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Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Felicitas Mendez, the Puerto Rican desegregation icon gets a Google doodle

Google honors one of the original U.S. fighters against desegregation on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month.

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To start off Hispanic Heritage Month on the right foot, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Google featured a doodle of Felicita Mendez. Who is she? Mendez is an iconic civil rights activist and pioneer that fought for school desegregation in California during the 1940s.

Born in Juncos, Puerto Rico in 1916, Mendez is known for suing the Westminster school district in California when her children were denied enrollment at a public school because of their skin color. 

She married a Mexican immigrant Gonzalo Mendez in 1935, where the couple opened a local cafe and owned a farm down the road.

Mendez rallied other Mexican-Americans to allow entry for their children in an all-white school in the Westminster school district in Orange County, California.

The rally resulted in a now famous battle in court, Mendez v. Westminster, a desegregation case that preceded the more famous Brown v. Board of Education. 

In 1946, a federal district court ruled that Mendez and other Mexican-American parents’ complaints against Westminster were valid, and the school district had violated their rights.

The ruling was later a key talking point in the arguments during the landmark Brown v. Board decision, which ruled in favor of desegregation of public schools. 

Mendez died in 1998, and the doodle is of her looking over at a school while children of different ethnicities enter the school doors. The doodle is also featured alongside some words recognizing Mendez for her work. 

“Thank you Felicitas Mendez and family, for helping to lead the way toward a more just future.”

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