Reies López Tijerina, a Chicano leader’s lifetime of achievement is honored


Illustration courtesy of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe

EL PASO — Reies López Tijerina, one of the most influential leaders of the U.S. Mexican-American civil rights movement was honored by the Mexican consulate here for a lifetime of work and sacrifice to protect and improve the lives of generations of persons of Mexican descent living in the United States.

For his struggle, he is known as one of the Four Horsemen of the Chicano movement along with César Chávez, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, and José Ángel Gutiérrez. Consul General of Mexico Roberto Rodríguez Hernández awarded López Tijerina El Reconocimiento “Ohtli” by El Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (IME) del Consulado General de México on June 26th. “Nos sentimos honrados de que se adjudique a un méxico-americano más este reconocimento, porque indica ques se continúa abriendo el camino para que las nuevas generaciones tengan más y mejores oportunidades,”  Rodríguez Hernández said.

Salvador Balcorta from Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe said that López Tijerina, 83, has struggled his entire life for the rights of Mexican-Americans and is still fighting for the land of northern New Mexico. “He continues to give orders to persons who normally don’t take orders from others,” Balcorta said. He is still chief of both the Chicano and Indo-Hispano movements, he said.

“Reies López Tijerina tiene una trayectoria de casi toda una vida. Hoy en día todavía lucha y pelea por las tierras del Norte de Nuevo México, y da órdenes a personas que otras personas no les dan órdenes, porque sigue siendo el jefe del movimiento Chicano, del movimiento Indo-Hispano,” Balcorta said.

López Tijerina was born September 21, 1926 in San Antonio, Texas. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, he would inspire young Chicanos with his personal knowledge of the history of los Tratados de Velasco y Guadalupe Hidalgo (Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo).  He also founded the Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres (Federal Alliance of Land Grants) in New Mexico to reclaim ownership of what was once Mexico’s land. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed Mexican citizens the retention of their land grants once the U.S.-Mexican war was over.  The Alianza’s purpose was to rescue ownership of land through the courts of New Mexico, yet it was determined in a court ruling that the United States Congress was the authority on the issues of land rights based on international treaties.

Of the Four Horsemen of the Chicano Movement, Chávez and Tijerina were the most involved in grassroots community organizing. While Chávez again and again advocated non-violent protest, López Tijerina turned to militancy. He was the only one of the four to spend considerable time in prison for his actions.

In 1967, López Tijerina brought the issue of land rights to national attention when he led a raid on the Tierra Amarilla county courthouse in New Mexico.  Along with his followers, López Tijerina took up arms against the authorities.

They Called Me “King Tiger” is López Tijerina’s autobiography. In it, he archived his actions during the uprooting of the 1960’s Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement. He was the only one of the group to keep a record of his work to explain what brought him and his Federal Land Grant Alliance members to break the law. Challenging the New Mexico and national authorities, reclaiming part of a national forest reserve, and invading and taking over a courthouse won him the hearts of many young Chicano activists then and now.

El Reconocimiento “Ohtli” awards a medal, a diploma, and a plaque to those individuals that through a lifetime of hard work and dedication improved the lives of the newer generations of persons of Mexican descent in the United States in fields such as education, health, human and labor rights, and in the arts and culture.

The word ohtli comes from the native tongue Náhuatl meaning “camino” or “voyage” and this special voyage has been awarded 264 times. Rodríguez Hernández said that it is a great honor to recognize another Mexican-American. It means that the newer generations will have greater opportunity, he said.

26 thoughts on “Reies López Tijerina, a Chicano leader’s lifetime of achievement is honored

  1. Reis is my second cousin in Kaufman Tx where all 1st and 2nd cousins live. I would like to know his address or e-mail address. Several 1st cousins are deceased. I really would like to get a hold of him. I’ve been reading of his movements in the 60s. Could you please help me to locate him.

    Thank you
    Rey Tijerina

  2. En esta direcion podra obtener informacion de Reies lopez Tijerina, soy su esposa Esperanza Tijerina.

  3. Yo escuche de el Senor Tijerina hace 25 anios en California y no sabia que aun esta vivo. Es increible que la comunidad no haya nombrado escuelas y called con su nombre. Soy productor y me interesa saber mas de el y su vida. Es necesario montar una pelicula estilo HOllywood en su honor. Porfavor comunuquensen conmigo. Marco

  4. Hello, I am a writer and filmmaker. Do you know how I can contact Mr. Lopez or a representative of his. I look forward to hearing from you.
    Thank You,
    Charley Trujillo

  5. Hello:

    My Name is Caroline Friesenhahn, my mother Juanita is the sister of Reies’s first wife, Maria Escobar Tijerina. I have been reading and learning of his work and have been very impressed with what he did and what he stood for. I am curious of what my former uncle is doing these days. Is he still living? His brother Ramon who is married to my aunt Ester recently passed on and I expected to see Reies at the funeral and I had hoped to meet Reies in person. Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from him or about him.

  6. I am trying to get in contact with Sr. López on behalf of the National Hispanic Institute (NHI), a not for profit organization dedicated to fostering visionary Latino leadership. I am currently planning our annual culminating event, Celebración, and I am very interested in seeing if he would be willing to address a small group of our participants. If he (or someone who represents him) could kindly contact me at, I would greatly appreciate it!

  7. i guess theres only one question left to ask…. where is reies tijerina??? in only 14 yrs old and very impressed wit the life he build for others.

  8. Hola Señor Reies Lopez Tijerina Por mucho tiempo trate de saber de usted pero finalmente atravez de este medio encontre imformacion hacerca de usted y me alegra que usted este bien, yo lo conosi a usted hace 25 años cuando usted me visito en mi casa junto con mi tio el Licenciado Arnulfo Lopez Perez en Zacatelco Tlaxcala, tambien mi tio lo llevo a usted a Tamazola Oaxaca y a visitar el lugar donde mis hermanas fallecieron ahogadas, yo estuve viviendo en Indio California, Algunas veces me comunique con usted, no se si recuerda?. Me gustaria platicar con usted si fuera posible, mandeme a un imail al o llameme al 303-946-8782 o mandeme su telefono por Imail, ahora vivo en Denver Colorado y soy su vecino de estado, Espero saber pronto de usted y Dios le Guarde y le Bendiga Mucho. 🙂

  9. My grandmother Patricia Belle Blawis wrote a book about Reies
    Tijerina titled Tejerina and the Land Grants 1971. It was required reading in certain college courses for a number of years. She knew him and Corky Gonzales. Mariano Trujillo

  10. Iam married to joaguin carlos tijerina, the son of reies and patsy tijerina. reies is alive and well and sharp as ever. a very wonderful and caring person with a great sense of humor. i love to listen to his storys of the past and future dreams.he is truely a great man,and probably one of the smartest man i have ever met.

  11. Reies López Tijerina is presenting a lecture entitled:
    “Reies López Tijerina and the Religious Origins of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement”
    The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, CA 91108
    Nov. 16 (Wednesday)
    7:30 p.m. Free (not sure if this is free to members or public)

    Lecture Description:
    The Mexican Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s encompassed two extremes, from the pacifism of Cesar Chavez to the radicalism of Reies López Tijerina. Ramón Gutiérrez, professor of history at the University of Chicago and the Los Angeles Times Distinguished Fellow, discusses the Pentecostal origins of Tijerina’s political thought and its transformation over time. Free; no reservations required. Friends’ Hall”

  12. my father guillermo ramirez tijerina born in 1920 passed in 2010. he was born in eagle pass texas his father ernesto tijerina my grandmother fled to mexico with guillermo and bertha when they were approx 4 and 6 years old. wanting to find relatives to ernesto tijerina probably born in the late 1800

  13. I have been told that I am related to Mr. Tijerina. My grandfathers uncle lived in Teirra Amarilla and was a settler there. I am very thankful the work of RLT! I am proud of the way that RLT stood up to the federal government. I am going thru a civil
    rights issue right now involving EEO. I am scared, but as RLT I will forge the way for others! I also had a vision that directed me not to back down from these home grown
    evil doers. Please help me reach the website for contacting Mr. Tijerina or family members. I frequently visit family members in Rio Ariba county.No one says this kind of fight will be easy,but thanks for your perserverance and faith!
    I can remember in first grade my sister saying “Chicano Power!” The name Reies Lopez Tijerina always remained in my mind. My ancestors great grandparents were from Barcelona Spain. I was told that RLT visited there to view lans grant issues. Back in Teirra Amarilla my grandfather sold his land, retained the mineral rights and we have documents but we can not find where our royalties are going. We lived in Township 26. Someone is spending my royalties. I have spent alot of money on documents but can not find the docs where the mineral rights were kept. I know the exact area we owned and big drilling has occurred for New Mexico Light Sweet Crude Oil. These crooks are alive and well. It seems my life and the life of RLT have many similarities. I would like to meet any close family member!

  14. Reies López Tijerina is the great-grandfather of my children, Austin and Aiden. I was married to their father, his grandson, Daniel, son of Daniel and Yvonne Tijerina. I think Reies is an amazing man and his family are equally warm and loving. Although my ex-husband does not stay in contact with his family, I have tried but have lost contact after speaking with Mr.Tijerina a couple years ago. I would love to get back in touch with the family so that my boys can know their family and vice versa. Daniel was taken from them at such a young age, as was his son (due to the move of his mother and family), and want my children to know the pride and love this family has.

  15. Salvador Balcorta is incorrect when he states that Reies Tijerina continues to be the chief or boss of both the Chicano & Indo-Hispano movements. And if Tijerina himself believes that then he continues to be delusional in thinking that the movement condones the same irrational violence that it attributes to the racist whites. Reies Tijerina was never the boss or chief of the Chicano movement let alone the Indo-Hispano movement. The greatest success of Cesar Chavez was his non-violence hunger strikes. Jose Angel Gutierrez was sometimes verbally insulting to “gringos” in his audience. Rodolfo Gonzales was physically aggressive in the boxing ring. But these three never actually armed themselves invading and storming through government property and then have a shoot-out with government authorities. That militant and illegal behavior is never condoned by law-abiding Mexican or Latino Americans. Apparently at age 83 the hot-headed and irrational Horseman has learned nothing from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

  16. Wishing Mr. Reies Lopez Tijerina a peaceful life and congrats on the 2009 Award. The same wish for his fellow male and female contemporaries involved in the movement. Activism by peaceful means is most effective and ideal.

  17. Lea Sanchez,
    We may be related, the reason for this assumption, at this point, is due to the fact that I am a descendant of one of the Sanchez families from New Mexico. The Sanchez family on my mother’s father side, date back to the early 17th century, as far as I have been able to research. My mother’s family on her father’s side have origins in Rio Arriba County, and I remember my Tia mentioning Dulce, they lived in Taos and Mora County as well.

    I support you in your stand for Justice, never compromise your Faith, or Principles!!!
    Please respond, in your corner.

  18. I went to visit Mr. Reies Lopez Tijerina yesterday, March 3, 2014 at his home in Texas.
    If you need to get in touch with him, please call me here in Las Cruces New Mexico.
    Paul Jaramillo Mr. Tijerina is 88 years old and is in poor health.
    He gave me a copy of his book, La Lucha por La Tierra, he is a great man.

  19. Just saw a You Tube interview with David Correia about his book in which he makes mention of Mr. Tijerina. Everyone should view this interview. The title of the book is “Properties of Violence” and can be purchased from the Amazon website.

  20. Isreal , Reyes, tijerina are and have been like brothers to me since the day we met more than 20 years ago their dad Noah and Maria Chavez their grandma have been a blessing to me as well I have had the honor of meeting reyies tijerina only a few times all the family la la Victoria Tanya Frankie Carlos lillia are all family to me and for all its worth thank u and may the angels walk with you

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