In October, 2007, post offices in the United States began selling a new stamp. On the stamp, there is a drawing of two strong young people with black hair. They are reading a book, and a bright sun is shining on them.
There is a true story behind that stamp. The story begins in 1945 with a man named Gonzalo Mendez.
Gonzalo Mendez was born in Mexico and came to the United States when he was a little boy. He dropped out of school at age ten to become a farm worker. He and his wife, Felicitas, had three children and owned a small but successful cafe in Santa Ana, California.
In 1945, Gonzalo heard about an asparagus farm that was for rent. The farm was in Westminster, California, about seven miles from Santa Ana. Gonzalo was excited about renting the farm; this was his chance to be a real farmer, not a farm worker. He and Felicitas talked it over, and they decided to move to Westminster.
After the Mendez family moved to Westminster, Felicitas took the three children
to an elementary school there. That is when the story behind the stamp really begins. Felicitas found out that her children could not attend the school. They had to attend the “Mexican school”.
The “Mexican school” was in old building. The textbooks were old, too. When the children came home and described the school to their father, he told them, “You will not go to the ‘Mexican school’. You will go to the other school.”
Gonzalo talked to other Latino parents in Westminster. “The other elementary school is better then the ‘Mexican school’,” he told them. “Let’s go to count. Let’s fight to get pur children into that other school.”
The Latino parents agreed with Gonzalo: The other elementary school was better in every way. But the “Mexican school” was closer. “Our children will stay in ‘Mexican school’, close to home.” the Latino parents told Gonzalo.
So Gonzalo decided to fight alone. He spent all his savings to hire a lawyer, and he went to court.
Latino families in other cities in Southern California heard about Gonzalo Mendez. Their children, too, had to attend “Mexican schools”. Four Latino families decided to help Gonzalo. They gave him money for the lawyer and went to court with him.
The judge decided that the Latino families were right: Separate schools for Latino children were unfair. At that time, there were 5,000 Latino children who had a attend “Mexican schools” in Southern California. After judge’s decision, they could attend any school.
The Mendez children went to elementary school and then to high school; some went to college, too.
In 2007, the Mendez family celebrated the new stamp, which they liked very much. They especially liked the way the two young readers bend like plants toward the sun. “That’s how it is,” they said. “Education brings light into people’s lives. This small stamp tells our whole story.”