Armando Navarro was a Mexican nationalist and Chicano Movement theorist who earned an AA degree in political science from Chaffey Community College in 1968, a BA in political science from Claremont McKenna College in 1970, and a Ph.D. in political science from UC Riverside in 1974. After completing his education, Navarro spent a number of years in the ’70s and ’80s working with La Raza Unida (The Unified Race) Party. In 1992 he was hired to teach in UC Riverside’s Ethnic Studies Department, were he currently serves as chairman. The tenor of Navarro’s politics is reflected in the fact that in 2002 he became a member of the State Central Committee for the Party of Democratic Revolution, a socialist party in Mexico. “I was influenced greatly by such theorists as Saul Alinsky, Che Guevara, and Lenin” said Navarro.
Claiming that Mexicans “were victims of an imperialism by which Mexico lost half of its territory,” Navarro predicted that the rapid growth of America’s Latino population would inevitably result in “a transfer of power,” “control,” and “influence” that “has the potential of ‘tipping the balance’ of U.S. elections, especially the presidential elections,” in favor of the Democratic Party.
Moreover, Navarro relished “the possibility that Mexico recovers the lost territories, or that a new Republic of Aztlan”—the mythical Aztec homeland that supposedly existed in Mexico and what is currently the Southwestern United States prior to the Spanish conquest of 1519—“is established.” “Aztlan is a state of mind for some people, Navarro told an interviewer in 2006. “It’s a point in history. For some it’s a political place. For some it’s a separate nation. It represents land lost. You are sitting in a city, Riverside, that used to be in Mexico. That gives us a sense of entitlement. This was our land.”
To facilitate the growth of America’s Latino population, Navarro opposed policies that would enhance the country’s ability to secure its borders against illegal immigration. Thus did he denounce Proposition 187—a 1994 ballot initiative that sought to bar all public agencies in California from providing social services to illegal immigrants—as “a declaration of war against the Latino/Chicano community of this country.”
At an anti-Prop 187 conference at UC Riverside on January 15, 1995, Navarro warned that “the forces of evil” and the “nativist mindset” within the Republican Party were rebelling, with reflexive bigotry, against “the browning of America.” “You are like the generals that command armies,” he told his Latino listeners. “We’re in a state of war.” He then reassured them that “history and time is on our side, as one people, as one nation within a nation as the community that we are, the Chicano/Latino community of this nation.”
Navarro believed that existing demographic and social trends could lead not only to Latino political dominance within the U.S., but perhaps even to secession. In 2002 he said: “If in 50 years most of our people are subordinated, powerless, exploited and impoverished, then I will say to you that there are all kinds of possibilities for movements to develop like the ones that we’ve witnessed in the last few years all over the world, from Yugoslavia to Chechnya. A secessionist movement is not something that you can put away and say it is never going to happen in the United States. Time and history change.”
In early 2001 Navarro—in an effort “to demonstrate … solidarity with the indigenous people of Mexico”—led a national delegation of Chicanos and Mexicans in a march into Mexico City alongside the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional, a militant group of Mexican guerrillas seeking to establish a socialist system.
In October 2002, Navarro spoke out against the impending U.S. war with Iraq and organized a demonstration in front of Democratic Representative Joe Baca’s district office in San Bernardino, California, exhorting Baca to vote against the use of military force. Navarro charged that the Bush administration “seeks war at the expense of peace” — mainly for the ultimate purpose of gaining control over Iraq’s oil reserves.
In the mid-2000s, Navarro fought against a San Bernardino, California city initiative that would have made it illegal to hire illegal immigrants or to rent homes to them.
In 2005 Navarro joined forces with such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, La Raza Unida, and the Salvadoran street gang MS-13 in condemning the Minuteman Project (MP), a volunteer, grassroots effort by private U.S. citizens seeking to restrict the influx of illegal immigrants across the Arizona-Mexico border. Notwithstanding MP’s strict adherence to principles of nonviolence, Navarro depicted the group (and others like it) as “terrorist armed militias” operating “against our immigrant people.”
As of 2008, Navarro was the coordinator of the National Alliance for Human Rights, an organization that favored open borders and ever-expamding rights for illegal aliens.
In his 2008 book, The Immigration Crisis: Nativism, Armed Vigilantism, and the Rise of a Countervailing Movement, Navarro argued that historically, America’s great economic expansion had resulted chiefly from the exploitation of slave and immigrant labor—most recently, the labor of Mexicans and Latin Americans.
A longtime supporter of Fidel Castro’s Communist Cuba, Navarro strongly opposed any restrictions on trade and travel between the U.S. and Cuba. “We have relations with Vietnam,” he said in June 1999. “We have relations with North Korea. We have relations with Communist China. Where is the fairness in continuing to turn our backs on Cuba? We are concerned about bringing an end to the Cold War, for the benefit of both this country and Cuba.” That same year, Navarro organized “Encuento con Cuba,” a delegation of Chicano/Latino academics, professionals, and civic leaders who traveled from the U.S. to Cuba for the purpose of forging a new diplomatic and economic relationship with that country.
Among the items which adorned Navarro’s office at UC Riverside were: (a) a photograph of himself with Castro; (b) a drawing of the Castro regime’s chief executioner, Che Guevara; and (c) a photo of Castro ally Daniel Ortega, the Marxist-Leninist president of Nicaragua.
Navarro wrote a number of books including Mexican American Youth Organization: Avant-Garde of the Chicano Movement in Texas (1995); The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control (1998); La Raza Unida Party: A Chicano Challenge to the U.S. Two-Party Dictatorship (2000); Mexicano Political Experience in Occupied Aztlán: Struggles and Change (2005); The Immigration Crisis: Nativism, Armed Vigilantism and the Rise of a Countervailing Movement (2008); and Global Capitalist Crisis and the Second Great Depression: Egalitarian Systemic Models for Change (2012).
Navarro’s areas of teaching specialization included: Mexicano/Latino Politics, Chicano History, Chicano/Latino Contemporary Issues, Social Movements, Immigration Crisis, U.S. Politics, Global Capitalism, and the U.S. Economic Crisis.
Navarro died of a heart attack on March 25, 2022.