Zapata Park to get a slight name change
A little park with a rich history on the southside of Alamosa is set for a slight name change. The Alamosa Parks and Recreation Board is recommending to the city council that Alamosa modify the name of Zapata Park to Zapata Historic Park as a way to recognize the Francisco Maestas school desegregation case.
Zapata Park is at Ninth Street between Ross and Bell avenues and has long been a neighborhood park that hosts family reunions, weekend BBQs, birthday celebrations – and at one time when the winters of Alamosa were cold enough, hosted an ice rink for the neighborhood kids to skate. It is also the site of the former Mexican Preparatory School, where Hispanic children were sent.
“While changing the name of Zapata Park to Zapata Historic Park may seem trivial, the history and implications of the Maestas Case are hard to understate and are gaining national recognition. Adding ‘historic’ to the name of the park lends credibility to the truly historic nature of the case and physical place it occurred,” the parks and recreation board said in its recommendation.
The name Zapata Park emerged from the activism of southside residents during the Chicano Movement era of the mid-1960s into the 1970s. Figuring prominently in this regard was Emiliano Zapata Salazar, a main leader of the Mexican Revolution and whose name and memory are enshrined at the park in Alamosa’s South Side.
The park is home to a memorial for Reyes P. Martinez and Los Seis de Boulder. Martinez and five other Chicano activists were killed by two separate car bombings in Boulder in May of 1974. The memorial at Zapata Park honors their spirit.
The park also holds a park bench dedicated to the memory of Manuel de Jesus Martin and Nemecia Vigil and their children and ancestral parents.
The Francisco Maestas case involves what is believed to be the first education desegregation case involving Mexican-Americans in the United States and was occurring around the time of the Mexican Revolution. It dates to 1912, and was a push by Francisco Maestas and other Hispanic parents who challenged the Alamosa School District to allow students to attend the school of their choice.
At the time, the district had two schools: one for English speakers and the other for the children of Spanish-speaking families. Although the Maestas children spoke English, they were denied access to the school closest to their home. The families eventually took their case to district court, where District Court Judge Charles Holbrook ruled in their favor.
Retired District Court Judge Martín Gonzales of Alamosa figured prominently into the Maestas Case research and along with other academic researchers has worked to bring attention to the Holbrook decision from 1914.
In October of 2022 the Maestas Case Commemoration Committee held a formal community dedication of a bronze relief at the Alamosa County Justice Center.