In Kingsville there was to a degree a desire for change. While Chicano movement efforts in Kingsville were not as successful as in Crystal City, it still had an impact.
In Kingsville there were people who wanted to be involved but were constrained.
“Not long after, you saw more Chicanos elected to public office. There was hope in South Texas, just in sheer numbers,” Tony Bill, who was involved in the movement at A&I, said.
The Kingsville education system boycott and walkout began on April 14, 1969 and centered on conditions at Gillett Junior High School.
Chicano students had submitted a list of demands to school officials that were ignored. The officials’ failure to respond to these concerns led to further developments. Those demands included: no punishment for students who demonstrated for better education; no punishment for speaking Spanish; books about Chicano heritage in school libraries; more bilingual and bicultural programs; teachers stop taking political sides and preaching them to their students; an end to the racist literature that erased the contributions of the Chicano from the pages of history; and more Chicano teachers, administrators and especially counselors.
A&I sociology professors provided raw data to the A&I activists that helped prove the lack of education by Mexican Americans as well as the number of Mexican American teachers compared to the number of Mexican American students across Texas and in Kingsville. Raw facts couldn’t be argued with, or so the Chicanos thought.
Author Armando Navarro explains in his book, “MAYO Avante-Garde of the Chicano Movement in Texas,” after the demands were ignored some 75 students initiated a boycott and before the end of the first day of the boycott more than 200 students had gathered for the protest in front of the junior high school.
Those students who participated were threatened with expulsion from school by local school board members. Walkouts were significant because schools receive state funding for students in attendance. The fewer students in class the less money the school receives.
Two days after the boycott began; the protests had expanded to a second junior high school as well as the high school in Kingsville.
The protests moved to the administration building where they then travelled through Kingsville to Memorial Junior High School, which led to the demonstrators’ arrest for unlawful assembly and disturbing the peace.
By then the numbers of protesters had swelled. As the walkout and boycott got underway in Kingsville, Bill travelled to a Chicano rally in Austin and spoke to many students and many travelled to Kingsville to help.
Students may have started out as campus activists, but their actions quickly spread to barrio politics across the state.
The Kingsville Record and Bishop News reported on April 20, 1969 some 116 were jailed as a result of the boycott after students and sympathizers marching down a street reached a police barricade.
After they were arrested, protesters gathered outside the jail as well, according to the news report. The juveniles were later released and not charged.
One parent, Maria Amador, told the newspaper she knew her daughters were involved in the protest, but disapproved of their actions.
To be continued next week. By: Nicole D. Perez