Tierra o Muerte Poster

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Sources
Date Posted: 9/25/2009

Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the annexation of Texas, the land claims of many Mexican families were not respected, either by the new English-speaking settlers or by the U.S. government. Dispossession from family- and community-owned lands dealt a severe economic blow to the livelihood of generations of Mexican Americans. The issue of land evokes especially bitter memories in New Mexico. In 1967, the year this poster was made with the slogan Tierra o Muerte, meaning Land or Death, a Hispanic land rights organization called La Alianza, led by Reies López Tijerina, raided the Rio Arriba County courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico. 

In addition to reclaiming land from the government of New Mexico, the goals of the raid were to free imprisoned Alianza members and to arrest the district attorney who was prosecuting them as communists and outside agitators. The raid on the courthouse was ultimately unsuccessful and Tijerina served time in a federal prison. Although seen by some as a divisive figure, Reies López Tijerina was as recognizable as Cesar Chavez to many Chicano activists of the late 1960s. Mirroring similar political tensions in the African American community, Chicano civil rights activists were torn between leaders such as Chavez, who advocated nonviolence, and leaders like Tijerina, whose political strategy was decidedly more militant.