Event Date:
Thursday, April 23, 2020 –

5:00pm to 6:30pm PST
Event Location:
Online via Zoom


Join us for a live Zoom session celebrating the fiftieth anniversary issue of Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies!

In the issue’s dossier, curated by Michelle Téllez, writers, poets, and artists reflect on fifty years of Chicana feminism and Chicana feminists.

This session will bring together Aztlán editor Charlene Villaseñor Black and dossier contributors Téllez, Cherrie Moraga, Maylei Blackwell, Felicia Montes, Martha Gonzalez, Susy Zepeda, Alejandra Elenes, and Dolores Delgado Bernal.

Attendance for this panel is limited to 300 participants, and will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

The CSRC will be recording this Zoom session. No recording by other means is permitted. This session will be posted on the CSRC YouTube Channel. Audience video participation will be disabled for this webinar. However, if you have privacy concerns and want to make sure you do not appear in the recording, do not turn on your video. If you would like to ask a question, you may do so privately through the Zoom chat by addressing your chat question to the host only (and not to “everyone”). If you have questions or concerns about this, please contact the CSRC at

Pursuant to the terms of the agreement between the vendor and UCLA, the data is used solely for this purpose and the vendor is prohibited from redisclosing this information. UCLA also does not use the data for any other purpose. Recordings will be deleted when no longer necessary. However, the recording may become part of an administrative disciplinary record if misconduct occurs during a videoconference.

Register via Zoom at

Chicano Studies Research Center to preserve Mexican American religious collections

By Rebecca Epstein for the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center

The UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center is launching a three-year project that will reflect the role of faith, spirituality and religion in Mexican American culture.

Supported by a $349,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the project team will draw from multiple collections that help tell the story of Mexican American lives from 1940 through the present day.

“Over 90 percent of U.S. Latinos identify with a religion or faith, and yet there is a surprising absence of humanities research related to the role of religion, spirituality, and faith in this community’s history,” says Chon Noriega, director of the Chicano Studies Research Center and project director. “This project provides a unique opportunity for UCLA to play a leadership role in bringing attention to the role of religion in existing archival resources that can then inform social histories, educational practices, and public programming related to the Mexican American population as a constituent element of U.S. social history.”

This project draws attentions to three types of collections:

  • faith-based organizations that serve individuals, families, community-based groups and communities
  • religious and spiritual leaders working outside their formal positions in a church or religion, often as founders of service-based institutions in underserved communities
  • individuals whose lives give insight into the role of religious belief in day-to-day life and civic engagement in Latino communities

The CSRC will process recently acquired collections, reprocess legacy collections and digitally preserve materials consisting of nearly 250 linear feet of documents, 125 audio recordings, and more than 14,000 photographs and slides.

The collections give insights into multiple churches and faith-based organizations including Church of the Epiphany, Homeboy Industries, Católicos for La Raza as well as key religious figures such as Father Gregory Boyle, Father Richard Estrada, Sister Karen Boccalero, and individuals whose daily and professional lives reflect faith-based values such as Mexican American civil rights activist Lupe Anguiano and award-winning broadcaster and newspaper columnist Joe Ortiz.

The collections also include the records of everyday people, like Josefa L. Serna. She arrived in Los Angeles in 1922, accompanied by her mother and two siblings. She married another immigrant, raised six children, and later worked in a women’s clothing store in East Los Angeles. She became an American citizen in 1961. The Serna Papers represent a rare and invaluable resource in that the collection documents five generations of an identifiable working-class Mexican American family in Los Angeles over the course of nearly a century.

This is an extremely valuable project for future scholarship, said Charlene Villaseñor Black, professor of art history and Chicana and Chicano studies in the UCLA College.

“Faith-based organizations and community groups have played a key role in the social lives and civic engagement of the Mexican-descent population since the colonial period of the U.S.,” she said.

CSRC project team members hope the collections will serve as the basis for dissertations, scholarly books, undergraduate and graduate research projects, teaching assignments that provide hands-on experience with archival research, and as loans for museum and library exhibitions.

Xaviera Flores, co-director of the project and CSRC librarian and archivist, said the funding will have a real impact on the community and on developing a community-focused archival practice.

“The really exciting aspect of this NEH grant is that it will allow us to deepen our community engagement through the project, developing new best practices in this area, while also training the next generation of archivists,” Flores said.

In addition to making these materials publically accessible, this grant will allow the CSRC to hire, train and mentor students interested in learning archival work. Flores started her career as a project archivist on a similar type of grant.

“I am overjoyed to be able to provide someone now with that same opportunity through this NEH grant and give back to the community,” she said.

The Deportation Machine: America’s Long History of Expelling Immigrants by Adam Goodman

Constant headlines about deportations, detention camps, and border walls drive urgent debates about immigration and what it means to be an American in the twenty-first century. The Deportation Machine traces the long and troubling history of the US government’s systematic efforts to terrorize and expel immigrants over the past 140 years. This provocative, eye-opening book provides needed historical perspective on one of the most pressing social and political issues of our time.

In a sweeping and engaging narrative, Adam Goodman examines how federal, state, and local officials have targeted various groups for expulsion, from Chinese and Europeans at the turn of the twentieth century to Central Americans and Muslims today. He reveals how authorities have singled out Mexicans, nine out of ten of all deportees, and removed most of them not by orders of immigration judges but through coercive administrative procedures and calculated fear campaigns. Goodman uncovers the machine’s three primary mechanisms—formal deportations, “voluntary” departures, and self-deportations—and examines how public officials have used them to purge immigrants from the country and exert control over those who remain. Exposing the pervasive roots of anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States, The Deportation Machineintroduces the politicians, bureaucrats, businesspeople, and ordinary citizens who have pushed for and profited from expulsion.

This revelatory book chronicles the devastating human costs of deportation and the innovative strategies people have adopted to fight against the machine and redefine belonging in ways that transcend citizenship.

New Book: Latinos and the 2016 Election: Latino Resistance and The Election of Donald Trump

This is a brand spanking new book coming out in May with Michigan State University Press put forth by Gabriel Sanchez, Luis Fraga, and Ricardo Ramírez. I hope it may be of interest…


The 2016 election saw more Latino votes than the record voter turnout of the 2012 election. The essays in this volume provide a highly detailed analysis of the state and national impact Latino voters had in what will be remembered as one of the biggest surprises in presidential election history. Contrary to much commentary, Latino voters increased their participation rates in all states beyond the supposed peak levels that they attained in 2012. Moreover, they again displayed their overwhelming support of Democratic candidates and even improved their Democratic support in Florida. Nonetheless, their continued presence and participation in national elections was not sufficient to prevent the election of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate who vilified Latinos and especially Latino immigrants. Each essay provides insights as to how these two competing realities coexist, while the conclusion addresses the implications of this coexistence for the future of Latinos in American politics.

Newish book: From South Texas to the Nation The Exploitation of Mexican Labor in the Twentieth Century by John Weber

John Weber, Assistant Professor of History at Old Dominion University, discusses his book, From South Texas to the Nation: The Exploitation of Mexican Labor in the Twentieth Century (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), migrant agricultural labor, immigration policy, and the long-term impacts of the labor relations model that developed in South Texas during the early twentieth century.

In the early years of the twentieth century, newcomer farmers and migrant Mexicans forged a new world in South Texas. In just a decade, this vast region, previously considered too isolated and desolate for large-scale agriculture, became one of the United States’ most lucrative farming regions and one of its worst places to work. By encouraging mass migration from Mexico, paying low wages, selectively enforcing immigration restrictions, toppling older political arrangements, and periodically immobilizing the workforce, growers created a system of labor controls unique in its levels of exploitation.

Ethnic Mexican residents of South Texas fought back by organizing and by leaving, migrating to destinations around the United States where employers eagerly hired them–and continued to exploit them. In From South Texas to the Nation, John Weber reinterprets the United States’ record on human and labor rights. This important book illuminates the way in which South Texas pioneered the low-wage, insecure, migration-dependent labor system on which so many industries continue to depend.

Listen to the interview here:

Ayala: UT oral history project on mariachi begins where it must, in San Antonio

Elaine Ayala has this great piece for the San Antonio Express News

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez and Ricardo Romo were having breakfast about a year ago at Mi Tierra while a musical trio was making the rounds at the restaurant.

¿ Una canción? one asked. “A song?”

Such musicians aren’t alone in making their livings one song at a time. In San Antonio, many are mariachis.

As they walked away, Romo, a historian and former president of the University of Texas at San Antonio, said, “Too bad no one knows their stories.”

They immediately had the same thought. “Oral history project!” Rivas-Rodriguez recalls saying.

Truth be told, it has been a recurring refrain throughout her academic career. This weekend, the idea came full circle with the videotaping of the oral histories of 13 San Antonio mariachis.

Among them were its elder statesmen, a pioneering educator, the founders of mariachi Masses, a premier concert producer, women who’ve fought to pick up violins, people with perfect pitch and one of the genre’s young stars, Sebastien De La Cruz.

You might remember him when at 11, his rendition of the national anthem during the 2013 NBA Finals triggered a racist Tweetstorm that showed him to be way beyond his years.

He turns 18 Wednesday and is still very much on his game.

Rivas-Rodriguez was in her element amid their dramatic stories of perseverance, striving to document a yet-unexplored chapter of the nation’s story.

Starting in 1999, the journalism professor and former journalist has led the Voces Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin. At first, she documented the recollections of Mexican American World War II veterans, whose stories were being lost to time.

Voces has preserved 1,270 oral histories, including those of veterans of other wars, civilians and others, all archived in the Nettie Benson Latin American Collection at UT. Voces has produced five books on the U.S. Latino WWII experience alone.

In January, it hit a major milestone when it was named an academic center at UT, affording it a new level of permanence. “It means it’s here to stay,” Rivas-Rodriguez said.

It only took 21 years.

Along the way, Voces has produced a treasure trove of oral histories for generations of researchers and filmmakers to come, and it doesn’t cut corners. Voces adopted a pre-interview format from the Shoah Foundationat the University of Southern California, which contains the oral histories of Holocaust survivors and witnesses the world over.

Since Voces also printed companion newspapers, the project acquired high-resolution photographs all along, too, hitting another standard of excellence.

Voces still doesn’t have a full-time staff — that’s yet another hill to climb — but Moody College of Communication’s dean Jay M. Bernhardt’s decision to elevate it was celebrated with applause over the weekend at the UTSA Downtown Campus, where the mariachi oral histories were being taped.

The interviewers, most of them graduate students at UTSA and Texas A&M University-San Antonio, gathered Saturday for a crash course on conducting oral histories. I was among them.

We learned that doing an oral history isn’t as simple as turning on a video camera. The pre-interview alone felt like I was filling out an application for a small business loan. Two long days couldn’t have been more rewarding.

We found there’s a big hole about mariachis on the nation’s bookshelf. Most of the research and writing done thus far has been for theses and dissertations. We heard data that shows mariachi education, like ethnic studies, improves academic outcomes among students. We heard women in mariachi are pushing past barriers and the genre’s machismo.

On Sunday morning, our subjects began arriving slowly. Some had gigs the night before, some would immediately afterward.

They came dressed in colorful trajes and brought with them old concert posters, photos and other memorabilia that helped tell their stories.

In our subjects we found rich stories of cultural heritage and pride; generational talent that was nurtured; personal struggles exacerbated by financial ones; competitive drives; and wounds that may never heal. We heard of other mariachis who must be interviewed.

Rivas-Rodriguez raised $30,000 to cover the costs of the weekend session. She’ll need to raise that and more the next time she brings Voces to San Antonio or the Rio Grande Valley and other places where mariachi music is being made, one song at a time.

For now, the first group of interviews served to quell the concern that Romo and Rivas-Rodriguez first feared. That no one knows their stories.

On May 17, Voces will be back at UTSA Downtown to deliver its first glimpse of what we documented and, if we’re lucky, a mariachi will assemble and play for us.

“Los Maestros: Early Explorers of Chicano identity” Teaches Next Generation of Artist Activism

John Salazar with this piece for Spectrum News

SAN ANTONIO — On the second floor Centro de Artes, visitors will step back in time viewing dozens of Chicano art pieces. Many are works of protest dating back to the 1960s and 1970s.

  • Features art from Jose Esquivel, the late Jesse Almaźan, and Rudy Treviño
  • 84-year-old Esquivel never through this would happen

Los Maestros: Early Explorers of Chicano Identity is dedicated to three underrepresented artists who heavily contributed meaningful works during the Chicano movement of the civil rights era. The exhibit is part of a two-exhibit space dedicated to sharing the Latino experience through art.

Jose Esquivel, the late Jesse Almaźan, and Rudy Treviño are “Los Maestros” featured on the second-floor exhibit.

“At last, we have a place that will understand and exhibit our work,” said 84-year-old artist Esquivel.

During the ’60s and ’70s, when Mexican-American artists used canvas as a vehicle of expression to convey messages of economic disparity, job wages, discrimination, political non-representation and education equality, the San Antonio native and others like him did not have a gallery or public space to showcase their work.


An image of a piece of art inside Centro De Artes gallery, part of the “Los Maestros: Early Explorers of Chicano Identity” exhibit (Spectrum News) 

“Mainstream galleries, museums and institutions did not want to touch it because of that,” said Esquivel.

During the civil rights era, the Chicano Movement emerged with three goals: restoration of land, farmworkers rights and education reforms. At the time, Latinos did not have a voice inside the political arena. Chicano activists used art as a bullhorn to be heard.

“Especially museums that are very conservative – they did not want to show that,” said Esquivel.

Today, scholars, art experts, galleries and museums across the country are revisiting Chicano art, making contributions from Esquivel, Almaźan and Treviño more relevant than ever.

“Although the movement has died now and no longer exists, I think that the artists continued on and I think that is a better legacy,” Esquivel said.

Los Maestros is free to the public and runs through the end of June.

“I am very pleased because in June I will be 85. And I thought that I would never get to see this happen,” Esquivel said.


An oldie, but a goodie from Albert Rodriguez for


The area of South Texas known as the Lower Rio Grande Valley became in the period between the U.S. Civil War and World War I one of the few regions south of the Mason-Dixon Line where racial miscegenation laws were frequently challenged.  As a consequence a small but significant number of prominent black-ethnic Mexican families emerged to complicate both the Anglo-Mexican and black- white racial dichotomies so common in the rest of the nation. In the article below historian Alberto Rodriquez describes that process.

The U.S. Census of 1900 for Cameron County, Texas, which today is dominated by the cities of Harlingen and Brownsville, showed an unusual statistic.  According to that census, 177 blacks formed 18 households in Cameron County.  Of those eighteen households, seven or 38% were interracially married.   In neighboring Hidalgo County, where the largest cities are Donna, McAllen, and Edinburg, Texas, there were 18 out of 25 families interracially married or 72% of the black population.  These two counties had the highest rates of interracial marriages involving at least one black spouse in the United States at that time.

Most of the black women and men of Cameron and Hidalgo Counties migrated from the Deep South to the southern most region of Texas.  These were farm families.  Out of the 18 interracial households in Cameron County, nine families (50%) owned their land while nine families rented.  In Hidalgo County, 10 out of 25 or 40% of the interracially married couples owned land.  If blacks acquired land in South Texas, it happened in one of two ways.  Either they had economic success which provided the resources to purchase land, or they married into the landed ethnic Mexican families of South Texas.

These interracial marriages along the Lower Rio Grande Valley for the most part were black men marrying ethnic Mexican women or first generation Tejanas (Texas-born women of Mexican descent).  Typical of these marriages was the union of Louis and Angle Rutledge of Hidalgo County.  Louis Rutledge was a black male born in Alabama who lived in the county’s Second Precinct in 1900.  In 1886, he married Angle, an ethnic Mexican woman who was born to Mexican parents.  The Rutledges, who had been married 14 years by the time of the 1900 census, had seven children ranging from two to thirteen years of age.  The census also shows that all the children attended school.

It was more common for blacks and ethnic Mexicans to cross racial lines and marry at this time and in this area of Texas than any other section of the state.  Since ethnic Mexicans were considered white by Texas officials and the U.S. government, such marriages were a violation of the state’s anti-miscegenation laws.  Yet, there is no evidence that anyone in South Texas was prosecuted for violating this law.

Moreover, there seemed to be little stigma attached to these marriages from the families involved.  In 1900, Juan Zuniga’s daughter, Redacinde Jackson, lost her black husband. She then returned with her children to her father’s home.  Interracial families were often what would today be called blended families since both husband and wife brought children from previous marriages into the new households.   Juan Singletary of Hidalgo County had two stepsons, Ballagar and Davie Solis, living with him.  Both were sons of Antonia, his ethnic Mexican wife.  Nagario Jackson also had a stepson living in his household.  His name was Christ Visnuevo, the stepson of his ethnic Mexican wife, Eugiruia.  As the given names Juan and Nagario suggest, these “black” men themselves had ethnic Mexican mothers and thus represented a second generation of racially blended families.

The roots of this unusual interracial marriage dynamic can be traced into the 19th Century.  Many black men who moved into the Lower Rio Grande Valley after the Civil War married into ethnic Mexican families soon after their arrival.  They joined black women and men who from the 1850s onward found sanctuary on the U.S./Mexican border. Although the black population in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas can be traced back to the mid 1740s with the settlement of the Afro-Spaniard José de Escandon, most black migration to the Rio Grande Valley happened in three periods: 1.the Underground Railroad era with enslaved people fleeing from the slaveholding southern United States into Mexico between 1836 and 1865, black settlers on the border between 1850 and 1900, and 3. twentieth century black migrants who arrived between 1900 and 1960.

In 1849, for example, slave-owner Lad Kinchlow of Wharton County, Texas, freed and sent one-year-old Ben Kinchlow, his older brother, and his mother, Lizaer Moore, to Matamoros, Mexico.  Although Ben does not give any explanation for his family’s emancipation, he does state that he never knew his white father, Lad Kinchlow.  Ben worked both sides of the border as a ranch hand and cowboy in the 1860s and 1870s.  During that period he reported friendly interaction with ethnic Mexicans both in Texas and Mexico.  When Kinchlow was five years old, his mother Lizaer (Eliza) Moore, married Juan Rios, an ethnic Mexican from Brownsville, Texas.  Although Kinchlow did not claim any lineage to his ethnic Mexican stepfather or siblings, he found love within the South Texas ethnic Mexican society. Kinchlow said in a 1937 WPA interview that he “fell in love” with Antonita Flores:

Antonita was the one I fell in love with… Of co’se I had chances to talk to her some. I used to go by Antonita an’ smile an’ pass her a sign an’ she always answered.  I would have married her if I had stayed on there but I was young an’ hadn’t even joined up with [Texas Ranger Lee] McNally [of Brownsville, Texas] yet an’ when I left their [sic], I drifted farther away an’ never did go back. But Antonita stayed in my memory a long time.  She was good an’ kind an’ as pretty as a rose. I thought lots of her an’ I knowed she thought lots of me. We used to ride together but most of the time the old man was with us. Sometimes I got to talk to her an’ I could slip in a nice word while we were off together.

Kinchlow’s brief fling with Antonita reflected the complexity of race and ethnicity in South Texas at that time.  Although Antonita was legally white and thus their relationship was a violation of Texas miscegenation laws, according to Kinchlow, Antonita Flores’ father knew about them and allowed the courtship to continue under his supervision.  Antonita’s father thus obviously had a different understanding of the miscegenation laws that existed from the Civil War through the mid-20th Century.

Even Anglos found the Lower Rio Grande Valley a haven for mixed race relationships.  John Webber, an Anglo from Travis County, Texas, married one of his former slaves, Silvia Hector, soon after he founded Webberville.   Yet Webber and his interracial family, which by this time included three children, were forced to flee the town he founded because of opposition to their status as a mixed race family.  They moved further south in 1853 and settled near Donna, Texas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  The Webber family eventually acquired 27,000 acres of land along the Rio Grande.  Three other black families, the Jacksons, Singletarys, and Rutledges, arrived in South Texas with the help of the Webber family.  Their descendants married ethnic Mexican men and women.  Black-white marriages like that of John and Silvia Webber, however, remained rare.

The Webbers, Jacksons, Singletarys, and Rutledges, all of whom acquired large ranches, established a pattern of interracial marriage that was copied by other African American migrants into the region after the Civil War.  Thus the Census of 1900 confirmed a half century of interracial blending between blacks and ethnic Mexicans in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  Today most of the Lower Rio Grande Valley people who carry the last names of Webber, Jackson, Singletary, and Rutledge are all Spanish-speaking people who claim Mexican descent.

By the early 1900s, new waves of black settlers in South Texas were becoming an integral part of the growing agro-business economy in the region.  Many of them worked on the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexican Railway.  Ironically the demand for their labor and the growing residential segregation that finally swept into South Texas from the rest of the state, allowed their small communities to flourish.

Although the four major interracial families–the Webbers, Jacksons, Singletarys, and Rutledges– increasingly identified as ethnic Mexicans, they nonetheless continued to support the black newcomers who arrived in the area.  One of their most important contributions was Jackson Chapel, a Methodist Church found in 1874 on Jackson Ranch between the communities of Donna and Hidalgo, Texas.  The one room church served both as a school and community meeting center and still serves that purpose today.  The church became the center of the small but growing black community while the school, for many years, provided the only educational opportunity available to African American children.  As vital as it was to black South Texas, however, Jackson Chapel also provided a space for Anglos, blacks, and ethnic Mexicans to meet, exchange culture, and interact in their daily lives.

Jackson Chapel led the way for all-black churches in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  By 1930 Brownsville, Raymondville, Harlingen, and Edinburg all had such churches.  As the African American population in the Lower Rio Grande Valley grew in the period between 1880 and 1920, these churches helped establish a sense of African American autonomy from both the Anglo and Mexican worlds and for the first time black communities became a distinct part of the increasingly diverse South Texas racial makeup.  Yet, the growth of racially exclusive neighborhoods for Anglos, blacks, and ethnic Mexicans limited and discouraged the interracial and interethnic contact that had been common in the mid-19th Century.

With the post-World War II influx of Mexican immigrants and Tejanos from other areas of Texas as well as the steadily increasing black population, the size, number, and influence of the early black-ethnic Mexican families declined.  While the border region of the Lower Rio Grande Valley continues to be a space of interracial-interethnic marriage freedom, it is important to recall how the process began that allowed this far south region of Texas to quietly challenge the rest of the United States on the question of interracial marriage.  The South Texas past may well suggest one type of future as the black and brown populations continue to grow in numbers and influence throughout the nation.


New Book: Stagnant Dreamers: How the Inner City Shapes the Integration of Second-Generation Latinos by María G. Rendón

A quarter of young adults in the U.S. today are the children of immigrants, and Latinos are the largest minority group. In Stagnant Dreamers, sociologist and social policy expert María Rendón follows 42 young men from two high-poverty Los Angeles neighborhoods as they transition into adulthood. Based on in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations with them and their immigrant parents, Stagnant Dreamers describes the challenges they face coming of age in the inner city and accessing higher education and good jobs and demonstrates how family-based social ties and community institutions can serve as buffers against neighborhood violence, chronic poverty, incarceration, and other negative outcomes.

Neighborhoods in East and South Central Los Angeles were sites of acute gang violence that peaked in the 1990s, shattering any romantic notions of American life held by the immigrant parents. Yet, Rendón finds that their children are generally optimistic about their life chances and determined to make good on their parents’ sacrifices. Most are strongly oriented towards work. But despite high rates of employment, most earn modest wages and rely on kinship networks for labor market connections. Those who made social connections outside of their family and neighborhood contexts more often found higher quality jobs. However, a middle-class lifestyle remains elusive for most, even for college graduates.

Rendón debunks fears of downward assimilation among second generation Latinos, noting that most of her subjects were employed and many had gone on to college. She questions the ability of institutions of higher education to fully integrate low-income students of color. She shares the story of one Ivy League college graduate who finds himself working in the same low-wage jobs as his parents and peers who did not attend college. Ironically, students who leave their neighborhoods to pursue higher education are often the most exposed to racism, discrimination, and classism.

Rendón demonstrates the importance of social supports in helping second-generation immigrant youth succeed. To further the integration of second-generation Latinos, she suggests investing in community organizations, combatting criminalization of Latino youth, and fully integrating them into higher education institutions. Stagnant Dreamerspresents a realistic yet hopeful account of how the Latino second generation is attempting to realize its vision of the American dream.

MARÍA G. RENDÓN is assistant professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy at the University of California, Irvine.


Ten-year-old Arturo Velázquez was born and raised in a farm labor camp in Soledad, California. He was bright and gregarious, but he didn’t speak English when he started first grade. When he entered third grade in 1968, the psychologist at Soledad Elementary School gave him an English-language IQ test. Based on the results, he was placed in a class for the “Educable Mentally Retarded (EMR).” Arturo wasn’t the only Spanish-speaking child in the room; all but one were from farmworker families. All were devastated by the stigma and lack of opportunity to learn.

In 1969, attorneys at California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) discovered California public schools were misusing English-language, culturally biased IQ tests, by asking questions like “Who wrote Romeo and Juliet?” to place Spanish-speaking students into EMR classes. Additionally, Mexican-American children were not the only minorities impacted. While African-American and Mexican-American students made up 21.5% of the state population, they were 48% of special education programs!

Written by two of the attorneys who led the charge against the unjust denial of an education to Mexican-American youth, The Soledad Children: The Fight to End Discriminatory IQ Tests recounts the history of both the CRLA and the class-action suit filed in 1970, Diana v. the State Board of Education, on behalf of 13,000 Hispanic kids already placed in EMR classes and another 100,000 at risk of being relegated to a virtual purgatory. From securing removal from EMR classes for the misplaced to ensuring revised, appropriate testing for students throughout the state, this engrossing book recounts the historic struggle—by lawyers, parents, psychologists and legislators—to guarantee all affected young people in California received equitable access to education.