The Maestas Case

By Sylvia Lobato The nation’s earliest and longest-unheralded victory in the war against educational segregation took place in the San Luis Valley between 1912 and 1914 and the big winners were Alamosa’s children.

In 1914, “The Denver Catholic Register” called the decision “historic,” noting that it “was the first time in the history of America that a court fight was made over an attempt to segregate Mexicans in school.” The suit grew from grassroots concern for equal education of Alamosa’s children.

Lying unnoticed from 1914 to 2016 and labeled Francisco Maestas et al vs. George H. Shone et al, the suit dates back to 1912 when Alamosa was still part of Conejos County, 10-year-old Miguel Maestas was forced to walk seven blocks from his home on the north end of Ross Ave. to the “Mexican” school building at the intersection of Ninth and Ross. The McKinney directory listed the “Mexican Preparatory School” as being at Ninth and Ross. There was no telephone number.

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.” Land for the school was purchased in 1909 to serve only “Mexicans.” Maestas filed suit and was soon joined by fellow Hispanics and the Catholic Church.

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

After a lengthy trial, District Court Judge Charles Holbrook determined that the plaintiffs had made a sufficient case for admittance of the students and issued an order to the school board and superintendent to admit the children to the public school most convenient to their homes. Holbrook stated 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.”

Eppie Archuletta

Eppie Archuletta

Chief Ouray

Chief Ouray

Diego de Vargas

Diego de Vargas

Billy Adams

Billy Adams

Lafayette Head

Lafayette Head

Kit Carson

Kit Carson

Cuerno Verde

Cuerno Verde

Albert H. Pfeiffer

Albert H. Pfeiffer

Don Juan de Oňate

Don Juan de Oňate

Historic Designations

Summaries and photos about places on the national and state register of historic places

Alamosa County
Loading...
Conejos County
Loading...
Costilla County
Loading...

SPMDTU

La Sociedad de Proteccion Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos(SPMDTU) is the oldest Hispanic mutual aid society in the United States. It was founded by Celedonio Mondragon on November 26, 1900. The first meeting was held that day in Antonito at the home of Apolonio Quintana, over the first few years, meetings were held at the homes of members, each one receiving a turn.

Mondragon and other Spanish-American men created the organization out of necessity, to fight discrimination, through non-violent actions, that was happening in the region through usurpation of Hispanic land ownership and discrimination against wage laborers

After meeting in homes, the society bought the Fidelia Marquez residence on the west end of town and a few hundred feet from the railroad tracks. The organization gained hundreds of members throughout the San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico, and it was decided to seek funds to construct the assembly hall for the newly formed Concilio Superior. The building, which still stands on Hwy 285 in downtown Antonito, was finished in 1926 and has since been home to many meetings and celebrations.

After World War II the SPMDTU had more than 1,500 members. The SPMDTU had concilios locales (local councils or chapters) in 36 towns in northern New Mexico, three towns in Utah and 41 towns in Colorado.  They were numbered in order of their founding.  Those in Colorado included the following: No. 1 Antonito, No. 2 Capulin, No. 3 Mogote, No. 4 Saguache, No. 5 Ortiz, No. 6 La Isla, No. 7 Los Sauces/Salida, (later became No. 7 in Denver), No. 8 Del Norte, No. 8 Los Valdezes, No. 10 La Jara, No.11 Fort Garland, No. 12 Del Norte/Nos. 8, 30, No. 15 Center/No 41, No. 16 La Garita, No. 17 Lobatos, No. 18 La Jara, No. 19 Alamosa, No. 20 Oak View, No. 21 Ignacio, No. 22 Conejos, No. 24 Pagosa Springs, No. 27 Monte Vista, No. 28 San Pablo, No. 29 Los Pinos/Valle, No. 30 Del Norte, No. 31 Chama, No. 32 Fort Collins, No. 34 Pagosa Springs, No. 35 Durango, No. 36 Montrose, No. 41 Center, No. 45 McPhee, No. 48 Aguilar, No. 49 San Luis, No. 50 Cañon, No. 52 Leadville, No. 54 Garcia, No. 60 Brighton and No. 60 Walsenburg.

The three concilios locales in Utah were: No. 59 Clearfield, No. 61 Odgen and No. 63 in Salt Lake City

Towns in New Mexico that had concilios locales include: No. 4 Rodarte, No. 9 La Madera/ Vallecitos,  No. 10 San Miguel, No. 11 Las Tusas,  No. 12 Costilla, No. 13 Ojo Caliente, No. 14 El Rito, No. 15 Placitas, No. 18 Ranchos de Taos, No.  20 Ranchos de Taos No.  21 Española Valley ((Española, Alcalde, Velarde, Lyden), No. 23 Lumberton, No. 24 No Agua/ Tres Piedras, No. 25 Chama, No. 26 Española, No. 29 Los Pinos, No. 30 Chamita, No. 30 Ratón and Dawson, No. 32 Arroyo Hondo, No. 33 Las Cruces, No. 34 Chamita, No. 37 Rosa, No. 38 Tierra Amarilla, No. 39 Alcalde, No. 40 Velarde, No. 42 Arroyo Seco, No. 43 Cerro, No. 44 Questa, No. 45 Dulce, No. 46 Embudo/Dixon, No. 53 Taos, No. 57 Nambé, No. 58 Peñasco, No. 63 Amalia, and No. 64 Lyden.

Today, the organization is still active. Its concilios locales conduct monthly meetings and functions, in order to further the organization’s vision.

“As a young boy growing up in Placitas, New Mexico, I remember attending burials of elders who had passed away in our community. I was very much impressed by the perfect respect exhibited by the members of La Sociedad de Proteccion Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos during the ceremonies they performed at the gravesite. The hermano who delivered the eulogy and read the resoluciones de condolencia did it in such a way that it produced goose bumps on those of us in attendance. All of the society members weore a siempreviva leaf, an evergreen representing fraternity, pinned next to the devisa on their clothing. As the formation of members walked around the grave, each hermano placed his leaf on the coffin of the departed member and then bid him a last farewell: ‘Hermano, descanse en paz’ (Brother, may you rest in peace).

I also remember the anniversary dances at the meeting hall of the local Council No. 14, an affiliate of La Sociedad located nearby at El Rito, New Mexico. The members started the dance by entering the hall in formation and singing the official La Sociedad hymn. It was very moving to hear those strong baritone voices all in unison….

The rich heritage portrayed in this book is truly an integral part of our Hispanic culture and a legacy for our youth and children.” From the forward by Lucas O. Trujillo, Sr., President, Cuerpo Legislativo Superior, 2001-2010

Excerpt taken from the back cover of La Sociedad: Guardians of Hispanic Culture Along the Rio Grande by Jose A. Rivera