The story of Sylvia Méndez and her family’s struggle to desegregate the schools in 1940s California is told by Sylvia’s classmate and best friend, Rosita. The two girls meet at Hoover School, a two-room shack designated for children of Mexican descent. The Méndez, along with four other Mexican-American families fight to integrate the public schools so that Sylvia and the other Mexican children can receive the same education as non-Hispanic students.

Also on the line is the friendship between Sylvia and Rosita. Through songs, games, and poetry, the two girls grow very close. But Rosita’s parents, who are migrant workers, are afraid of “rocking the boat.” They do not join the Méndez in their legal struggle. This causes a rift in the friendship between the two girls.

On February 18, 1946, Judge Paul J. McCormick (an Irish-Catholic American) ruled in favor of Méndez and his co-plaintiffs. However, the school district appealed. On April 14, 1947, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling in Méndez v. Westminster in favor of the Mexican families. After the ruling was upheld on appeal, then-Governor Earl Warren moved to desegregate all public schools and other public spaces in California. Méndez v. Westminster set an important precedent for ending segregation in the United States.

Event Link: https://www.galatheatre.org/post/sylvia-mendez