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12 June 2003
NEW NAME CHOSEN FOR
Facility named for Saturnino Alvarado
For nearly 20 years Esperanza Amayo fought to have the name of Saturnino Alvarado grace the side of a building or large-scale monument in the Argentine area.
Tuesday evening her dream became a reality when the Kansas City, Kan., Board of Education unanimously voted to name the gymnasium at Argentine Middle School in honor of Alvarado, who fought for equal rights in local schools nearly 80 years ago.
"It's such a relief," said the 74-year-old Amayo. "I've been thinking about it for many, many years. I really think he deserved that honor."
Alvarado is best known for his struggle in 1925 to have his two sons, Jesus and Luz Alvarado, and two of their acquaintances admitted to the all-white Argentine High School.
In the face of resistance from many in the community, Alvarado appealed to the Mexican Consulate. In response the U.S. State Department issued a statement that on Oct. 30, 1925, under the treaty with Mexico, Latinos must be treated as friendly aliens and extended the same privileges as American children.
In May, Amayo and other community members appealed to the board of education to make the change. In response, a committee was assembled to gather opinions and input on the proposal. Committee members included Argentine principal, John Rios, David Bega, Ann Murguia, Richard Ruiz, Liz Hernandez, Joe Snorgrass and John Mendez, Unified Government commissioner.
Three of the committee members are on Argentine's site council while two had children who attended the school; Snorgrass has a child who currently attends.
Amayo said support from prominent citizens and groups were what made this effort successful.
"They wanted to hear from the leadership," she said. "I'm just an ordinary person."
Local figures and organizations who wrote letters in support of the measure including Congressman Dennis Moore, the UG human services department, Donnelly College, the city of Topeka human relations committee and Harvest America.
In the past, Amayo had been linked with supposed movements to rename the entire Argentine school in Alvarado's name, but said she quickly realized that was not possible.
"It would be great, but I know Argentine and I know better," she said. "It would be like asking for the start. No one would go for that."
Alvarado owned a shoe shop near Amayo's home during her youth. Although they weren't formally acquainted, she remembers him as a smart man who composed music in his spare time.
As she learned more about his efforts, she worked tirelessly to make sure he received an honor she felt befitted his achievements, such as her unsuccessful attempt to rename the 12th Street bridge in his honor.
Now, she'll look to have his name on the exterior of the gymnasium.
However, public sentiment toward that idea has been cool because many feel such a sign will boscure the name of the school, which is situated in a similar position when it is viewed by passersby.
A board of education vote would be needed to approve such a measure.
Nevertheless, Amayo is pleased that the Alvarado name has found a home at Argentine.
"It's been a little rough, maybe because it is an old subject," she said, "But he opened doors for those who came after him. His contribution was unique and no one can match it."
(Note: It is the auditorium at Argentine Middle School, not the gymnasium, that will bear the name of Saturnino Alvarado. Also - he did not have two sons, but rather a son (Jesus) and a daughter (Luz). This son and daughter were among the first Mexican-Americans to graduate from Argentine High School in 1930.)