Former Students of Segregated Texas School Holding Onto Dark Past
Former students of the Blackwell School in Marfa are stepping up to ensure their history is never forgotten.
SEGREGATION IN MARFA, TEXAS
Back in 1909 when Blackwell Elementary School was built, there were no specific laws that forced separation among Mexican-descended children. However, the Marfa elementary school was segregated and only attended by Mexican children.
Mario Rivera, a former student of Blackwell said, "In society, you learn at a young age to stay away from where you're not wanted." Another former student, Jesse Silva, admitted, "That's where I learned of racism, here in Marfa."
A shocking symbolic ceremony was held at the school to banish the Spanish language. The students had to write on a piece of paper "IW WILL NEEVR SPEAK SPANISH AGAIN. The papers were then placed into a small coffin-shaped wooden box and buried in the ground. Silva retold that day, explaining the event, "From then on, anyone speaking Spanish would get punished; discipline started immediately." The entire ritual was a mock funeral for the student's language, a huge and integral part of their heritage.
Gretel Enck, president of the Blackwell Allience. "So many kids only spoke Spanish at home, and they felt like they were being denied their heritage."
RECLAIMING THEIR VOICE
Decades later, a reunion was held and the former students reclaimed their voice by unearthing "Mr.Spanish," the coffin used back then. Former students are pushing congress to make the school a national historical site.
The history may be dark but it's important to know the history to ensure it is never repeated. "It's a door into all of the ways Mexican Americans, specifically here in Texas, have been discriminated against, have been segregated, for as long as this has been America," Enck explained.