Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

The City of Westminster, in partnership with the Orange County Department of Education, will host a grand opening ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 1 to celebrate the completion of a new park and monument honoring the historic Mendez v. Westminster case, which led to the desegregation of California’s public schools 75 years ago.

The event, free and open to the public, will begin at 10 a.m. at 7371 Westminster Blvd., where community leaders and special guest dignitaries will deliver welcoming remarks and officially open Mendez Tribute Monument Park to the community with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Mendez v. Westminster

The case of Mendez v. Westminster dates back to 1943, when Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez sought to enroll their daughter, Sylvia, and sons Geronimo (Jerome) and Gonzalo, Jr. at 17th Street School, which had been designated for white children. Despite being local residents and U.S. citizens, the Mendez parents were told their children had to attend the less desirable Hoover Elementary, known as the “Mexican school.”

Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez hired attorney David Marcus and teamed up with four other Mexican-American families to pursue justice through the court system. Their lawsuit, officially known as Mendez, et al v. Westminster, et al, argued that 5,000 children throughout the county were harmed by unjust discrimination policies. Under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, the plaintiffs argued equal protection meant citizens could not be treated differently based on their race.

In 1946, U.S. District Court Judge Paul J. McCormick ruled in favor of the five families. Although the decision was appealed, it was upheld by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on April 14, 1947, one day before Jackie Robinson played his first major league baseball game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Mendez case ultimately laid the foundation for the U.S. Supreme Court to declare forced segregation unconstitutional in its landmark 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Still, the Orange County lawsuit was not widely known until Sylvia Mendez began raising awareness at the request of her mother.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

2 thoughts on “Park honoring landmark Mendez v. Westminster case to open on Dec. 1 in Westminster”
  1. the monumental park honoring the Mendez family is outstanding. Im a proud mexican american and the daughter of Bill Guzman Jr. Does the name sound familiar? How about Palomino? Estrada? Ramirez? What is a class action lawsuit?? WELL i have a voice and im ready to use it! just 2 miles from where i lived in the west end of santa ana, i drove by Heritage park McFadden and Euclid and took a quick gander at some painted faces and noticed Silvia Mendez whom i do not know personally but i feel like we should be sisters or friends at the least, my Aunt Beverly is the families spokesperson and has done an enormous amount of events to educate the communities explaining OUR STORY of the case.
    Why after 75 years is this taking place? Why isnt Santa ana considering the whole enchilada? My Aunt tells me “you guys have to carry on the Legacy,” Si Se Puede!!!!!! Where do i begin? Here? UNITY, EQUALITY, we all should embrace and be proud representatives for our ancestors who fought the good fight and dedicated time and honor, my dad Bill was a veteran, and i made him proud and still have that desire. In his service, Amen
    Tracie Guzman

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