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Fronteras: ‘Crystal City 1969’ play honors the real-life story of student 'heroes and sheroes' who fought for Latino civil rights

In 1969, a Mexican American high school student in Crystal City wanted to join her school’s cheerleading squad.

She was automatically disqualified from applying. Only one Mexican American cheerleader was allowed and the squad had already met its yearly quota.

The incident became the catalyst that led to a historic school walkout. But it was more than about a cheerleader who didn’t get a spot on the team.

It was also about physical punishment students endured for speaking Spanish, and about how Mexican Americans were often discouraged from pursuing a college education.

The walkout was about discrimination and racism.

Dallas-based Cara Mía Theatre adapted the events of the walkout and turned it into the play, “Crystal City 1969.”

Playwrights David Lozano and Raul Treviño conducted interviews with former students, teachers, and law enforcement officials who lived through the walkout.

Lozano, executive artistic director of Cara Mía Theatre, said the movement was eye-opening for students.

“They were just discovering this reality and putting the pieces together because the world (and) what is essentially a quasi-Jim Crow culture (that) had become normalized,” he said. “But as young people, they were beginning to wake up to these differences and how they were treated.”

The Crystal City walkout was inspired by similar walkouts in Los Angeles, San Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley.

Treviño, whose own uncle was a student leader of the walkout, said the play aims to ensure this event does not become a forgotten piece of history.

“It is a universal story. It's a timeless story. It’s David and Goliath,” he said. “You go back thousands of years and it's when young people are able to make a difference for their communities.”

The play is set to make its San Antonio debut at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Jan. 19-22.

See showtimes and information here. Some shows may already be sold out.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Marian Navarro produces for Texas Public Radio's Morning Edition and Fronteras.