Francisco Maestas et al. v. George H. Shone et al.
The Maestas Case
A lawsuit challenging school segregation of Hispanos in Colorado.
The term Hispano refers to the mixed race of Spanish and Native Americans who had established settlements in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico for generations.
At the end of the Mexican/American War in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo made the areas part of the US and an influx of new settlers brought major economic, industrial, political, linguistic and cultural struggles. One of those struggles happened in Alamosa, CO from 1912-1914.
Railroad Forman Francisco Maestas and other Hispano parents sought to place their children into the public school on the white side of town, but were denied by the Alamosa Superintendent. They then 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 denied.
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. The school did nothing.
The community organized further with the help of the SPMDTU, America’s oldest still active, mutual aid society, and a Catholic Priest, they raised funds and hired Denver lawyer Raymond Sullivan. Sullivan contended racial prejudice was a driving force behind school administration efforts and the Colorado Constitution prohibited discrimination based on race.
The school district argued that the Hispano students were Caucasian and therefore the district was not discriminating based on race, but rather, the district was providing support for the students' English language deficiency. Raymond Sullivan disproved this when he put the students on the stand and they answered questions in English.
District Court Judge Charles Holbrook ruled in favor of Fransico Maestas stating that “in the opinion of the court … the only way to destroy this feeling of discontent and bitterness which has recently grown up, is to allow all children so prepared, to attend the school nearest them.”
ALAMOSA, CO 1908 Photo by O.T. Davis