When Santa Ana Schools Used Mexican Students as Janitors and Gardeners

The annals of Orange County's relations with its Mexicans will always be updated with the rank racism of the past (and today!), yet some anecdotes can still make any good person stop and shake their head. For instance: I knew that school administrators in segregated Mexican schools during the 1930s through the 1950s had schoolchildren participate in exercises they claimed would get them ready to join their family in the fields and orchards of la naranja–but I never knew that SanTana schools required their students to work as their janitors and gardeners.

The stunning details are laid out in a Orange County Grand Jury report from 1920. Titled “Let Children Help,” the jury recommended that schools with Mexican students follow the lead of SanTana schools, “who keep their yards in immaculate order by giving the children twenty minutes a week physical exercise in picking up papers and in cleaning weeds from their yards.”

Physical exercise–yeah

No idea of how many schools took the Grand Jury's suggestion, although I know that as late as the 1960s, Anaheim junior high and high schools would make Mexican students clean restrooms just because they were Mexican. And people wonder why Mexis are always so pissed off at gabas

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