Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sal Castro, presente (1933-2013)

Sal Castro is well in his mid-seventies in this photo.  He was at the Mexican Cultural Institute.  Rosalio Muñoz gathered a panel to discuss the Walkouts of spring of 1968.

That day, like most day, he was passionate, emphatic, and committed to the ideals of any fine teacher;  wanting the greatest opportunities for their students

EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castilllo
Sal died earlier this week.  Cancer.  He had been hospitalized 5 times since November.  

His Funeral Mass took place this morning.  There were a couple thousand people in Our Lady of the Angles Cathedral. Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics, and atheists.  Students who are in college now and those degrees may really be on lambskin.  All there to honor Sal and to remember his work.

During the eulogy there were those who shared how his passion for educational success had helped mold them.  Education, education, education.  There was no other theme.  Wait, the other one - pride.

I tried to write notes, but the words flew by and sometimes only sentiment remained.  I didn't have classes with him, but my friends did.  

At one point there was a request to see hands raise for those who had had Sal as a teacher.  I'm guessing that more than a quarter of those in the sanctuary raised their hands.  That's a lot of hands on a midweek workday.  

I wondered how many college degrees were represented by those in the cathedral.  How many of the .02 Latinos who had completed Doctoral studay were in the room because "Sal took on the entire educational system because he felt that the system didn't care about the kids he taught".   How many had their M.A, their B.A, or had completed a degree that was greater than their parents or their siblings.  

How many had walked out participating in the largest high school high school student strike? Striking because of the educational injustices they were experiencing?  Clear that they were taking a chance by doing so, but believing that that would be the only way change might happen?

I wondered how many had heard him share that March 6, 1968 was a day when, for the first time for some of his beloved students, he saw them "...with their head held high, with dignity.  It was a beautiful day to be a Chicano ...", in a voice choked with emotion?

California Supreme Court Justice,  Carlos Moreno, who was considered to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court,  spoke of the impact Sal had on him.  "He was the tallest, most well spoken, Mexican American I'd ever come across".  He was a young boy being coached in a sport by Sal, but 55 years later the impact of that tall Mexican American remained meaningful and vivid .  Sal made a difference in the life of a child who went from a challenging life in Solano Canyon to Yale Law School.    

Yet another speaker - "Sal was a teacher and an organizer who wanted his country to live up to its promise of justice and equality for all".  

Another speaker, another phrase   - " he is a part of Chicano history.  He should be a part of American history".

The last phrase that I was able to write was a blessing that was offered by Sal, and was offered back today by all of us in the Cathedral.  

"Que Dios les bendiga y que la virgen morena proteja".  

May God bless you and may the dark virgen protect you".  

We will miss you, Sal.
We will move on, you have taught us well.
Thanks for believing in us and urging us to get the best education possible.
Thanks for letting us know that we can claim the American Dream as our dream, too.

Forgive the typos and the syntactical missteps, please.  It's been a long week.

To learn more about Sal Castro here are a couple handy links.

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