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Colorado sculpture honors Latino parents who fought school segregation in 1914

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Colorado sculpture

A  three-dimensional bronze sculpture depicting the Maestas children has been installed in the State Capitol in Denver in honor of the 108th anniversary of the decision in the Maestas case. The statue then will tour other parts of the state and in October it is scheduled to be installed in the Alamosa County Courthouse. 

The Maestas case dates back to 1913 when Francisco Maestas tried to enroll his son Miguel, 11, at the school closest to their home in Alamosa, a small town in southern Colorado. 

School officials insisted that Miguel attend the segregated “Mexican school,” which required a longer walk across railroad tracks. 

Maestas submitted a petition, with 180 signatures, challenging the decision but he was turned down again. As a result, he and other Mexican American parents pulled their children out of school in protest, a boycott that lasted for months. The parents then raised money for a lawyer and took their case to court.

The group of parents alleged that racial prejudice was the reason Mexican American students were forced to attend an inferior school. The school board argued that because Mexicans were considered white, there could be no racial discrimination.

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Instead, the school district said, the students were separated based on their language abilities. But during the trial, the families proved the school district wrong as several children, including Miguel Maestas, took the stand and demonstrated their English-language fluency.

Eventually, District Judge Charles Holbrook ruled in favor of the families.

Decades later, Gonzalo Guzmán, a visiting assistant professor of educational studies at Colgate University, came across a reference to the Maestas case in an archived Wyoming newspaper. 

He consulted the original court documents, and he and several colleagues published their findings in an academic journal in 2017, and the case got recognition again. 

In 2020, the Colorado Senate passed a resolution recognizing the significance of the Maestas case. Rubén Donato, a professor of education at the University of Colorado Boulder, hopes the commemoration will lead to greater public awareness of it.

 

*Source: NBCNews.

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