‘Crystal City 1969′ play depicts story of historic student walkout

CRYSTAL CITY, Texas – The play “Crystal City 1969″ at the Guadalupe Theater is the story of a historic student walkout that had a pivotal role in the struggle for Mexican-American civil rights.

All five performances, including two matinees, are now sold out.

“People are eager to hear their story reflected on stage,” said David Lozano, the co-writer and director.

Lozano and Raul Trevino wrote the play, which the Cara Mia Theatre of Dallas produces.

Lozano said one of Trevino’s relatives was subjected to physical punishment inflicted on students for speaking Spanish.

“One of his uncles spoke Spanish, and one of the teachers threw an eraser at him and hit him in the face,” Lozano said.

Not only were others were slapped and belittled, he said girls had to raise their skirts to be spanked.

Lozano said that was the norm in the small town southwest of San Antonio, which had a population of 10,000 people — 80% of whom were Mexican or Mexican-American.

“This was the systemic racism, the quasi-Jim Crow culture that was taking place,” Lozano said.

The play depicts what led up to the months-long student walkout in December 1969, led by Jose Angel Gutierrez, an organizer from Crystal City who believed mobilizing students could lead to political change by registering voters.

Lozano said Gutierrez had tried to organize more than 30 other student walkouts but was unsuccessful until Crystal City garnered national attention.

The founder of MAYO, the Mexican-American Youth Organization, and La Raza Unida Party is portrayed by actor Eddie Zertuche.

“You may not be Hispanic, but you can watch this show, and it’s got to inspire you,” Zertuche said. “Good things come with heart and passion.”

Lozano said the students ultimately got what they wanted.

“Not to be ridiculed, not to be called names, essentially not to be dehumanized,” Lozano said.

The fact that the play is sold out says to Lozano that “people are eager to hear their story reflected on stage.”

The public is invited to tune into a “platica,” or conversation, with Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez on Facebook Live at 5 p.m. Sunday.

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