The Fight for Latino Educational Autonomy in a West Texas Borderlands Town
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
The residents of San Felipe, whose roots Esparza traces back to the nineteenth century, faced a Jim Crow society in which deep-seated discrimination extended to education, making biased curriculum, inferior facilities, and prejudiced teachers the norm. Raza Schools highlights how the people of San Felipe harnessed the mechanisms and structures of this discriminatory system to create their own educational institutions, using the courts whenever necessary to protect their autonomy. For forty-two years, the Latino community funded, maintained, and managed its own school system—until 1971, when in an attempt to address school segregation, the federal government forced the San Felipe Independent School District to consolidate with a larger neighboring, mostly white school district. Esparza describes the ensuing clashes—over curriculum, school governance, teachers’ positions, and funding—that challenged Latino autonomy. While focusing on the relationships between Latinos and whites who shared a segregated city, his work also explores the experience of African Americans who lived in Del Rio and attended schools in both districts as a segregated population.
Telling the complex story of how territorial pride, race and racism, politics, economic pressures, local control, and the federal government collided in Del Rio, Raza Schools recovers a lost chapter in the history of educational civil rights—and in doing so, offers a more nuanced understanding of race relations, educational politics, and school activism in the US-Mexico borderlands.
“A welcome contribution . . . The author displays masterful skill in telling the story of the people of San Felipe who over the course of almost a century unceasingly sought to ensure a quality education for their children.”—Arnoldo De León, author of Tejano West Texas
“Esparza’s detailed focus on Del Rio provides a critical nexus on school segregation and the integration of Latinos, whites, and Blacks, using a wide array of sources, especially local voices gleaned through oral history. An excellent and timely focus on today’s controversial topics—diversity, inclusion, and equity—situated in an unexpected borderlands place during both the Mexican American and Chicano movements.”–Cynthia Orozco, author of No Mexicans, Women or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement