BASTROP, Texas – On September 23, 2017, the Bastrop County Historical Commission, the City of Bastrop, and the Bastrop Independent School District will partner to honor the students of the Mina Ward School through the dedication of a Texas Undertold Story Historical Marker and the establishment of the City’s Minerva Delgado Park. The public is invited to attend a ceremony to take place that Saturday, the 23rd, from 10 a.m. to Noon at the Bastrop Convention Center, 1408 Chestnut Street, Bastrop, Texas.
From 1933 until 1948, the Mexican-American students attended the “Mexican School,” renamed the Mina Ward School in 1939. When Minerva Delgado was set to enter the first grade in 1947, her grandfather, Samuel Garcia, along with his son and her uncle, Sam Garcia, met with School District Superintendent P. J. Dodson to request permission for her to attend Bastrop’s Anglo school due to its proximity to their home. Their request was denied and was part of an impetus to a class action lawsuit regarding discrimination against Hispanics in Texas filed by future civil rights icons Attorney Gustavo Garcia, University of Texas Professor George Sanchez, and Dr. Hector Garcia. The American G. I. Forum and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), both established civil rights organizations, were instrumental in this effort.
The lawsuit was filed against Bastrop independent School District and three other districts on November 17, 1947 on behalf of all Texas children of Mexican descent. Bastrop children serving as plaintiffs from the Mina Ward School were lead plaintiff, Minerva Delgado; Evaristo Gutierrez, a naturalized American with a son killed in WWII, for his children, 11-year-old Evaristo, Jr. and nine-year-old Ruth; as well as Desiderio Gutierrez, a citizen of the Republic of Mexico, for his children – 12-year-old Abelaro and nine-year-old Maria. Because Bastrop was first in alphabetical order and because Bastrop student Minerva Delgado’s name was first in alphabetical order among Bastrop plaintiffs, each gained fame in the case - Delgado et al vs. Bastrop ISD.
In the end, Federal Judge Ben H. Rice ruled the districts were “arbitrary and discriminatory and in violation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.” The ruling applied to all Texas children of “Mexican or other Latin American descent.” As a result, the Mina Ward School closed its doors and its students were allowed to attend school with the Anglo students.
Many of these students will return for a ceremony in their honor and to witness the dedication of the Undertold Story Texas Historical Marker and the presentation of a nearby park named for Minerva Delgado. The park, under construction, will be located on the center block of Main, Laurel and Pecan Streets in the City of Bastrop.
The ceremony will begin with a light brunch followed by a program led by Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape and former State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, a former student at the Mina Ward School. Speakers will include Dr. Carlos Blanton, associate professor of history, Texas A & M University; former student & plaintiff, Minerva Delgado Lopez; current Colorado River Collegiate Academy senior student, Natalia De Paz; Senator Barrientos; Bastrop Mayor Connie Schroeder; and former Bastrop City Council member Kay McAnally.
Following the ceremony, buses will transport former students and ceremony attendees to the site where the school once stood on Main Street for the unveiling of the Historical Marker.