By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Tribune
It’s what might be called, “Good trouble.”
Back in the segregated classroom of Hoover School in Westminster where Mexican students were separated from their English-speaking counterparts, first-grader Socorro Perez wasn’t upset when her teacher threatened to send her home for speaking Spanish.
“I didn’t care,” she said at Tuesday’s “reunion” of pupils from Hoover. “I lived right across the street from the school and my mother was at home making tortillas. I was a trouble-maker.”
She and three other Hoover alums gathered at the Mendez Monument Park in Westminster to “celebrate the legacy” of the historic 1947 Mendez v. Westminster court case which would strike down school segregation in California and serve as a pre-cursor to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case which outlawed “separate but equal” schooling across the nation.
The event was organized by Westminster Councilmember Carlos Manzo and former Councilmember Sergio Contreras. Guests included representatives from the Orange County Department of Education and Westminster Mayor Chi Charlie Nguyen.
“We are not far removed from the Mendez v. Westminster civil rights case,” said Manzo. “We have come a long way, but have a long way to go.”
In addition to Perez, the “alums” on hand were Dolores Ponce, Luis Hernandez and Frank Mendoza. He remembers that, despite the fact he was attending a segregated school, his parents were just glad he was getting an education.
“The covers on the books may have been a bit tattered,” Mendoza said, “But what you learn from is inside.” And after the Mendez case there were an ironic comparison to be made.
“I never got spanked for speaking Spanish at Hoover,” recalled. “That didn’t happen – one time – until I got to the integrated school.”