On September 15th, the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge John Pacheco coordinated a reenactment of the iconic Lopez V. Seccombe case, desegregating recreational facilities in San Bernardino in 1944.
The case was brought forth after three Mexican-American boys between the ages of 13-16 were refused entry into the Perris Hill Plunge due to their ethnicity.
At the reenactment, Brown University Professor Mark Ocegueda introduced the case to an audience filled with dignitaries and students from high schools across the inland empire.
“The three boys were stopped as they were entering the Perris Hill Plunge and asked if they were Mexican. They were turned away because Mexicans were only allowed to enter the day before the water was drained,” said Ocegueda.
Ultimately, the Constitution’s fifth and 14th amendments helped Judge Leon Yankwich reach a ruling and desegregate recreational facilities.
“This case set a precedent for other local desegregation issues, including the Mendez v. Westminster decision in 1947 and the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954,” said Pacheco.
At the reenactment, students from San Bernardino, Rialto, Redlands, Yucaipa, and the High Desert snacked on tacos, taquitos, chips, salsa and guacamole – while listening to the arguments made by the jury.
Mayor John Valdivia played former San Bernardino Mayor William Seccombe. In contrast, Michael Scaffidi played attorney H.R. Griffith; Judge Manuel Ramirez played the role of Judge Leon Yankwich and Michael Bidart as attorney David C. Marcus.
During the arguments, the city officials argued that Mexicans were too dirty, carried diseases, and dressed inappropriately.
Lawyer David C. Marcus argued that the city official’s arguments amounted to discrimination, and a ruling was made.
The 200-plus attendees included Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes, San Bernardino Community College District Board of Trustee Chair Gloria Macias Harrison, and KVCR – who recorded interviews with the lawyers and judges on the dais.
Inland Empire Community News and KVCR have recently collaborated and will release exclusive interviews to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month in the coming weeks.