Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Latina Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom for Civil Rights Work

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Imagine being 8-years-old and tossed in the middle of a civil rights movement. Imagine helping rid schools of segragation.  Imagine committing your life to making sure Latinos had the same rights as non-Latinos in the U.S.

President Obama recognized that in Sylvia Mendez. On February 15, Sylvia and 14 others were awarded the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom. That’s the nation’s highest civilian honor for contributions to society.

Sylvia stands in the company of many other medal recipients who have made a huge impact on this world.  But we as Latinas should be grateful for what this 74-year-old woman has done for our lives.

A Latina of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, Sylvia was only a child when she started her civil rights journey.  In this video, Sylvia tells us how her parents and other Latino parents fought not only for Latinos but for all ethnic groups to right a wrong.  

Felicitas & Gonzalo Mendez
Sylvia's parents, Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez sued a school district in 1943 in southern California to end segregation in schools.  At the time there were "white" and "Mexican" schools.

The Mendez family won their lawsuit in 1947. Sylvia committed her life to creating opportunities for others and speaking about the importance of equality in education.

As we all try to find our path in life as Latinas; we should aspire to be like Sylvia Mendez and her parents.   Their courage, compassion and fearlessness helped all of us Latinos sit in the same classrooms as non-Latinos.

Thank you Sylvia Mendez for changing life for the better for all of us and our families.


  1. Beautiful! Thanks for writing and sharing this! =)

  2. What a joy to find this article and hear Sylvia speak. We must ALL speak up like this and ensure that ALL children get a good education.

    Shame on those imposing laws of exclusion they are the worst of humanity. We can not let them prevail.

    Education is a fundamental human right. It's the only insurance we have for a better future world.


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