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.”
To donate to the commemoration state visit its Go Fund Me Page
To learn more case from these attached files:
Summaries and photos about places on the national and state register of historic places
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 1. Alamosa County Courthouse
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 2. Alamosa Masonic Hall
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 3. Alamosa Post Office
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 4. American National Bank Building
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 5. Bain’s Department Store
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 6. Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Depot (Alamosa County Offices)
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 7. Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Locomotive No. 169
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 8. First Baptist Church
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 9. Husung Hardware
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 10. Mt. Pleasant School
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 11. Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Alamosa- National and State Historic Register 12. St. Thomas Episcopal Church
Hooper 13. Howard Store (Hooper Town Hall)
Mosca 14. Medano Ranch Headquarters
Mosca 15. Superintendent’s Residence, Great Sand Dunes National Monument
Mosca 16. Trujillo Homestead
Mosca 17. Zapata Ranch Headquarters
Antonito 1. Costilla Crossing Bridge
Antonito 2. Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad San Juan Extension
Antonito 3. Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Antonito Depot
Antonito 4. Denver & Rio Grande Western Locomotive No. 168
Antonito 5. Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Engine 463
Antonito 6. Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad Combination Car No. 60
Antonito 7. Palace Hotel
Antonito 8. SPMDTU Concilio Superior
Antonito 9. Warshauer Mansion
La Jara 10. La Jara Depot (La Jara Town Hall)
Los Sauses 11. La Capilla De San Antonio De Padua
Mogote 12. San Rafael Presbyterian Church
Sanford 13. McIntire Ranch
Sanford 14. Pike’s Stockade Site
Sanford 15. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
Sanford 16. Garcia--Espinosa--Garland Ranch Headquarters
Sanford 17. St. Joseph's Church
Blanca 1. San Luis Valley Southern Railway Trestle
Chama 2. Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción
Chama 3. Chama SPMDTU
Fort Garland 4. Fort Garland
Garcia 5. Garcia School
Los Fuertes 6. Capilla de San Isidro
San Acacio 7. Capilla de Viejo San Acacio
San Acacio 8. San Acacio San Luis Southern Railway Depot
San Francisco 9. Iglesia de San Francisco de Assisi
San Luis 10. Plaza de San Luis de la Culebra Historic District
San Luis 11. Rito Seco Creek Culvert
San Luis 12. Salazar House
San Luis 13. San Luis Bridge
San Pablo 14. Sociedad de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (San Francisco Morada)
San Pedro 15. Iglesia de San Pedro y San Pablo
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