Chicano civil rights movement legend and eastside hero Sal Castro, who spent time in jail for organizing his students to fight for their right to a better education, officially had an LA school named after him last Saturday, four decades after the “walkouts.”
Castro, 76 and a retired Lincoln High School teacher, was once labeled an agitator and forced out of teaching.
“Hispanics have contributed a lot to develop the educational system throughout the history of the United States, that’s why I’m happy that an Los Angeles Unified School District school will carry my name,” Castro said, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the occasion. “There are few schools named after Hispanics, that’s why I would like to see schools with names honoring leaders like the first Los Angeles Superintendent, Antonio Coronel and the first, Sheriff Tomas Sanchez,” Castro said.
Sal Castro Middle School is located on the Belmont campus in downtown Los Angeles. In October 2009, the school Board voted to name the school after the social studies teacher who gave his students a lesson in courage.
Supervisor Gloria Molina at the ribbon cutting recalled the impression Castro had on her in the late 1960s as the Vietnam War was underway and the Chicano community began to stand-up for themselves.
“The Vietnam War was in full swing-and young Chicano men were being sent to fight and die on the front lines in big numbers,” Molina said. “America’s economy was booming-but Chicanos overwhelmingly were stuck in low-wage jobs, and their kids were on the same track. Sal Castro made all of these issues very tangible and real for me-and for thousands of other young Mexican-American students. He helped us connect the dots so we could understand how the low quality of our education steered us toward lower-paying jobs-and to the front lines of the Vietnam War. In other words, he showed us how education was a civil rights issue.