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Francisco Maestas et al. v. George H. Shone et al.

 Educational Desegregation 1914

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The nation’s earliest victory in the war against Hispanic educational segregation took place in Alamosa, CO. 

 

In 1912, Hispanic children of Alamosa were forced to attend a separate school from white children. The Alamosa School Board at the time argued that the Hispanic children needed language support and they should attend classes taught in Spanish in their own school building, even though most Spanish speaking children were fluent in English.

 

Despite the fact that the area had long been part of the United States, and the families were American citizens, the reference was made to “Mexican” and “American” families. 

Francisco Maestas and other members of the community tried to switch their children's enrollment. They were denied. They formed the Spanish American Union and petitioned for change with a resolution that was signed by the community. They were denied. They contacted the Colorado State Superintendent and were refused. They staged a boycott in protest, an action the school district later seized upon to claim Maestas wasn’t interested in his son’s educational progress. The boycott went on for three months. They organized further and with the help of the SPMDTU raised funds and hired a lawyer and took the school district to court. And won. 

 

These new Social Studies Standards passed by the Colorado State Board of Education included the reference to the Maestas Case. 

"Colorado social studies lessons must include the experiences and contributions of diverse groups: Latino, Indigenous, African American, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, religious minorities, and LGBTQ people. 

In a series of 4-3 party line votes Thursday, Democrats on the Colorado State Board of Education approved social studies standards with an expansive view of the American story and who has a place in it." Read the full article HERE

 

See here: November recommendations vote (see Amendment 21 reference); Colorado Academic Standards SS June/Aug 2022 (see page 142)

All the documents from the 11/10 vote are here): https://go.boarddocs.com/co/cde/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=CDPQ7566A37A

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Inclusive social studies standards pass Colorado State Board

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Case Reopened by Nicolas Brulliard. "A major school desegregation victory in Colorado was all but forgotten.  A century later, it’s getting its due."

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The Colorado Magazine gives voice to writers who share our passion for the past and the Centennial State.

An Almost-Forgotten Fight for School Desegregation Sep 13, 2022

 

The 1914 Maestas Suit was one of the country’s first successful legal fights against discrimination in schools.

"Four decades before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision made integrated schools the law of the land, a little-known lawsuit successfully challenged school segregation in Alamosa, Colorado. Maestas vs. Shone was part of a fight against discrimination that set the stage for modern-day civil rights campaigns in Colorado. And, until recently, it was largely unknown."...Read the full article HERE

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Raul A. Reyes - NBC Latino: For over a hundred years, this story of Latino parents fighting for their children’s education was lost to history — until recently.

A three-dimensional sculpture depicting the Maestas children will be installed Thursday in the State Capitol in Denver in honor of the 108th anniversary of the decision in the case. The statue then will tour other parts of the state. 

“This case lay dormant for a century, and it took some strong efforts by academics to bring it to light,” said Ron Maestas, a retired educator and descendant of the Maestas family. “To me, Francisco Maestas gives us a lesson in courage, a simple man standing up against inequity. He stood up for his kids, because he wanted safety and education for them.”

Continue Reading

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Latinos in Colorado won the right to attend whatever school they wanted to decades before the rest of the country. CBS4 Denver reporter Michael Abeyta covers the Maestas Case. 

"In the San Luis Valley, Mexican American culture runs deep. The Hispano people who settled in the area during the Spanish colonization of the Southwest have held onto their traditions for hundreds of years, and for just about as long they have fought for their rights as Americans."

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Colorado Voices RMPBS - A corrido is a traditional way of popularizing a person or event through song. Here, historian and educator Antonio Esquibel of S.P.M.D.T.U. Concilio #7 in Denver sings the corrido he penned for the occasion of the statue commemoration at the Colorado State Capitol, “Corrido de Francisco Maestas.” Rocky Mountain PBS full video

Rocky Mountain PBS - ALAMOSA, Colo. — Etched in bronze and put on public display for all to see, the San Luis Valley now has a new permanent reminder of one of the nation’s oldest school desegregation cases, Maestas v. Shone and the Board of Education.

On Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Alamosa County Justice Center, a life-sized bronze relief by artist Sonny Rivera was unveiled. The sculpture depicts two elementary-aged children representative of the many students affected by the 1914 decision.   

Rivera spoke at the standing-room-only event commemorating the monument he created, saying, “This was done with a lot of love for all of you, and for all of us.”  Full Article HERE

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The Francisco Maestas Case is now believed to be the nation’s first educational desegregation case. This is a recording of a corrido, or ballad, commemorating the case written by Antonio Esquibel, Ph.D., and accompanied by musicians Rose Villapando and Ruben Dominguez of Manassa. Recorded at Alamosa Citizen studio Oct. 12, 2022.

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Alamosa Citizen PODCAST: La Sociedad in Antonito, educational desegregation and the Maestas Case come together in this episode with retired District Court Judge Martin Gonzales. Listen in: https://www.alamosacitizen.com/podcast/martin-gonzales/ #SanLuisValley #Colorado

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Video production by the Alamosa Citizen, narrated by Martín Gonzales helps lend some understanding to the significance of the case. The narration is taken from a recent podcast episode with the retired judge and video footage taken at the commemoration event at the Justice Center on October 1st, 2022.

Full article HERE

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"A school desegregation case in Colorado was won, and nearly lost to history. In 1912, Alamosa was home to two schools, serving white and Mexican students respectively. When the child of a Hispanic family living near the white school tried to enroll there, he was denied. His family sued and won, marking the earliest recorded Mexican-American desegregation case. The story was long forgotten... until a group of historians came along." Listen to the Interview HERE

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​​The SPMDTU (La Sociedad Protección Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos) was founded in Antonito in 1900 and led the region’s Indio-Hispano and Latino settlers in protecting land and water rights under territorial change. Today, generations of members reflect on La Sociedad's impact and look forward to reopening their flagship community building to the public.

Learn more: https://www.rmpbs.org/blogs/rocky-mountain-pbs/spmdtu-receives-14-million-to-restore-concilio-superior/

The SPMDTU was pivotal in funding lawyer Raymond Sullivan, who represented the Hispano families in the Maestas Case.

Visit the official site of the SPMDTU 

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A railroad man, Francisco Maestas, knew the dangers of the railroad crossing, as well as the weather and, on Sept. 2, 1913, went to the superintendent of schools and asked to enroll his son. The request was refused and Maestas was told he had to enroll his son in the “Mexican School.” Miguel was kept out of school by his father due to an organized walkout which was part of the parent protest against the segregated school.

Judge Holbrook was convinced that school officials had used the English language deficiency and the academic unpreparedness of some Mexican American children as a rationale to send them all to the Mexican School up to the fifth grade. He declared English-speaking Mexican American children had the right to attend public schools near their homes, or schools of their choice, in the Alamosa School District.

THE UPRISING

THE OUTCOME

Photo 1908 by O.T. Davis

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