History of Education for Mexican Americans in Texas
Sep 10, 2020
This article is written by Adela Villerreal-Cooper, Vice President of Student Experience at Stark College & Seminary.
As we approach National Hispanic Heritage Month, I remember the first time I learned about the segregation of Mexican-Americans in Texas public schools. I was an adult! Growing up I never enjoyed history, but surely I would have remembered hearing about that in school. I recall learning about the conventional notion of segregation; that of blacks and anglos, but there was no mention of browns or Mexican-Americans. The truth is, the segregation of Mexican-Americans in school or society was not taught in the history books when I was in school. This missing piece of history poses important questions: If “Whites only” signs were posted everywhere at one point in history, where did that leave the brown people, my people? Where did they fit into the piece of the puzzle we call history? What schools did they go to? How did they integrate once segregation was outlawed?
Stolen Education, a 2013 documentary that has now been added to the Stark College & Seminary library tells the story of how one South Texas district handled Mexican-American students. Mexican-American children were retained in the first grade for up to three years, not because of failed assessments, abilities, parental choice, or lack of English speaking skills, but solely because of their racial identity. If the children spoke Spanish, they were labeled as “retarded,” and the district claimed the students could not speak English.¹ This discrimination and racism led to the case of Hernandez v. Driscoll CISD, which is highlighted in the Stolen Education documentary. The filmmakers track down five of the first graders and share their stories which had never been told before publicly.
The case and documentary shed light on just one of the many stories of discrimination and racism against Hispanics and their education in Texas. It was a pivotal case that paved the way for equality in education for Hispanics. You can check out the documentary from our library.
I also encourage you to join us over the next month as we highlight a few stories of Hispanic Americans primarily in Texas – a land that was once known as Spanish or Mexico from 1690 – 1836,² but now the land where we live, work, and serve our churches and communities. In an effort to love thy neighbor, I invite you to take the time to read, hear, or watch these stories to learn more and grow in knowledge together.
¹ Enrique Aleman (Producer), & Rudy Luna, (Director). (2017). Stolen Education. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Education-Enrique-Aleman/dp/B07939SB1F
² Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas, 1519-1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992), 1.