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Blowout!: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In March 1968, thousands of Chicano students walked out of their East Los Angeles high schools and middle schools to protest decades of inferior and discriminatory education in the so-called "Mexican Schools." During these historic walkouts, or "blowouts," the students were led by Sal Castro, a courageous and charismatic Mexican American teacher who encouraged the students to make their grievances public after school administrators and school board members failed to listen to them. The resulting blowouts sparked the beginning of the urban Chicano Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the largest and most widespread civil rights protests by Mexican Americans in U.S. history.This fascinatingtestimonio, or oral history, transcribed and presented in Castro's voice by historian Mario T. Garcia, is a compelling, highly readable narrative of a young boy growing up in Los Angeles who made history by his leadership in the blowouts and in his career as a dedicated and committed teacher.Blowout!fills a major void in the history of the civil rights and Chicano movements of the 1960s, particularly the struggle for educational justice.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0330-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Mario T. García
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Sal Castro Story
    (pp. 1-26)
    Mario T. García

    I walk into my office building, always a bit anxious before my class. But today will not be any normal lecture. Today we have a very special guest. I know he is already waiting for me, having arrived the previous evening. As I open the door to my building, where I have a first-floor office, sure enough, there he is—bigger than life. He flashes me that wonderful smile and with twinkling eyes prepares to give me a bigabrazo.

    “Sal, so good to see you,” I say, as I prepare to be hugged. “Thanks for coming to speak to...

  5. ONE Born in East L.A.
    (pp. 27-55)

    My mother, Carmen Buruel, who was more important to me than my father only because I spent more time with her, was born in the border town of Nogales, Sonora, in the north of Mexico. Her family, the Buruels, werenorteños. The name Buruel is French, but I don’t know the history of how my mother’s family got the name. Despite the French connection, they were totallymexicanos. Her father, my maternal grandfather, earned his living as a blacksmith during the period of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. In fact, he became caught in the middle of this tragic civil...

  6. TWO Veterano
    (pp. 56-73)

    After I graduated, I continued to work at the sewing factory. I didn’t know what else to do. I also had a feeling that I would soon be drafted, and so I should just stick around until that happened. I signed up for the draft right after graduation. I could have waited a bit to do this, but I figured the sooner they drafted me the sooner I’d get it over with. And sure enough, one day I opened up a letter that read: “Greetings from the President of the United States.” This was President Eisenhower and it was August...

  7. THREE Viva Kennedy
    (pp. 74-85)

    Even though I had considered myselftapado(naive) in my youth, I was becoming un-tapadoas time went on. By learning new things at college, by listening to my kids at the playgrounds about their school problems, and by seeing the lack of Mexican American power in the face of urban renewal, I became much more politically conscious. As I underwent these changes, I also recognized that the community needed effective leaders and that I could contribute in this area.

    The fact is that I had always been interested in politics, so maybe I wasn’t astapadoas I thought....

  8. FOUR Mr. Castro
    (pp. 86-109)

    Politics was becoming important to me, but I still had school to contend with, besides earning a living for my family. By my senior year (1960–61), I discovered that I wanted to be a teacher. When I entered L.A. State, I thought I might want to be one, but I wasn’t fully decided. However, after working more with the kids at the playground, I realized that I enjoyed being with young people and that I could connect with them. They also educated me to their problems in the schools, and I thought if I became a teacher, I could...

  9. FIVE The Mexican Schools
    (pp. 110-132)

    Lincoln High School is an imposing, gothic-style building in the heart of Lincoln Heights on the northern border of what is considered to be generically East L.A.¹ It is just on the other side of the Golden State Freeway, which divides the Eastside from downtown. Little did I know when I walked into the school on a brisk January day in 1964 that within four years I would be at the center of a Chicano student explosion that would send shock waves throughout L.A. and the Southwest and would have national significance. I had a feeling something was inevitable, but...

  10. SIX Blowout: Part I
    (pp. 133-171)

    “We need to do something dramatic like Watts,” I thought to myself following the riots in Los Angeles. I, of course, didn’t support violence, but Watts showed me that only when minorities rebel or publicly resist in such a way to bring attention to their grievances would the rest of society listen. The problem affecting Mexicans in the L.A. schools was so severe and so damaging to our kids that some kind of explosion was needed. I didn’t know what this would mean. All I knew was that without some kind of mass protest by the students nothing would change....

  11. SEVEN Blowout: Part II
    (pp. 172-193)

    Friday morning, March 8, came with the threat of rain, and I drove to Lincoln for my eight o’clock class. The kids didn’t have to ask me if they were going out; they knew. I could feel the excitement in the air. After I got into my classroom and the students settled down, Ingles came in and asked if he could speak to me in the hallway. I told the kids to read on their own certain pages in their history textbook and went outside, closing the door behind me. I could hear the students starting to talk among themselves,...

  12. EIGHT The East L.A. 13
    (pp. 194-220)

    Following the walkouts and the climax of the meeting with the school board at Lincoln High School, it was difficult for the rest of the school year to go back to normal. I found it hard to teach after that and to concentrate, and I think that was true for a lot of the students. It was a bit unsettling. For example, every day I had visitors in my classes who came to meet me or to see if more protests were being planned. These were students from other schools, but who knows—some might have been undercover cops or...

  13. NINE Reprisals and Struggles
    (pp. 221-249)

    Being reinstated to Lincoln was a major victory—but a tentative one. For the next few years, I had to constantly battle the school district concerning my role as a teacher. At times, it appeared that I might not be able to survive. There are always repercussions for your actions. The school district was not about to forgive me for my role in the blowouts. I had to be punished and marginalized. I can’t say that I didn’t think about possible reprisals when I conspired to organize the walkouts. But there are times in one’s life when you have to...

  14. TEN All My Children
    (pp. 250-279)

    In the fall of 1973, I returned to Belmont High, where I had started my permanent teaching career ten years earlier. Although part of me wanted to still be back at Lincoln, another part felt satisfied that I was at least back to a mostly Mexican school. Belmont was not on the east side, but even more so than in 1963 it had all of the characteristics of a Mexican school, including an even larger percentage of Chicano students and soon a growing number of Latino kids.

    However, the school did not welcome me with open arms. In fact, the...

  15. ELEVEN Education Today and Legacies
    (pp. 280-302)

    In my years as a public school teacher, I have encountered a variety of educational issues and problems that I have had to address. This is no less true at the end of my teaching career as it was at the beginning. I remain concerned because many contemporary educational issues continue to negatively impact Latino students. As a former teacher and a citizen, I have strong views about the following issues that face our students and community today. I address these in no particular order of importance. They are all critical topics.

    First of all, there is the recent obsession...

  16. EPILOGUE: The Camp Hess Kramer Spirit
    (pp. 303-306)
    Mario T. García

    I arrive at Camp Hess Kramer early Saturday morning on a cold late May day in 2007. The foggy overcast that I awoke to in Santa Barbara has followed me all the way to Malibu. The drive was shorter than I had remembered from three years ago when we picked up my son Carlo, who attended the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference directed by Sal Castro. Carlo had a good time and, according to Sal, proved to be quite a dancer at the big Saturday night dance. This time it’s only me, and, finally, after promising Sal for a few years...

  17. AFTERWORD: Pedagogy of Chicano Power: Sal Castro, Paulo Freire, and the Mexican American Youth Leadership Conferences, 1963–1968
    (pp. 307-324)
    Mario T. García

    “Blowout, blowout,” one high school student began to call out on a sunny spring day in 1968. Soon thousands more echoed the call. This began what came to be called the blowouts. These Chicano high school and junior high school students walked out of the East Los Angeles public schools and demanded better education after years of unequal and inferior schooling in segregated so-called Mexican schools. Standing in the halls on the first full day of the blowouts, teacher Sal Castro looked on with pride and emotion as his students took up the call to take their future into their...

  18. APPENDIX: Chicano Movement Historiography
    (pp. 325-332)
  19. NOTES
    (pp. 333-362)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 363-367)