IT was the morning after the Oct. 1 dedication of the Maestas Case, and the committee of scholars and attorneys who had spent years researching and reading case files about the educational segregation happening in Alamosa gathered at Martín Gonzales’ home to reminisce and say their goodbyes before traveling onward. The next morning they reflected on the dedication ceremony over bowls of posole and chile.
It was a breakfast celebration and the posole tasted just right. There was laughter and smiles and conversation about the ceremony the night before. The crowd at the Alamosa County Justice Center that October day overflowed to where people who couldn’t get inside the courtroom to hear the speeches and participate in the dedication of a bronze relief commemorating the case scooted on to the nearby Colorado National Guard armory where more celebration was set to take place.
The Maestas Case, which dates back to 1912 and was settled in 1914 by Judge Charles Holbrook to end segregation of Hispanic students by Alamosa schools, has all sorts of history lessons embedded within and meaning behind it.
Like this one told by Jason Kelly, who was part of the Maestas Committee and serves as Conejos County Court Judge.
“What you may not be aware of is where we are right now, in 1912 this was not Alamosa County, it was Conejos County,” he told the crowd inside the Alamosa County Judicial Center. “This case covered a period from 1912 to 1914. In 1912, this is Conejos County and Alamosa County was formed by taking portions of Costilla County and portions of Conejos County and making Alamosa County.
“The reason I think that this is significant is this case extends far beyond just right here. It extends beyond the citizens of the San Luis Valley. Although it has a lot of meaning for us because it’s personal to us, it extends throughout the country and that’s what we really began to see as we began to understand the significance of this particular case.”
WE hope this video production by Hannah Eubanks and narrated by Martín Gonzales also helps lend some understanding to the significance of the case. The narration is taken from a recent podcast episode with the retired judge and video footage taken at the commemoration event.
We continue to find other ways to reflect on the Maestas Case, including through a ballad written by Antonio Esquibel, Ph.D. We brought into our recording studio Dr. Esquibel and musicians Rose Villapando and Ruben Dominguez to perform the corrido and record this video from the session.
“This case speaks to the validity of struggles for equality and speaks to that even in circumstances in which there are overwhelming odds seemingly, you can still struggle, you can still fight, you can still win,” Martín Gonzales said.