An art piece honoring Hispanic children's education is now in Denver
The Maestas case was one of many Mexican American segregation cases in the United States. Now, a new art piece in Denver celebrates equality for Hispanic children's education.
There’s a new art exhibit at the state Capitol — a sculpture portraying two children on their way to school.
“Cruzando los Traques” is the name of the bronze piece created by New Mexico artist Reynaldo Rivera. It symbolizes the Mexican American children of Alamosa County who were banned from attending the nearest school from home. They had to cross railroad tracks and had a much longer walk to get to their Spanish-speaking school.
In 1912, Hispanic children in Alamosa were forced by the local school board to attend a different school despite being fluent in English. There was a strong separation between “Mexican” and “American” children. When parents tried to enroll them in an English-speaking school, the children were rejected. School officials enforced a policy that children from Spanish-speaking families needed language support.
Francisco Maestas along with other parents organized boycotts and petitions, but realized their voice was unheard. They were able to raise money and hired a lawyer to take the school board to court. They prevailed. In 1914, Judge Charles Holbrook determined this was a case of social prejudice, recognized the children’s fluency in English and gave them the right to attend any school in the district.
The Maestas case is one of many desegregation cases in Mexican American history, and one of the first to gain a victory against Hispanic educational segregation.
You can visit the bronze piece now on display at the state Capitol for the remainder of the legislative session. It will then travel to other Colorado and New Mexico locations. Its permanent home will be in the Alamosa County Courthouse starting in October.