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

Maestas Case
Desegregating schools in Colorado, 1912-1914

Maestas case bronze statue. Mexican patrons of public schools win court decision. Denver and Rio Grande steam train engine. Judge Charles Holbrook. Lawyer Raymond sullivan. Miguel Maestas. Antonio Marquez. Colcha embroidery. SMPDTU. Mount Blanca. Denver and Rio grande train station. Railroad tracks. Rulers. Mexican School. North side school. The Holbrook decision in Maestas case.
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The case was a grass-roots movement by the Mexican--American community in southern Colorado to combat educational segregation in public schools.

 

These families were US citizens with traceable ancestry dating back to the 1500s. At the end of the Mexican/American War in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo changed the economic, industrial, political, linguistic and cultural and educational landscape. One of those struggles happened in Alamosa, CO from 1912-1914. 

 

Railroad Forman Francisco Maestas and other parents sought to place their children into the public school on the north side of town, the white side of the railroad tracks. They 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 Mexican-American students were attending a separate school due to language proficiency issues and not due to racial differences. They asserted that Mexican-Americans were Caucasian under the terms of the Treaty of guadalupe-Hidalgo 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 before an interpreter could translate into Spanish.

 

District Court Judge Charles Holbrook ruled in favor of Fransico Maestas and the other families 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.

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ALAMOSA, CO 1908 Photo by O.T. Davis

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