Felicitas Mendez

Felicitas Mendez: The Spark to the Fire

January 20, 2022

It is true that the Google Logo is something people often see however, at special times instead of the standard blue, red or yellow “Google” image there’s a Google Doodle. On September 15 of 2020, which was the first day of the Latin/Hispanic heritage month the doodle was of an Mexican woman smiling in the front of a school, that had children of all types going into and out.

The woman who is she and why do we have a Google doodle dedicated to her? You could have just clicked the doodle and discovered the answer, or go through this article. Whatever you choose you’ll discover that Felicitas Mendez was an significant person during the struggle against segregation.

Childhood and early Adulthood

Felicitas Mendez (or Felicitas Gomez Martinez at the time) was born on 5 February 1916 in Juncos, Puerto Rico. She was a refugee to the mainland US in the teen years, in which Mendez as well as her siblings were treated differently due to their race. They were considered black. When she turned twelve, she moved into South California where her parents were employed as farmworkers. But, Mendez suffered the same discrimination, and was once again racialized however this time in the form of “Mexican.”

The year was 1936. Mendez got married in 1936 to Gonzalo Mendez who was an Mexican Immigrant who worked alongside her father. Then, in Santa Ana, they opened an extremely successful restaurant and bar known as “La Prieta”. Then, she relocated away from Santa Ana to Westminster with her husband and three kids. In Westminster, they were able to maintain a modest asparagus farm. Although the farm was an enormous success but the discrimination on Hispanics was still prevalent throughout across the United States.

Mendez v. Westminster

in the 40s there were only two elementary schools within Westminster: Hoover Elementary and 17th Street Elementary. 17th Street Elementary was a magnificent brick structure, surrounded by palms and grass. Hoover Elementary paled in comparison and the school was just a wooden shack with two rooms situate right into the heart of an Mexican community. Of course, 17th Street Elementary was the best option for Mendez because it was the best option that could have been for every parent. However, there was a issue the school was to segregate meaning that only white students could attend. (Although we’re all grown and sixth graders now, and I’m sure that we are aware of what segregation means however in the event that you don’t, it’s creating groups, or even separating groups apart from one another.)

 But, Mendez wasn’t just going to look on as white children received better education. She sent her eight-year older daughter Sylvia Mendez, off with her aunt and grandmother, Mrs. Vidaurri , Mr. Mendez her sister, and her children to join. In the school Mrs. Vidaurri was told that her children, who are pale skin. Dismayed the teacher. Vidaurri stormed out of the school and informed her son and Mendez about what happened. After hearing about it and heard about it, they too were horrified and decided to take action. Mendez was able to manage this farm by herself. Meanwhile, her husband along with four other fathers filed a lawsuit to Westminster school district. Westminster School District, requesting that they stop segregation.

In the event that it was the husband working Why is this story about Felicitas Mendez instead of Gonzalo Mendez? In reality, Mendez had a really crucial role. Apart from cultivating the farm by herself, Mendez also organized committees and collected money on behalf of her asparagus business in order to fund the lawsuit. Without Mendez the entire operation could have not been successful.

It was report that the Westminster school board was desperately trying to keep the segregation barrier in place, but all of their assertions came to nothing. In a bid to defend themselves the board insisted there was the need for a “language problem.” But, this assertion was shatter when an Mexican child was request to be a witness. She spoke well and fluently as her white counterparts, since the majority of Mexican children had a background of speaking English.

On February 18th of 1946, after two years of debating that the federal district court eventually ruled that segregating schools violated the rights of Mexican-Americans (took the time to recognize that!) and decided in the favor of Mendez and the other parents. The incident would later be the catalyst for the more famous Brown v. Board of Education case, which was decided seven years later, and brought an end to legal segregation of schools across the country.


Sylvia Mendez and her two siblings were finally permit to go to 17th Street Elementary. However, the issues don’t disappear by the snap of fingers. Although Sylvia had the right to go to the school, her white peers did not treat her like she was. They frequently called her names and were treat with disrespect. But, Sylvia knew she couldn’t quit because of the fight her parents had to fight.


On April 12 in 1998, Felicitas Mendez passed away from heart failure. However, her legacy lives on. In actuality, it’s everywhere. Although it was Brown case v. Board that officially ended school segregation however, It was Mendez V. Westminstermovement that influenced the thought process of Earl Warren, who was the California governor at the time. It would in turn inspire Thurgood Marshall later to take on the Brown v. Board movement in 1954. Both were against the idea of segregation in schools.

It is believe that the Mendez family’s legacy continues to live on. There are many things devote to Mendez such as an award-winning documentary, an exhibit, a stamp, and two schools named in honor of men from the Mendez family. On February 15, 2011, the President Obama gave Sylvia Mendez the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Don’t forget to mention the motivation behind this article: the Google sketch!

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