These are segments from a 2019 interview of Edgar Lozano and supplement his May 2021 ZOOM interview.
Chuy: Let’s talk about Homer (Garcia).
Chuy: Homer is a student. Is he a junior or is he a senior?
Edgar: He’s in our grade. He’s a junior. He came from Cooper. He was part of The
Leadership Club. He was very studious, very academic, just “by the book”.
What you would call a square, a nerd but he was a good guy. He came across
as being real.
Chuy: So, a very simple matter involving some fictional awarding of the rings to the
Juniors turned out to be a real problem for Homer?
Edgar: Well, you know, the farce of going through a ring ceremony where
they present you a ring that is non-existent and you say, “No, let’s not do that.”
That was his stand and the others in the room, the students, agreed with him.
The student council advisor, the teacher, said, “No, that’s not going to happen.
You have to go through this.”
“But as the student body wants to vote on this and we don’t want to go through
this phony ritual ceremony.”
And she said, “You don’t have any choice. You’re going to do it this way.”
“Well, no. We’re going to do this democratically.” That’s what happened. Think
we talked about that on the other tape.
Edgar: He got himself expelled and some way, he got connected with MALDEF and
MALDEF was going to represent him getting him back to school.
Chuy: I see.
Edgar: And as he is going through that, we, in a parallel fashion, you might say, started to organize ourselves as a Student Committee to take up his cause and that
morphed into, “You know what? We have other demands. We want
college preparatory classes. We want English 4, we want Spanish 3, we want
Chemistry classes, we want Physics classes. So, we had demands about the
technology that was presented to the students in the automotive shop and the
Chuy: Let me ask you to go back and explain to us the type of school Lanier was. What I mean by that is, for instance, in my high school down in the Valley, we had two or three tracks. One track was a college track and if you were in that track, well
then, presumably you took all of the courses that you needed to take to be able
to excel in college. Then Track 2 was a non-college track and for the non-
college track there was a minimum of courses to graduate. So, life was easier at
the high school. And under Track 3 there was an abundance of vocational
courses that we could take. We had Auto mechanics. I don’t recall but we may
have even had auto rebuilding.
Edgar: Paint and body.
Chuy: Paint and body, exactly. And then we had the old-time favorites which were
leather work. There was an abundance of employment, as you can imagine,
making leather belts and saddle bags. And then there was cabinet making.
Chuy: Woodwork which was another course. But that was the vocational section of the high school, relatively small for students. It was not the main focus. How does
that differ from what you had?
Edgar: Our school district, the San Antonio School District, had several high schools, not just one or two. It had Breckenridge, Fox Tech, had Edison, had Lanier, had Jefferson. That’s a lot of high schools. Instead of having different tracks in one
school, they had high schools servicing different needs, I guess you can say.
Chuy: I see.
Edgar: So, Lanier was vocational.
Chuy: So, that was like a specialty for that school?
Edgar: Yes, and Burbank was more—offered classes in agriculture if you were
interested in raising—We used to make fun of the kids there because we called
them hog farmers. They actually had livestock at that school. And then
Jefferson High School, which was where you had a lot of Anglos going, was
pretty much college preparatory. They didn’t have any vocational classes
there. I don’t remember what the other school specialties were.
Chuy: What about Fox Tech?
Edgar: I don’t remember Fox Tech. I think if you wanted electronics, radio and TV and that stuff like that, I think they offered that at Breckenridge High School or it
might have been offered at Tech. Because that’s what I wanted. I wanted to go
into electronics which meant TV repair and radio repair. But I wound up
following my friends to Lanier. Why not Lanier? Okay, I’ll just go to Lanier. And
the reason is that all my buddies are going there.
Chuy: So, how does the Homer expulsion incident then become a cause célèbre for
looking at your school not having the advanced courses and the sciences and
the math and the English for college preparatory. Who comes up an idea like
that and why? Why all of a sudden is that an issue?
Edgar: Well, I think it was sort of a speak bitterness session. That’s what it turned into when we were at The Volk’s Corner talking about what had happened the
the day Homer got expelled and about how unfair it was. You know, how the
Student Council was a sham. We’re supposed to be voting, we’re supposed to
be doing this, we’re supposed to have input. No, in the end it’s not a little
democracy. It’s a dictatorship and we get to pretend that we’re actually voting
on things and if they don’t like the vote, you have to change the vote.
Chuy: Is it possible that when you’re at The Volk’s Corner, whatever resentments have been brewing up in kids boil down inequity in their schools? So, someone who
may have thought that they wanted to go to college, all of a sudden realized,
“Well, I needed a chemistry course.” Or, “I need a math course and this school
will not provide it to me.” All of a sudden, that resentment becomes real,
becomes a formal concern.
Edgar: Well, see, it’s not like we just discovered it that afternoon that we didn’t have English 4 or Chemistry. That had been discussed before, months before, during some of those sessions that we had at The Leadership Club meetings. “We
don’t have this, we don’t have that.”
“Well, isn’t that a shame, bummer, I’m going to have to take remedial courses
or make-up courses when I go to Junior College.
Chuy: Sure. I see.
Edgar: But, I had no chance of going to college. I mean, I wasn’t thinking about it. I
didn’t have a desire to go to college. I didn’t even think about it. To me, it was
Chuy: But others did.
Edgar: Yes. This is The Leadership Club. They were the smartest kids and some of
their parents had gone to high school. So, yeah, they thought about that stuff
and they missed out because they didn’t get those classes because they were
not offered them. Yes, that was there. You asked the question, “How did it go
from one issue, Homer, to all these other grievances?” Well, using the example
of the Student Council and how they really weren’t being fair, we started talking
about how they weren’t being fair in other things and how we were getting the
short end of the stick over and over again. We’re a vocational school but we
know that the print shop equipment that they’re teaching the guys printing with
is so old-fashioned that nobody uses it. It’s a joke. That’s another fraud that’s
being perpetrated. You learn how to do all this stuff on these old printing
presses. It’s worthless because nobody uses them anymore.
So, we start talking about all these things and at some point, we’re saying,
“Well, you know what? Why don’t we, instead of just complaining about the
Student Council, let’s bring up these other issues. Does anybody have a
suggestion?” And then, I guess, maybe that same day because the energy was
high and remember the background—the African-American civil rights
struggle that’s going on—and we’re saying, “Well, hell, we have grievances too.
They’re doing something about it. Why can’t we do something about it?” Sort of
in the background, right.
Chuy: I am amazed not just with your school back in ’68, but also other school districts throughout Texas. I am amazed that these adolescents are developing a sense that they can actually create change. And I’ve always wondered where that
comes from and I’m going to assume that you did not go to your dad and mom
and you said, “Dad and mom, we’re actually contemplating making some
demands on the school system.” I am going to assume that you did not get their
approval or permission to do that—yourself, personally.
Edgar: No, they had no experience in those matters.
Chuy: So, where does someone like you, and I don’t mean to be critical, where does someone like you get off on believing that somehow, someone like you, barely
out of childhood, is going to be able to affect some change. Because we’re
talking about dramatic change here.
Edgar: Two things. My values. Remember I talked to you about TV culture, good/bad, real simple. You know, a sense of right and wrong and that right triumphs because after every episode the good guy wins, right?
Edgar: The other thing is that ignorance is bliss because I don’t think we projected that far ahead. We said, “We’re just going to do this.” Maybe we didn’t see
how big of a struggle we were entering. “No, we’re not going to take it. We’re
going to present this list of demands.” We had no idea that just a few days
later we were going to be in front of TV cameras and making the front page of
the newspaper. We didn’t know that.
Chuy: Inexperience very much played a role in that.
Edgar: Yeah, we didn’t know we couldn’t do that. We didn’t know it was that big a deal.
We just said, “We’re going to tell the teachers off. That’s all we want.” We didn’t
know it was the first time in the state of Texas. We didn’t know we were
pioneers or anything.
Chuy: So, when the committee listens to all of the grievances, do you go through a
process of filtering to go to the important issues because I suppose that there
might have been other grievances that did not make it to that final petition.
Edgar: Well, yeah, we didn’t want to seem petty. Just important stuff that shows that
we’re serious. We didn’t want to be permitted to chew gum. No, even though we
were kids and, we were inexperienced, we knew that we were asking for things
Chuy: A sense of propriety, it seems to me, when you actually go through a filtering
process of determining, on the one hand, what are important issues that affect
education. And then number two, that as you said, given the reliance on the
movie endings, that it’s easier to win a struggle when you leave no room for any
argument that you’re not on the right side. This is what I mean, for instance. If in
fact, the school district was acting in good faith, in providing vocational skill
training in printing, and they were using the print shop that was used to print the
Declaration of Independence, then certainly there’s no way out of that argument.
The school district is doing something either intentional or grossly out of bounds
and wasting everybody’s time. Right? Wasting the instructor’s time and wasting
the students’ time.
Edgar: Intentional or incompetent, one of the two, but the damage is being done. And
we had the proof because we knew that the students who had graduated the
year before, when they went to look for a job, they came back and said, “Hey,
man, you’re wasting your time.”
Chuy: So, that one grievance is a win. You checked that one off. That’s a winner.
So, what other grievances were winners in your mind?
Edgar: Anything having to do with higher education or higher academic courses. I
mean, how can anybody who’s a teacher or an administrator in the district be
against us wanting Algebra II? How can anybody be against us if we’re saying,
“Hey, we want physics classes.”
How can a teacher say, “No, we can’t give you a physics class.”
Chuy: So, you turned the tables completely on them.
Edgar: We’re demanding higher education.
Chuy: Check number two.
Edgar: There was one on having the ability to go off campus at lunch because we
knew other schools could do it. So, if other schools could do it, why couldn’t
Chuy: So, that was also an equity issue, so, conceivably a check.
Edgar: Um-hmm. Yeah.
Chuy: Now, were there any demands that you feel, in retrospect, were demands that
could just not be met by the administration?
Edgar: No, I don’t. I don’t have a copy of them. But, we didn’t ask for anything that was
out of line. And we had some community people who had been our sponsors
and mentors in The Leadership Club also there, advising us.
Chuy: Who were some of those people? Any notable names?
Edgar: Yeah, Joe Bernal was one. He was there. I can’t remember anybody else.
Chuy: Now, Joe was a state Senator.
Edgar: For a while and then he lost the seat.
Chuy: Right. So, you had the benefit of some mature adult.
Edgar: But, remember also that we would question so we weren’t rubber stamping.
But, yes, without them we couldn’t have done as much. We couldn’t have pulled
it off, I don’t think, because they kept the group together for years. From junior
high we moved into the community center and then from the community center
we jumped into high school. You know, we didn’t do it. They provided the
environment for us.
Chuy: So, were the grievances printed out? How were they captioned and were they
demands or were they recommendations?
Edgar: No, it was a list of demands, I think.
Chuy: Demands. Okay, so that’s pretty strong.
Edgar: Yeah, it was.
Chuy: Do you recall why you called them demands rather than grievances or
Edgar: Well, because that’s what we were demanding from the school. “This is what we
want. We’re not requesting, we’re demanding because they’re overdue.”
Chuy: Now, did you have any inside information about how the superintendent or the
principal or anybody in the administration would react?
Edgar: No. We didn’t even know that the superintendent was going to get involved. We
thought that the top decision-maker was going to be the principal and the vice-
Chuy: So, you didn’t know anything about the chain of command?
Edgar: Well, we didn’t know it was going to go any higher than that.
Chuy: So, were the demands addressed to the principal of the high school? Do you
Edgar: I don’t remember to whom they were addressed.
Chuy: Were they formally, physically delivered to them?
Edgar: I don’t remember, at the moment, how we got them to them. I think we passed
leaflets out instead of going straight up to her. So, they didn’t know exactly who
was behind it. But we called ourselves The Steering Committee and somehow,
some way, we got these printed. Now, this is before photocopiers. Someone
mimeographed them for us.
Chuy: Mimeographing. That was our modus operandi, our printing press.
Mimeograph the sucker.
Edgar: Yeah. Chi-clack-clack, chi-clack-clack.
Chuy: Now, how did The Steering Committee get designated or selected?
Edgar: See, that was a big, big deal. I think we talked about that at dinner. I don’t know
if the demands had just been formulated or if we had thrown some out or if we
had decided that was what we were going to do, you know, generate a list of
grievances or something. But, I think we said, “We have to formalize this.”
Then, the mentors advised, “You’re going to have to formalize yourselves into
some kind of a committee.’’
“Oh, okay, that’s a good idea.”
And then for me, that was a life-changing moment. I told you earlier about this
teacher who decided to—I’m spilling the beans, fifty years later.
Chuy: The statute of limitations is past.
Edgar: She’s long gone anyway. Ms. Hargill, really mean teacher back then. But, she
gave us a little peek at the standardized test. That changed my life. Then the
Student Committee, The Leadership Club that was set up and my being
selected to be part of that affected my life. But when they asked for nominations
for people who would volunteer to be leaders of the committee, that was me
stepping forward on my own, nobody else doing it for me or selecting me. That
was a chance. It wasn’t the first time, but at that point was where I was my
Chuy: And that must have been a challenging situation for all the students.
Chuy: Because the steering committee eventually could be identified.
Edgar: That’s right.
Chuy: Anybody else can get away but the Steering Committee gets stuck with it.
Edgar: Yep. And that’s why there was a hesitation to stepping up and saying, “I’ll be
one of the leaders. I’ll take an official position.”
Chuy: How much time passed from the event over at the …
Edgar: Volk’s Corner?
Chuy: Right. How much time passed from the time you first heard about Homer and the
time the leaflets were circulated?
Edgar: Oh, no, we had to move fast. It may have been…
Edgar: Yeah, the whole thing was completed…I think the whole thing lasted maybe
three weeks, from start to finish. Something like that.
Chuy: Okay. And so, after the leaflets are distributed, now you’ve gone to the ant
mound and put a stick in the hole and you’ve got all the ants riled up—all
students riled up. They know something is coming. The administration has
found out. What happens at this point. How does this lead to a meeting of the
minds or to a presentation or to a formal mediation? What’s the process after the
process of the demands?
Edgar: We meet at The Volks Corner. “Well, we need to get the community behind us.”
This is one of the things our sponsors told us.
They said, “Look, if you’re students, they can just treat you like students. But, if
your parents are involved, if the community is involved, then they aren’t just
dealing with kids. They are dealing with the community, with other adults and it
makes it more real and they can’t just dismiss you. So, you need to get support
and you have to get support of your families and the rest of your community.”
And Homer, interesting note, Homer went through hell with his parents…
Edgar: …because they didn’t want him to be a part of it and heck, he was the main
man, you might say. And the reason was because his father worked at Kelly
Air Force Base and they were saying that he was being involved in politics and
Chuy: The Hatch Act.
Edgar: The Hatch Act and they were using it and saying that his father was going to
lose his job.
Chuy: Oh, my gosh.
Edgar: And they put a lot of pressure on Homer. It just really messed up his home life
for a long time. So, instead of supporting him, he had his parents against him
because his father was scared of losing his job.
Chuy: Well, sure. The breadwinner losing a job.
Edgar: So, mine worked at a broom company. He could care less.
Chuy: But, I take it that Homer was not part of the Steering Committee.
Edgar: No, no. Remember he was the cause célèbre. He had a group of lawyers.
Chuy: He had his own lawyers?
Edgar: Yeah, he had MALDEF negotiating with the school…
Edgar: …to see how they were going to get him out and we’re over here separately as
the student Steering Committee agitating in the student body. But Homer
coming back was one of our demands.
Chuy: It was a demand?
Edgar: Yeah, I believe so. Either it was one of the thirteen demands or it was separate
demand. So, being that we needed the community’s support we said, “Why
don’t we have a meeting and open it up.” One thing we knew was meetings.
“Let’s have a meeting and invite everybody in the community. We’ve got to pass
out leaflets and tell everybody to come to a meeting.” Okay, we did that.
Chuy: So, you are socializing the conflict…involving more people and trying to gain
Edgar: Sure, getting the people in the community to back us up. To let them know what
it’s about. To make sure so they don’t make it seem that we’re just a bunch of
troublemakers, right? So, we had to put our propaganda out to counter the
information the school put out. We had to spread the information about what we
were about. The community people who were progressive, who wanted to see
change and improvement in our community, our mexicano community, started
coming out of the woodwork and saying, “We applaud your effort. If you
want to have a meeting, you can have a meeting here at the church at the
Guadalupe Community Center, not the same community center where we were
having our meetings with The Leadership Club. This one was right next to the
high school, next to the football field.
Chuy: I see.
Edgar: So, across the street to the Guadalupe Community Center we said, “We’re
going to meet there, let’s say, when people get out of work. Let’s say 7 o’clock
at the Guadalupe Community Center. So, we show up at the Guadalupe
Community Center upstairs, in the hall upstairs. There’s maybe about twenty
adults, some parents and some community activist types. And we tell them
what it’s about.
“This is what happened.”