SAN ANTONIO — In 5 performances, a Latino theater firm’s restaging of a play about historic however ignored Mexican American scholar walkouts rekindled sorrow and delight amongst audiences, whereas triggering worries in regards to the current.
The play “Crystal Metropolis 1969,” first staged in 2009 in Dallas, was carried out for the primary time in San Antonio final weekend on the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Middle.
The play tells the story of the Crystal Metropolis, Texas, scholar faculty walkouts and boycotts, when 1000’s of scholars demanded modifications from faculty and native leaders, who have been white, and an finish to racist and discriminatory therapy of Mexican American college students.
“We’d get paddled if we spoke Spanish in school. Self-discipline was very unequal. We didn’t have Chicano counselors. They demeaned us. They have been very racist with us,” Severita Lara informed NBC Information in 2019.
The scholars went to the varsity board with 13 calls for, together with extra Mexican American college, the inclusion of Mexican American historical past within the curriculum, a good self-discipline system and extra cheerleading slots for Mexican Individuals — because the college had put limits on what number of Mexican Individuals might be on the crew.
Additionally they demanded instructional fairness. Lara stated she wasn’t allowed to take a chemistry class as a result of she was informed that was just for college students who have been happening to school. She did go — and earned a level in biology with a minor in chemistry.
The play captures a few of that, how ladies and moms grew to become the catalyst for fogeys to arrange and the way their actions have been a part of the formation of the Raza Unida Social gathering by one of many walkout organizers, José Angel Gutiérrez.
“Once we have been lively, there have been no books. There have been no mentors. There was no person to inform us do what we needed to do. There was simply rage,” stated Gutiérrez, who went on to change into an lawyer and is a professor on the College of Texas at Arlington.
College students in San Antonio and different communities in South Texas had additionally staged walkouts within the late Nineteen Sixties and early ‘70s.
Some members of the viewers had skilled what befell within the play, having their very own reminiscences of being hit in class by lecturers and principals for talking Spanish and having been denied instructional alternatives.
However the occasions depicted within the play, new to some, function a reminder of what’s at stake now, as conservative elected leaders and faculty boards ban ethnic research books and people with LGBTQ characters and themes and put limits on the instructing of Black, Latino and different historical past, based on David Lozano, who co-wrote the play with Raul Treviño.
“That is our story and it’s additionally a historical past that we’ve been denied rising up in faculties and even in school. You’ll be able to have a grasp’s diploma and nonetheless not know the story of Crystal Metropolis,” stated Lozano, who’s the manager creative director of Cara Mía Theatre in Dallas.
“So long as this story is being denied in our faculties, this story continues to be related, and that is 53 years after the primary day of the (Crystal Metropolis) walkout,” Lozano stated.
The showings in San Antonio have been the primary alternative for a number of the former college students who had participated within the walkouts to see the play and gave present Crystal Metropolis college students and residents the possibility to see it. Crystal Metropolis is about two hours from San Antonio, however the play has by no means been staged there.
The attendance for the play in Austin and San Antonio “tells me that Latinos love our historical past. We’re hungry. We’re starved for our historical past and we’re nonetheless not getting it,” stated Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, director of the College of Texas at Austin’s Middle for Mexican American Research, or CMAS.
“The opposite factor is, I believe there’s some unfinished enterprise. I believe you possibly can see it if you take a look at political illustration … attempting to get folks to know that this group belongs to them and they should make that declare,” she stated, “to verify our elected officers are actually defending their finest pursuits.”
Rivas-Rodriguez stated that at each efficiency, somebody raised the difficulty of the present actions towards instructing about race, racism and identification, such because the latest block by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration of a brand new Advance Placement course on African American research.
“The folks see … that if we need to have our historical past taught in class and our historical past woven into the bigger American tales and Texas tales, we have to get up and be counted after which ensure that they’re included, and if there are makes an attempt to not embody them, we have to let our elected officers know,” she stated.
It is a historical past that’s painful for individuals who lived it. Rivas-Rodriguez stated she heard her sister, who sat subsequent to her in a efficiency Saturday, sniffling by way of the play “as a result of we acknowledged these are a number of the issues that occurred to us in our childhoods.”
Rivas-Rodriguez grew up in Devine, Texas. When her mom, who she stated spoke “good unaccented English and excellent unaccented Spanish,” took her to enroll in first grade, the superintendent tried to enroll Rivas-Rodriguez in a category for kids with studying disabilities.
“My mom requested why and he stated, ‘Nicely she does not converse English, does she?'” Rivas-Rodriguez stated. He then requested Rivas-Rodriguez if she spoke English.
“That was one of many some ways they managed to segregate youngsters, to make them really feel completely different,” Rivas-Rodriguez stated.
James Garcia, a Phoenix playwright and journalist who hosts a Latino-focused radio present, “Vanguardia America,” skilled comparable discrimination whereas rising up on Chicago’s South Facet. Rising up in a Mexican American family, he spoke no English. On his first day of college, he could not inform the instructor he wanted to go to the lavatory.
“The subsequent factor I knew, I used to be on the entrance steps of the varsity and was informed, ‘Wait right here till your mom comes and will get you,'” he stated. “I realized later they informed her do not carry him again till he learns English.”
“Folks overlook there was a sort of cultural trauma that affected Mexicans and Mexican Individuals,” Garcia stated. The impact of that form of discrimination was to inform Mexican American and Mexican college students that their language, their tradition, was nugatory, worthless and one thing to be ashamed of, Garcia stated.
Performs like “Crystal Metropolis 1969” and “Voices of Valor,” a play Garcia has staged about Latinos who fought for the nation, assist dismantle the Hollywood depictions of Mexicans as dangerous guys, thieves and ignorant, Garcia stated.
Staging of the play in San Antonio was a part of the fiftieth anniversary celebration of UT CMAS, which occurred in the course of the pandemic and subsequently had delayed a few of its occasions. It was additionally staged final yr in Dallas and outdoor in Austin to an enthusiastic crowd of about 600, based on Lozano, together with some who watched it on-line.
Olga Muñoz Rodriquez was a 26-year-old mom who helped college students in Uvalde, Texas, manage walkouts in 1970, after the varsity board determined to not renew a contract for a instructor, George Garza, the one Spanish-speaking instructor within the faculty, Robb Elementary.
This is identical faculty the place 19 college students and two lecturers have been killed by a gunman final yr.
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