Fronteras: 'Reading, Writing, And Revolution' | Texas Public Radio

Fronteras: 'Reading, Writing, And Revolution'

Feb 1, 2019

In the late 19th century, many Mexican-Americans were shut out of the public education system because they couldn’t speak English. So, the community responded by creating its own schools.

Philis Barragán Goetz, assistant professor of History at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, shared the history and significance of “escuelitas.”

Philis Barragán Goetz is an assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University-San Antonio and author of the manuscript “Reading, Writing, and Revolution: Escuelitas and the Emergence of a Mexican American Identity in Texas.”
Credit Norma Martinez / Texas Public Radio

Escuelitas began establishing not just along the Texas-Mexico border, but in other areas with large Mexican or Mexican-American populations, such as Laredo, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi from the 1880s to shortly after World War II.

At the time, speaking Spanish in public schools in Texas was forbidden by law, and the stereotype that those of Mexican descendent did not care about education limited their opportunities for access to the public school system.

The classroom settings in escuelitas varied from someone’s living room to buildings constructed by community members through donated resources, time and labor. The studies in escuelitas also differed from the public school system, as it focused on a Mexican-centric curriculum.

Goetz, author of the manuscript “Reading, Writing, and Revolution: Escuelitas and the Emergence of a Mexican American Identity in Texas,” spoke with several former students of escuelitas as part of her research in order to better understand the financial, social and political challenges that plagued Mexican-American communities, and how that often hindered their opportunity for success.

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1 and Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter @terrazas_lauren