "Trespassers On Our Own Land," an oral history of the Valdez family.

During the raid, it was Valdez who shot and wounded state police officer Nick Saiz after the officer went for his pistol and refused commands by Valdez to put his hands up.

"It came down to, I shoot him or he was going to shoot me — so I pulled the trigger," Valdez said in the book. "Lucky for both of us, he didn't die."[4]

The raiders also beat a deputy and took a sheriff and reporter hostage. After holding the courthouse for a couple of hours, the armed group fled to the mountains as the National Guard and armored tanks chased them.

Valdez was convicted of assault but was later pardoned by Gov. Bruce King. The episode cemented Valdez & Tijerina's legacy among activists from the Chicano Movement of the 1970s who favored more radical methods of fighting discrimination over those of the moderate Mexican American civil rights leaders a generation before.

"He loved the attention," said Montoya, 48. "He wanted people to know our history and what happened to our land."[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Haywood, Phaedra (August 27, 2012). "Activist Juan Valdez, who participated in courthouse raid, dies". http://www.santafenewmexican.com. Retrieved September 13, 2012.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  2. ^ CONTRERAS, RUSSEL (2012-08-28). "Juan Valdez Dead: Land Grant Activist Who Led New Mexico Courthouse Raid And Inspired Chicano Movement Dies At 74". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 13, 2012. 
  3. ^ Associated Press (August 29, 2012). "Land activist Juan Valdez dies at age 74". http://www.journalgazette.net. Retrieved September 13, 2012.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  4. ^ CONTRERAS, RUSSEL (2012-08-28). "Juan Valdez Dead: Land Grant Activist Who Led New Mexico Courthouse Raid And Inspired Chicano Movement Dies At 74". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 13, 2012. 
  5. ^ CONTRERAS, RUSSEL (2012-08-28). "Juan Valdez Dead: Land Grant Activist Who Led New Mexico Courthouse Raid And Inspired Chicano Movement Dies At 74". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 13, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Juan Valdez at Find a Grave