"Right now we look like a cricket. What is a cricket? King of the Insects; a little, tiny animal. All the cricket can do is [say] 'cricket, cricket, cricket.' Just a noise, that's all. But you know, if that cricket gets in the ear of the lion and scratches inside, there is nothing the lion can do. There is nothing; there is no way the lion can use his claws and jaws to destroy the cricket. The more the lion scratches himself the deeper the cricket goes. . . ."--Reies López Tijerina, 1971
Throughout his career in New Mexican land grant politics, Reies Tijerina frequently used this fable to inspire persistence in the face of impossible odds. As the leader of a grassroots Hispano land rights organization, the Alianza Federal de Mercedes Reales (The Federal Alliance of Land Grants), Tijerina has made an indelible imprint on New Mexico's Hispano culture.
King Tiger details Tijerina's life and efforts--those real, rumored, and mythologized--in the first systematic study of the origin of his political ideas. Rudy Busto shows how one of Tijerina's particularly powerful mystical visions led him to northern New Mexico to fight to restore land to those who lost it during various nineteenth-century land grant title conflicts.
More than three decades after the infamous Tierra Amarilla County courthouse raid, Tijerina remains an important touchstone for all New Mexicans. In his life and activism are found the interdependent issues of land, water, language, economic development, sovereignty, political power, and rights to cultural formation in the Southwest.