Interviewer: McKenzie Kaiser
Interview Date: May 8, 2009
Experiences: Civil Rights, Activism, Chicano Movement, De Anza teaching
An Equal Civil Rights Quest for the Latino/a Community
Marc Coronado, an English Professor at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, was born in Laredo, Texas on July 6, 1950. Marc has a long family history of civil rights activists. She has spent most of her life advocating for equal rights and focuses much of her attention on the Latino/a community. All of the following is from an interview with Marc Coronado on May 8, 2009 except as noted.
Marc’s family history is nothing less than impressive. Her parents, Bill Sybert and Lucia Coronado Sybert, have been extensively involved in equal rights. From an early age, Marc was impressed with her parents work with civil rights movements. They both had worked hard to end the Poll Tax and Literacy Poll Tests that the United States imposed up through the 1950’s and 1960’s. The Poll Tax and Literacy Poll Test’s were administered in order to “protect the right to vote.” The Poll Tax is a tax levied on all US citizens before they are allowed to vote. Voters were also given a literacy test prior to voting in order to check one’s comprehension. However, there were many discrepancies between a white voters test and that of a minority person, favoring the whites. The end result of the Poll Tax and Poll Test was fewer votes from people of low income households, particularly African Americans. The Poll Tax was banned in 1964. (britannica.com)
That was only the beginning for Marc and her two brothers, Juan Coronado and Jim Coronado. All of the Coronado children became civil rights activists. Marc’s mother, Lucia, is a whole-hearted Chicano/a and a civil rights advocate. Lucia took part in the Chicano Movement which began in the 1960’s. The Chicano Movement, also known as El Movimiento, is aimed at equal rights for Mexicans. It encompasses a broad selection of social and political issues such as wages, voting rights, discrimination, and education. (Albany.edu) Lucia greatly influenced her eldest son, Juan, who joined the Chicano Movement in his last years of high school. By the mid 1960’s, Marc had also begun attending Chicano Movement meetings with her mother, where political and social issues were discussed and collaborated upon.
Lucia’s was heavily involved with equal rights that extended beyond the Chicano Movement. After receiving a degree in education, Lucia became a Spanish teacher in El Paso, Texas. She was working at the same school that her husband, Bill Sybert, worked at as part of the administration. This school had strict policies regarding the Spanish language. If a student was caught speaking Spanish outside the classroom they were given “Spanish Detention.”
Lucia, Marc’s mother, strongly opposed this ridiculous policy. To many students, Spanish was their native language. It also inhibited Spanish learners from utilizing their education and gave the language a negative connotation. From 1967 to 1969, Lucia and her students participated in boycotts to abolish this rule. She heavily involved herself in the fights against the school’s administrative officials, including her husband, Bill.
The arguments didn’t stay at the school. Marc vividly recalls many “screaming matches” at home that resulted from Lucia’s engagement. Bill respected Lucia and knew she was fighting for a good cause and had great intentions. On the other hand, he would have liked her to step out of the spotlight. Spanish Detention was abolished by the 1970’s.
Her father left this administration to continue his work at a different school in the El Paso School District. It was here, in 1980, that Bill established and implemented the Robin Hood Act. The Robin Hood Act, whose concept is based on the children’s tale Robin Hood, used money from the wealthy Texas schools to fund the poor Texas schools. In just five years, the student dropout rate had changed from 3 out of 4 students dropping out to only 1 out of 4 students dropping out of high school. The Robin Hood Act was in effect from 1980-1999, when the Bush Administration replaced his policy with the No Child Left Behind policy. Marc states, “I've always admired his (Bill Sybert’s) work to equalize opportunities for all students,” and she has spent much of her time focusing on the same issue.
Marc’s journey as a civil rights activist began with the Chicano Movement during the mid 1960’s. Her main concern was getting more Chicano/a history and literature into the school curriculum. During her senior year of high school, in 1968, she participated in the student walk-outs at Irvin High School in El Paso, Texas. More than 10,000 students participated in the student walkouts in March of 1968 in the Los Angeles area alone. These walkouts were the first and largest protest against racism and educational inequality by Mexican-American youths which heightened the Chicano Movement. (tolerance.org)
After graduating Irvin High School in 1968, Marc moved to Mexico to attend the Universidad de las Americas. Not knowing what she wanted with an education, Marc quickly left college in Mexico for the University of Maryland at College Park in 1971. Her goal was not directly to receive an education, but rather, to impeach President Richard Nixon who was nearing the end of his first term in office. When asked how she was going to accomplish this, Marc's answer was that she felt it was necessary to be in Washington D.C. with all of the action.
In Maryland, Marc was fortunate enough to land a job at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, as a typist. Marc attended President Nixon’s Inauguration on January 20, 1973. Marc and two of her close friends suffered through the frigid temperature outside the U.S. Capitol to watch Nixon sworn in as President for a second term. There were a total of 60,000 protesters there in opposition to Nixon’s re-election. (commondream.org) Marc recalls a huge pencil made out of wire and paper being passed around as a petition to bring the U.S. troops home from Vietnam. The protesters also burned American flags in response.
On Monday morning, Marc returned to work as usual. She was greeted by inquisitions regarding her attendance and participation at the Inauguration Ceremony that weekend. The FBI presented photographs of herself at the Inauguration among the protesters. Her career at the FBI had come to an abrupt halt as she was quickly released from her job duties.
Marc stayed in Maryland for two years. She completed a small number of classes at the University of Maryland that she had little interest in. Shortly after, she returned to New Mexico. Her son, Demetrius Lambrinos, was born in New Mexico in 1976.
It was years later before Marc thought about attending school again. During a friendly conversation with her neighbor, who was also her son’s professor, he questioned Marc’s motives for not attending college. After careful thought and consideration, Marc decided that it was time to return. She missed the intellectual conversations that she had with her son, since he was away at college. At the age of 40, Marc returned to college.
She attended the University of Texas El Paso. In 1997, Marc graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Women’s Studies. It was at the El Paso University that Marc realized she had a profound interest in 18th Century Feminist Literature. She felt so moved by what she was learning that she began asking classmates to get together for further discussions. She formed a small group of fellow classmates who had similar interests in feminist literature. They would get together to converse about the literature and to expand their educational experience. These groups deepened her sense of commitment to her studies and to the school. Marc has taken this learning experience and implemented it into her professional studies.
Marc moved to California in 1997 to continue her studies. She attended the University of California Santa Barbara where she earned a Master’s degree in English and American Literature. In 2003, Marc completed her PhD in American Literature and Culture. It only took nine years to earn her BA, MA and PhD degrees!
Marc became an English professor at De Anza College in Cupertino, California, in 2003. She has been a huge Latino/a equal education rights advocate at De Anza. In 2005, Marc and her students developed the school club ¡LEAD! The club name stands for Latina/o Empowerment at De Anza (or LEAD). Marc aims to teach her students courage and commitment toward their future and toward their neighbors in order to improve the Latino/a community.
LEAD utilizes a two-part system. The first part is a series of English Writing classes which focus on the utilization of critical thinking and writing skills. The English Writing classes focus mostly on Latino/a culture, history, and social issues. The program is open to persons of any race and Marc has noticed great diversity among the students. All students are asked to do is to bring an open mind.
The second part of LEAD is the club activities. LEAD students meet every other week for a meeting. They are required to complete twelve hours of community engagement projects each quarter. A community engagement project involves getting out in the community by making a contribution. LEAD students typically favor the social activities such as hosting dances and volunteer work during the holiday season. They set up educational booths during the year to promote important issues affecting the Latino/a community and to promote the LEAD program.
The foundation of LEAD focuses on a sense of familia, or family. This has been a core value in Marc’s personal experience and was used as the foundation of the Chicano Movement. As discussed before, Marc realized how important it is for a student to have a sense of family in order to succeed. When a student has a sense that they belong to a bigger group than themselves they try harder. It gives everyone in the group a sense of belonging and worth. The Chicano Movement is also based on the same foundation. Chicano activists united together for a single cause and formed ethnic solidarity.
Marc is extremely concerned with the Latino/a community achieving their educational goals. To increase the likelihood of course completion, Marc places the LEAD students into small groups called familias. They are based on the same concept as discussed earlier. Members of each familia become responsible to and for one another. For instance, if one member misses a class, the other members are responsible for calling that person. They are to make sure that the student is fine and offer help if needed. These familias are a strong support system for the students to rely on during their time at De Anza. It helps to build equality among peers and enhances respect and integrity.
Many of the students have difficulty paying for their education since there are several undocumented persons who do not qualify for federal aid. An undocumented person refers to a person who was born outside of the United States to an immigrant. In 2001, California passed AB540, which allows undocumented students to receive in-state tuition if they meet specific requirements. For example, a student must have attended a California High School for three years and have graduated in California with a diploma or a GED in order to qualify for in-state tuition. Undocumented students may only receive state or federal financial aid if they are a US citizen or are a “qualified” immigrant. The AB540 offers resources for private scholarships and grants to undocumented students. (greendot.org) Marc is most proud of her commitment to AB540 students, to ensure they receive equal educational opportunities.
Three major areas that Marc addresses with the LEAD program are: to bring focus to issues in the Latino/a community; to help Latino/a students achieve their educational goals; and to ensure that AB540 students find funding for education. Her program has proven successful by focusing on Latino/a culture and literature in the English Writing courses, uniting her students in familias, and providing funding resources to AB540 students.
In my opinion, Marc’s entire life has been extremely interesting and inspiring. The story that stands out the most would be President Nixon’s Inauguration Day in 1973. Until recently, the only Nixon footage that I had seen came from the movie Forrest Gump. It was surprising to learn that there was a petition in the form of a large pencil. It was unexpected that Marc’s position at the FBI ended the way it had and has me curious as to how many others were fired for the same reason.
On the surface, Marc’s family appears to be your typical nuclear family. She has both parents and two brothers. Her parents worked at the local school, one as a teacher and the other as an administrator. On the other hand, their active role toward equal rights distinctly defined the Sybert-Coronado family.
Coronado, Marc, De Anza (Cupertino, CA May 8, 2009)
http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol3/chicano/chicano.html. Retrieved May 14, 2009.
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/633044/Voting-Rights-Act#ref=ref809346. Retrieved June 4, 2009.
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines01/0121-01.htm. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
http://www.greendot.org/home/what_is_ab540. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
http://www.tolerance.org/news/article_tol.jsp?id=740. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
De Anza Class: History of California (History 10)
Instructor: Anne Hickling Interview Date: May 8, 2009