Sal Castro, an Eastside teacher who helped solidify the Chicano movement that shaped Civil Rights-era Mexican American identity, died on Monday at the age of 79 after battling cancer.

While he was vilified by the L.A. Unified School District in 1968 for leading student walkouts over a lack of Latino curriculum, this week he was lionized by school officials:

And at least one political leader, Gloria Molina, hoped that President Obama would recognize his passing:

Castro played a leading role in the coordinated school walkouts that were known as the “blowouts.” The first of those days was peaceful, but during the second some students were confronted and attacked by police.

The teacher was charged with conspiracy to disrupt public schools and conspiracy to disturb the peace.

The story was immortalized in the HBO film Walkout.

Credit: HBO

Credit: HBO

Castro's problem with how and what his kids were taught? Students were forbidden from speaking Spanish, they were steered toward menial career paths and they were discouraged from attending college.

Yesterday, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised him:

Sal Castro was a courageous leader during the Los Angeles Chicano civil rights movement. He will always be remembered for his zeal and commitment to improving educational opportunities for everyone, regardless of race.

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy:

Sal Castro held a mirror up to our district that showed the need for a youths' rights agenda more than 45 years ago. Graduation rates, access to college-prep courses, allocation of resources–all of these issues needed fixing and that is why we have spent every day striving to provide the education each and every one of our students deserves. Sal's impact is immeasurable and still relevant today, which is why we will not stop until we reach 100 percent graduation and college-and-career-readiness for every LAUSD student. And, his work was heroic towards LAUSD.

L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina:

It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of local legend Sal Castro – who definitely was the most passionate man I have ever met in the field of educational empowerment. He was true role model for the Eastside community but especially for local youth, whom he personally mentored decade after decade through his annual Chicano Youth Leadership conferences. … I respectfully request that President Barack Obama consider honoring Sal Castro and the East Los Angeles walkouts similarly to how he honored César Chávez and the UFW struggle last October.

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