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Fronteras: ‘We need to know who we are’— MACRI enters 5th year in highlighting Mexican American civil rights

Not much is taught in schools about the critical role South Texas played during the Mexican American civil rights movement of the 1960s.

During this time, Latino communities across the Southwest were subject to discrimination in schools, police brutality, and displaced due to urban renewal.

The injustices sparked a series of actions including school walkouts in Crystal City and Uvalde, increased voter registration efforts, and the creation of a short-lived political party.

The Mexican American Civil Rights Institute (MACRI) has made its mission to educate San Antonio and beyond about this often-forgotten chapter of U.S. history.

The San Antonio-based organization was founded in 2019 to document, record, and keep local stories alive.

MACRI’s executive director Sarah Zenaida Gould said a steady output of scholarship on Mexican American civil rights history has only been around since the 1990s.

“I think it’s very revealing of the fact that many of us never learned this history in school,” she said. “For many of us, if we don’t have an advanced degree in history or Mexican American studies, we just don’t know about this other than maybe (in) some family stories.”

MACRI will mark its 5th anniversary with a free symposium on May 17 and 18.

The event will feature over two dozen guest speakers from across the country and include panels on voting rights, Mexican American military service, and Latino representation in news media.

“It will be a little bit of looking back and looking forward in terms of what we’ve accomplished in our first five years and where we want to go in the future,” Gould said.

The event will be held at Central Library in downtown San Antonio and will also be livestreamed.

Registration for the event is encouraged.

MACRI has also asked the community to share their memories of the Mexican American civil rights movement by submitting a video message.

Video messages can be 1-3 minutes long and center on:

  • a story about a memory, photo, or artifact tied to Mexican American civil rights
  • a story or memory about the early days of MACRI
  • why you believe San Antonio is the place for MACRI
  • why you believe Mexican American civil rights history should be better known
  •  what your hopes are for MACRI's future  

Submit videos via email to sgould@somosmacri.org or info@somosmacri.org.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1