Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice

Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice

Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice

Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice

Synopsis

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 fascinating testimonio, 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.

Excerpt

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 big abrazo.

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

“Hey, no problem, Dr. García, glad to do it.”

I’m always impressed that he usually addresses me as “Dr. García.” He’s older than I am but has a teacher’s respect for other teachers, as I have for him.

We have to rush to get to my class. Most of the students are already waiting for us, and as we move to the front of the room behind the desk and podium a few more students arrive. I can sense the students observing our guest—checking him out. “So this is Sal Castro,” they seem to be thinking.

Buenos Dias, Good morning.” I begin the class with the same salutation I always give. “I’m very pleased and honored to have with us this morning someone who has made history. Very few of us have the opportunity to make history—to bring about important change. Well, Sal Castro has. He is living history. There’s no question in my mind that the 1968 walkouts or ‘blowouts’ in the East Los Angeles schools, when thousands of Chicano students walked out of the schools to protest a history of discrimination and poor schooling, could not have happened without Sal Castro. As one of the few Mexican American teachers in the Eastside public schools, Sal helped to organize the students to challenge their inferior education. He had the courage to do this, as did the students. Very few of us would have the same courage. Sal has been a champion of educational justice for Chicanos for many years. Even though retired since 2003, he’s still fighting the good fight. It is a privilege to have him with us today.

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