Saturday, July 21, 2018

El Pueblo de Tucson: Chicano Leadership In Bilingual Education Part I Pueblo High School by Antonio SolisGomez

Downtown Tucson in the 1950's

When I began attending the University of Arizona in July of 1975, I was surprised to learn that there were several Latinos on the faculty: Renato Rosaldo, Adalberto (Beto ) Guerrero, John Garcia, Celestino Fernandez, Joe Sanchez, Romaldo Juarez, Iliana Suarez Rivero, Arminda Fuentevilla and my library science professor Arnulfo Trejo. Another surprise was that the President of Pima Community College, Diego Navarrette was also a Latino and that the Latino Community played a key role in the establishment of the college.

In the back of my mind, I have always considered those Academic Latinos a unique occurrence for that time period and have always wanted to find out more of how that came about. As I delved into the story with information provided by Dr. Aristeo Brito and Dr. John Garcia, I realized that this was a story with many facets, requiring that I interview several more people to obtain its completeness. The story is much like the metaphor of the perfect storm, many diverse elements coming together to produce something out of the ordinary. I struggled to ferret out this story, so hidden by time, by the passing away of some of the important personages and by my own short comings in time and energy to devote to this task.

The story, however, must have a beginning and for me it’s found in the late1950’s with the founding of a Chicano student group at the University of Arizona called the Universitarios. It was a social club and a support group for the Chicano students who felt isolated among the mostly white students. Much of the credit for its formation belongs to the returning Korean War Veterans such as John Huerta, I was told by Marty Cortez who was a member during the time of it’s formation. Later the group began to raise money for scholarships and eventually the group became the Hispanic Alumni Association, which continues to raise scholarship money.

The Universitarios was important because students learned how to network and support one another and also some of those that graduated became teachers in Tucson, such as Diego Navarrette, Esperanza Burrel Bejarano, Evangelina Valdez, Guadalupe Guerrero Romero, Adriana Cordova Herman and Marty Cortez and they helped spur the Bilingual Educational programs for which Tucson is well known.
Maria L. Urquides The Mother of Bilingual Education

Another significant piece of this story was the launching of Sputnik in 1957.  Adalberto (Beto) Guerrero, about whom we’ll have more to say later, recalls that the launching of Sputnik had a great impact on education, not only in science and math but also in language education and included bilingualism, which led later to the availability of money for books and materials to be used in classrooms.
Henry Hank Oyama

We now arrive at the first manifestation of those prior two events in Pueblo High School, opened in 1956 to accommodate the growth in the city’s booming population going from 45,000 in 1950 to 212,000 in 1960. It was located on the Southside of Tucson and was attended mostly by Chicanos students. It also had a handful of teachers that were advocates of bilingual education, among them the woman that has been called the mother of bilingual education, Maria L. Urquides, who will also be covered in more depth in a subsequent article.

The answer as to how Pueblo, a seemingly non-descript school, became a promoter of bilingual education was provided during a breakfast I had with Beto Guerrero and with Macario Saldate, both former University of Arizona professors and Cosme Zaragosa, Professor Emeritus at Fresno State and a former student of Beto.
Adalberto Beto Guerrero

Beto who had been hired to teach at Pueblo in 1958, explained that Faith Frikart, head of the Spanish Department recognized that Native Speakers of Spanish needed a different type of class. She asked him to conduct a class for that group and to incorporate Spanish literature from both Spain and the Americas. This was a radical departure both in concept and in the selection of reading from what even Universities were teaching, there being at that time a distain for the literature from the Americas and a clear preference for Spanish authors.

Initially viewed by parents as a form of segregation, they were won over by the reasoning that it was akin to an honors class. And indeed it became that with students reading a total of one hundred books in Spanish during their four years in the class, bought with money being funneled through NDEA (read Sputnik).

A consequence of the class for Native Speakers was the concomitant improvement of student performance in other classes. Beto repots that in 1965, the school was given a national award as a Pacemaker School for its outstanding achievements and when the school blow-outs were taking place, Pueblo students said they had no reason to participate. Their needs as Chicano students were already in place.

In addition to Maria Urquides, Beto Guerrero and Faith Frikart, Pueblo was blessed with two other outstanding teachers during that era, Henry (Hank ) Oyama and Diego Navarrette, both of whom played key leadership roles in the establishment of Pima Community College. Hank once told me the story of Diego betting administration that Hispanic students were not deficient in intelligence and that their poor school performance was a deficiency in the acquisition of English and he won, by addressing what students were lacking.
Macario Saldate

I conclude Part I with the story of Dr. Macario Saldate, a professor of Spanish at the U of A for many years and currently an elected representative in the Arizona Legislature. He was a senior at Pueblo when Beto entered the school building for the first time and passed in front of him and his clica leaning against a wall ogling the girls. They were shocked to see a man with a thin mustache and more shocked when he greeted them in Spanish, Buenos Dias Muchachos.

When the Native Speakers class was offered, Macario’s utter disregard for school during that time kept him away. His younger sister however registered for Beto’s class and raved about the classroom work and about the books she was assigned to read. Macario was baffled.

Macario was from a family of miners and his dad once told him that his one regret was never having acquired a skill like carpentry or plumbing and as a consequence Macario enrolled in a welding class at Tucson High School taught by Brainard Douglas, whom Macario said taught him so well that when he finished the class he went to San Pedro California to work at the shipyards and became a Journeyman Boiler Maker in one year.

Returning to Tucson with a better appreciation for learning based on his experience with having to study welding manuals, Macario thought about enrolling at the U of A. His English was so poor however that his welding mentor, Brainard had to tutor him for an entire summer to enable him to pass the entrance exam. Once at the University, he chose to study Spanish under the tutelage of Beto who had moved to the U of A.  Macario eventually obtained his doctorate and became a mentor to many other young latinx.

1 comment:

msedano said...

who are they, what was their upward trajectory like? "Academic Latinos a unique occurrence for that time period "