Evelyn Pizzaro is a Puerto Rican integrationist. She integrated the white schools of the Sicilian West Side in the 1960’s. Evelyn’s parents achieved social mobility and bought a house. One of the three latino families in the West Side. Buying a house allowed Evelyn the privilege and the responsibility of being one of the first Latina children to attend BPS 03. At the time attending all white schools was understood be a privilege because all white schools were better. While Evelyn’s parents were integrating the West Side, Puerto Rican’s were fighting hard to access “better” for their children all over the country.
For the folks who like definitions social mobility is defined as a change in social status relative to one's current social location within a given society. In the West Side commonly referred to as “the come up.”
Mendez v. Westminster was filed in 1946 in California because Felicitas, a mother from Juncos Puerto Rico, was on the come up too. She refused to accept the fact that her 9yr old daughter Sylvia was denied access to their local white school. Felicitas, wasn’t backing down and took that case to the Supreme Court. Evelyn’s parents weren’t backing down either- part of the first 2000 Puerto Ricans to settle in Buffalo they both worked two jobs. Literally and physically working night and day to earn enough money to buy a house in a good neighborhood so Evelyn could go to school.
Latino sacrifices to access education have not always been well understood and or well documented. For that reason history won’t tell you the Mendez’s case came before Brown v. Board of Education and that Sylvia was ½ Puerto Rican or that the case lead to the integration of California schools. History won’t tell you about Evelyn Pizzaro who integrated a school and returned as its Principal.
So simply we must rewrite history. In honor of the women like Sylvia and Evelyn. Who as girls were isolated, and not wanted inside their own school buildings and in response grew into women who out worked and out achieved their peers. Evelyn’s grit remains today, she says in her interview:
“I was known as a toughie in the neighborhood. I wasn’t one that was intimated very quickly and that stayed with me as a student.”
Help us rewrite history and read Evelyn’s interview on my blog. Learn the true story of a trailblazer that fought for Latinas before she even knew it- every time she stepped into the classroom.