Sal Castro, a Chicano educator and activist, passed away on Monday at the age of 79. He was known for his role in the East Los Angeles high school walkouts (also known as the Chicano blowouts) in 1968, where young students protested the conditions of their schools.
Castro started his teaching career in Pasadena’s Washington Junior High and then moved on to teach at Belmont High School, where he gained notoriety for helping Latino students get involved in student government. In 1963, some of the students at Belmont were reprimanded for addressing the student body in Spanish during the school elections; Castro intervened on behalf of those students and was subsequently transferred to Lincoln High School, one of the sites of the walkouts. Ultimately, Castro helped students organize and facilitate the walkouts by assisting them in making demands of the school board for improved education and by walking along side his students in solidarity. For his role in the walkouts, Castro was arrested, jailed for five days, and charged with conspiracy. The charges were eventually dismissed by the California State Supreme Court, which cited the first amendment right to protest.
As recently as October 2012, Castro had been working to get the East Los Angeles student walkouts recognized by the White House as being a key moment in civil rights history. Castro believed that the walkouts were the equivalent to the lunch counter protests that had occurred in the south as an impetus to the larger civil rights movement. Chicano students as far away as Denver ended up protesting the conditions of their schools after the East Los Angeles walkouts.