San Antonio, Tejas
Ordinary Women of the Borderlands:March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2
Early 1900s photo of the Bazán Family: (left to right) Petra, Epigmenia (the mother) Luisa,
Mercedes and the child, Eloisa, daughter of Antonia. -Courtesy of the Bazan/Longoria family
La Voz de Lucy Domínguez Pérez
November 13, 1938 – December 15, 2020
Vol. 34 Issue 2 Chapopote. No one told us it wasn’t healthy.
Chapopote! We didn’t have money to buy gum so when
Editor: Gloria A. Ramírez we wanted gum…
Design: Elizandro Carrington Mother used to see piles of chapopote in the street… tar,
Cover Photo: Courtesy of Bazan/Longoria She said go get some and I’ll wash it for you. We went
family archives and got a handful of it
and my mother washed it, gave us a piece and we would
Contributors chew it.
Alexandra Bradbury of Labor Notes, Norma I’m still here!
Longoria Rodríguez, Rodolfo Rosales, Keely
LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2 Such was one of the many stories Lucy Pérez would tell of her life as a child
Schenwar of Truthout growing up in San Antonio dealing with the realities and tragedies of life. She
eventually met and married the love of her life, Ray Pérez. Ray and Lucy spent
La Voz Mail Collective 60-plus-one years together living in a five-room casita on the Westside adorned
with CDs, bottles, Tweety-birds and other whimsical muñequitos. They met on a
The Collective is sheltering at home due to the Thanksgiving weekend and were married one week later. They had 3 children to-
COVID-19 pandemic but will be returning when gether, one still-born and their two sons. For a time, they worked in the fields pick-
ing in Wisconsin enduring tornados and life-threatening episodes. Somehow they
their health and safety can be assured. Extra found ways to get by. But always, there were adventures. Lucy suffered in child-
funds are being raised to pay for folding La Voz hood, having to leave school in the second grade to help the family. Throughout
her life, the many illnesses she suffered, she overcame: diabetes, cancer (twice), a
each month during this time. heart murmur and more. With Ray playing the guitar or accordion, they had music
in their lives and it kept them dancing and winning at life. At 82, Lucy passed away
Esperanza Director from a fall she suffered at home, donating her body to science. As part of the Voz
mail collective, Lucy always arrived with Ray with a hug and a kiss for all—call-
Graciela I. Sánchez ing each one of us mi’jo or mi’ja, asking how we were. In many ways, Lucy Pérez
lived an exemplary life dealing with what came her way, always moving forward
Esperanza Staff with humility. Much loved and respected in the Esperanza community, Lucy will
very much be missed. She made a great contribution with her stories in the book,
Elizandro Carrington, Kayla Miranda, Still Here, Homenaje al Westside de San Antonio published by the Esperanza Peace
Paul Plouf, Kristel Orta-Puente, and Justice Center. The Esperanza board, Buena Gente and staff extend our condo-
Natalie Rodríguez, lences to Lucy’s family, friends and all those who knew her. Que en paz descanse.
Imgard Akinyi Rop, René Saenz, Lucy Pérez, presente!
Susana Segura, Amelia Valdez
Judit Vega, Rosa Vega EDITOR’S NOTE: This issue of La Voz is dedicated to mujeres everywhere who make life work
no matter what is thrown their way. In this issue, one of those families of mujeres is highlighted
Conjunto de Nepantleras in the story of the Bazán sisters by Norma Longoria Rodríguez. We are now in a period where
—Esperanza Board of Directors— the challenges to mujeres everywhere are exceptionally hard. I am heartened at the number of
wonderful women, especially women of color, that are making a difference in the world and,
Richard Aguilar, Norma Cantú, Yasmina Codina, especially in the U.S. We shall continue to support each other and eventually turn things around.
Brent Floyd, Rachel Jennings, Amy Kastely,
Angie Merla, Jan Olsen, Ana Lucía Ramírez, – Gloria A. Ramirez, editor of La Voz de Esperanza.
Gloria A. Ramírez, Rudy Rosales,
Lilliana Saldaña, Nadine Saliba, ATTENTION VOZ READERS: If you have a mailing address correction please send it to [email protected]
Graciela I. Sánchez, Lillian Stevens esperanzacenter.org. If you want to be removed from the La Voz mailing list, for whatever reason, please let us
know. La Voz is provided as a courtesy to people on the mailing list of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.
• We advocate for a wide variety of social, The subscription rate is $35 per year ($100 for institutions). The cost of producing and mailing La Voz has
economic & environmental justice issues. substantially increased and we need your help to keep it afloat. To help, send in your subscriptions, sign up as a
monthly donor, or send in a donation to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. Thank you. -GAR
• Opinions expressed in La Voz are not
necessarily those of the Esperanza Center. VOZ VISION STATEMENT: La Voz de Esperanza speaks for many individual, progressive voices who are
gente-based, multi-visioned and milagro-bound. We are diverse survivors of materialism, racism, misogyny,
La Voz de Esperanza homophobia, classism, violence, earth-damage, speciesism and cultural and political oppression. We are
is a publication of recapturing the powers of alliance, activism and healthy conflict in order to achieve interdependent economic/
spiritual healing and fuerza. La Voz is a resource for peace, justice, and human rights, providing a forum for
Esperanza Peace & Justice Center criticism, information, education, humor and other creative works. La Voz provokes bold actions in response
922 San Pedro, San Antonio, to local and global problems, with the knowledge that the many risks we take for the earth, our body, and the
TX 78212 dignity of all people will result in profound change for the seven generations to come.
Inquiries/Articles can be sent to:
Articles due by the 8th of each month
* We ask that articles be visionary, progressive,
instructive & thoughtful. Submissions must be
literate & critical; not sexist, racist, homophobic,
violent, or oppressive & may be edited for length.
* All letters in response to Esperanza activities
or articles in La Voz will be considered for
2 publication. Letters with intent to slander
individuals or groups will not be published.
Ordinary Women of
by Norma Longoria Rodríguez benefit of today’s kitchen blenders and food processors. The result
was a delicious preserve that could stand alone as a dessert, used as
Dedicated to my grandchildren Sofia, Camila, Liliana, Izabella, a spread on breads or in my case, simply relished by the spoonful.
Jakob, Jasen, Lukas, Mateo Rodríguez and Mario, Dominic and The young ladies were taught to read and write Spanish and
Tomás Bellavia, sixth generation descendants of Epigmenia and fifth
were provided a basic education for the times. Most probably they
were taught by their mother or a visiting teacher from Mexico. They
generation descendants of her daughters. knew enough English to get by in the English-speaking world but
their mother tongue was Spanish. They were taught to be polite,
Epigmenia Treviño Bazán (1850-1938) and Jesús Bazán (1848- proper, considerate young ladies. They loved to attend family gath-
1915) had eleven children, five boys and six girls. The girls were Pe- erings, celebrations and dances held throughout the ranch communi-
tra (1875-1896), Antonia (1877-1966), Mercedes (1885-1974), Luisa ties and had many cousins and friends.
(1890-1956), Josefa (1891-1920) and the second Petra (1896-1984). The first Petra married a man (last name García) but died at the
The first Petra died in 1896 at the age of 21. The second Petra was age of 21 and had no children. Antonia married Antonio Longoria
born the same year that her sister died and was also named Petra. and had six children. Mercedes married Manuel Vela, Luisa married
The Bazán sisters grew up with Juan Cavazos and had one son. Josefa married Gregorio Villarreal,
their five brothers, Bernardino, and had three children. Petra (the second one) married Alfredo Ro-
Pedro, Jesús Maria, Gregorio dríguez and had seven children.
and Nemencio on the Guada- In 1915 when the sisters’
lupe Ranch. The young women and brothers’ ages ranged from
were very beautiful. Irma Ba- 16 to 37, life overwhelmingly
zán Villarreal recalls her father and forever changed for Epig-
Bernardino Bazán, a nephew of menia’s family. Her husband
the women, stating that the sis- Jesús Bazán and Antonia’s hus-
ters were so beautiful that they band, Antonio Longoria, were LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2
were known as “the Beautiful murdered by the Texas Rangers.
Bazán Sisters” throughout the It was a state-sanctioned crime
ranch communities. of impunity of two innocent
The sisters lived happy well-known ranchers and com-
lives on the Guadalupe Ranch munity leaders, a separate but
located in Hidalgo County, intertwined family history.
fifty miles northwest of the Rio For the last decade the
Grande helping their parents history of the murders of the
on their ranch. They learned all The Texas Historical Marker citing the murders of Jesús Bazán & Antonio Longoria by two patriarchs has been well-
homestead duties such as clean- the Texas Rangers that left Epigmenia Treviño Bazán & Antonia Longoria, her daughter, documented and recognized
ing, cooking, baking, canning, widows. Five of the sisters are pictured in a faded photo: Petra, the young girl, sitting in the public history project
processing cheese, sewing, em- with Epigmenia & behind l to r: Luisa, Mercedes & Josefa. -Bazan/Longoria Family Photo. Refusing to Forget /refusing-
broidering, crocheting, quilting, gardening, growing and preparing toforget.org and in books, newspapers, a state museum exhibition,
herbal remedies while learning their particular uses, soap making, university studies, historical conferences, speeches, lectures, poetry,
child rearing, etc. They also helped with farm chores such as feed- magazines, historical websites and journals, paintings, and, finally, a
ing chickens, gathering eggs and feeding and taking care of the farm Texas Historical marker that acknowledged the murders.
animals. They processed poultry, game, beef and pork including This parallel family history, however, is about the Bazan wom-
butchering and rendering of products from the process such as pre- en’s survival after the murders and merits its own narrative. Their
paring carne seca, chorizo and chicharrones. Early on, they learned bravura is much less known but they picked up the brittle pieces of
to process corn for tortillas, tamales and gorditas. They also made their broken lives and stored them in the silence of the heart. The
flour tortillas. They baked breads, cakes, pan de polvo (wedding community embraced them in their grief and the women moved on
cookies), empanadas (fruit-filled turnovers) and dulces (candy). with fortitude to provide a loving and safe home for their children.
Mercedes always made a special, tedious-to-prepare delight, to give In 1915 there was no welfare or Social Security benefits for wid-
to family at Christmas time, dulce de frijol. The recipe called for the ows and orphans and no close medical assistance. If they needed to
3time-consuming removal of the peel of the pinto beans without the consult a doctor because their home remedies and expertise in car-
ing for the sick was not enough, they had to travel to the larger towns Of the six surviving women, four became widows at an early age
or to Mexico which were about fifty miles away and two to three and one died tragically. Epigmenia and Antonia were widowed at the
days travel by wagon. Most definitely there were none of today’s ages of 67 and 37, respectively. Josefa died of suicide at age 30. Her
programs such as grief counseling, job skills two older children, Corina and Gilberto, moved to Falfurrias with
empowerment workshops or unem- their father and the six-month old Teresita remained
ployment pay. Diseases such as tuber- on the ranch and was reared by Mercedes and
culosis, smallpox, measles, chicken Manuel Vela. Decades later Josefa’s grandchildren
pox and mumps were rampant. As if would despairingly ponder if Josefa was perhaps
all this wasn’t enough, along came suffering from post-partum depression, a serious
the Spanish Flu epidemic. In the late illness or latent trauma from the murders when
1920’s the Great Depression brought she died of suicide. Unfortunately they will never
havoc to the country. How did these have an answer. This is one of many examples of
women survive and keep their children injustices being denied and repercussions of the
well-fed and healthy? It was with great pain of trauma carried over to descendants over one
strength, an acceptance of what needed hundred years after the murders. Petra was wid-
to be done and love for their children owed at age 39 when her husband Alfredo died in a
and the extended family. traffic accident. She had her
They kept their land as the sisters seventh child seven months
and their brothers had been instructed after his death. Luisa was
to by their parents. As long as they widowed at age 45.
owned land they could have cattle, Today in the memories of
pigs, goats, chickens and wild game. all of the children, grandchil-
At times they would lease out their dren, grandnieces and grand-
land to family or other close trusted nephews of the women,
ranchers. The sons of Epigmenia, the Antonia Bazán Longoria, widow of something remains constant:
brothers of the women and friends Antonio Longoria. all of the sisters except
and neighbors helped them with the Luisa, were extremely quiet
ranch work and all the sisters and brothers took on parenting roles and very soft-spoken. When
for all the children. Though nameless at the time, this community they were in the company of
concept is now referred to as the popular mantra “It takes a village”. others they only spoke when
The children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren living today greeting people or if asked a
still refer to them as Papá Jesús, Papá Juan, Mamá Toncha (Antonia), Petra with her first daughter. direct question and they did
Mamá Mercedes, etc., instead of Tío and Tía. not elaborate. They did not initiate conversations at all. They would
LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2• Antonia, who lost both her husband and her father, and of all the sit quietly at the kitchen table, in a living room or on the porch with
sisters, had the most children, ages one to sixteen, in 1915, was in a their family, guests, or friends and listen quietly to the conversations.
particularly perilous predicament. She knew that she, her children They inquired about everyone’s well-being, offering food or drink
and all her brothers also were in danger of being murdered because but did not really engage in idle conversation. Everyone accepted
that was common during the Matanza. Killing entire families at the this as their way of being and felt very comfortable and peaceful in
hands of Texas Rangers resolved the issue of leaving family heirs. their quiet presence.
The land could then be bought by locals and newcomers to the Rio The sisters however did not mince words when the occasion
Grande Valley who were interested in changing and developing the called for it. A granddaughter of Petra, Maria Teresa Brito, remem-
area from mostly cattle ranching to irrigated farming of produce, bers a time when her mother used improper language in the presence
cotton and citrus. With the threat of death being a high probability of Petra. Without raising her voice, Petra said, “You did not use
and local law enforcement looking away, the Bazán-Longoria fam- language like that when you lived in my house.” Enough said. Many
ily had to forgo seeking justice for the murders and chose to enter years later when living in San Antonio in a large public housing
into a code of silence regarding the murders to save their children complex on the West Side, Maria Teresa remembers that her tiny
and themselves. When friends asked Antonia if she was going to do elderly Mamá Petra would be offended by young men drinking,
anything about having the murders investigated, she would answer, smoking, talking loudly and doing who-knows-what-else, would
“Why should I get into this, to create more orphans?” leave her apartment and march down to run them off. They quickly
By the mid-1920’s Antonia and most of her brothers had moved obliged, having recognized and respected the authority of this lady.
into town to provide schooling and work opportunities for their However at another occasion when receiving a painful injection
children. Some started farming and ranching at a smaller scale from a brusque nurse who lacked a gentle touch, Petra called out
closer to towns, or opened small businesses. The only siblings who “Bestia” as the nurse was exiting the room.
remained on the ranch for the rest of their lives were Jesús Maria and If Antonia found someone or something not to her liking, she
Mercedes and their spouses. In 1924 Antonia settled permanently would mutter a negative word or phrase, almost inaudible, and walk
in Mission where her older children began careers in the mercantile away or look away from the offending person or situation. Accord-
business. Luisa eventually moved to Hidalgo to be close to her son ing to family members, at the time of the murders a rancher came to
4and Petra moved to Alice in the late 40‘s so her two youngest daugh-
ters could finish high school. see Antonia. Without hesitation she looked directly at him and asked
if he had anything to do with the murders. He adamantly denied any
complicity. The rancher died fourteen months later from a year-long she was the matriarch of both families and there were no patriarchs.
trauma-induced nervous condition attributed to a gun battle at his It was up to her to help her family. All of the women worked hard to
ranch. maintain their families and lands. While today we honor women’s
Esther Ramírez remembers that when she visited Mercedes and work and lives through Women’s History Month, Hispanic Heri-
Manuel at the ranch, Mercedes would make polite conversation and tage Month, International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc., these
then would go out to the hen house, catch a flying chicken, process women worked 24/7 of every day, week, month and year for the rest
it and make a delicious lunch of arroz con of their lives some as long as half a century or more.
pollo. Later while Manuel would entertain Mother’s Day was every day without celebrations.
the children with tales Mercedes would call Epigmenia lived on the ranch for the rest of her life,
out with disdain, “embustero” (teller of fibs). passing away in 1938 at the age of 88. Antonia died in
Luisa was very prim and proper. She 1966 in Mission at the age of 89. Luisa died in 1956 in
liked pretty dresses and fragrant perfumes. Hidalgo at the age of 66. Mercedes died in 1974 at the
A grandniece, Melba Coody, remembers ranch at the age of 89. Petra died in Alice at the age of
that she loved going to Luisa’s bathroom 84.
because she loved the fragrance of so many I feel a great attachment to these women, my
powders and perfumes on her counter. Es- great-grandmother Epigmenia, whom I never knew,
ther Ramirez remembers that at her sister’s my beloved grandmother Antonia and my great-aunts
wedding Luisa showed up in a beautiful yel- Mercedes, Luisa and Petra, whom I was so fortunate
low dress and hat. No little old ladies’ dress The rag doll Mercedes handcrafted for the to know. I like to think of them as the fragrant flowers
for her. After moving to Hidalgo, Luisa rode author, the sunbonnet (a replica of one she and roses they grew in their gardens on their ranches
the bus all over the Rio Grande Valley visit- always wore) and doll’s quilt sewed by her and the yellow wildflowers that pop up in the spring
ing relatives. She adored children and was grandmother Antonia. among the chaparral in the undulating waves of grassy
very loving. At one point she even bought or rented a little house in fields in the tranquil beauty of the borderlands. They possessed the
McAllen and lived alone. physical beauty of flowers but they were also sharp and tough as the
After Epigmenia’s death Antonia became the matriarch of the thorns of rose bushes. They were the Mexican version of the “Steel
family and was deeply loved by family and friends and referred to as Magnolias of the South”. The Women’s Movement had nothing
Mamá Toncha by family, friends and neighbors. All of her relatives on these strong, independent, self-supporting borderland beauties.
and friends traveled to Mission to visit her. One nephew, Pete Bazán, I doubt that they were even aware of the word feminista, yet they
spoke of hitch-hiking from his home and then taking the bus connec- lived their lives as such.
tion to visit Mamá Toncha and his cousins in Mission when he was a My memories of, and love for, these extraordinary women are
young man. forever intertwined in the silence of my heart. I think of them often:
Not one of the widows, despite their beauty and kindness, ever When I hold the rag doll Mercedes handcrafted for me, the sunbon-
remarried. They were simply too busy making a life for their chil- net (a replica of one she always wore) and doll’s quilt sewed by my
dren and no one could ever replace their beloved husbands. I do not grandmother Antonia; the tranquil loving presence of Mercedes LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2
know if any of the women ever had suitors. I have a feeling, having and Petra and the hugs and kisses of Luisa who absolutely adored
known them, that if any came around, they most probably sent them children—I feel their love. These magnificent, valiant, strong, lov-
packing politely but without hesitation. ing, hard-working women are my herstory, my heritage and my
I believe that all the women suffered immensely but Epigmenia’s legacy which I gratefully embrace.
losses must have been extremely overwhelming. Besides the mur- BIO: Norma Longoria Rodríguez is a retired educator who
ders of Jesús and Antonio, Petra‘s death at 21, the death of Josefa by records borderlands family history for her children and grand-
suicide at the age of 30, the horror of her twelve-year-old grand- children. She wrote about the murders of Jesús Bazán, her great
daughter finding the body of her mother Josefa, the death of Petra’s grandfather and his son-in-law, Antonio Longoria, her grandfa-
husband—when Petra was seven months pregnant with her seventh ther, in a literary ofrenda in the November, 2015 issue of La Voz
child—and the worry of having seventeen orphaned grandchildren de Esperanza. Photos: courtesy of the Bazan/Longoria family.
would have been impossible to bear for anyone. Epigmenia knew
Poemitas for Nickie Valdez, RIP by Tommy Noonan-Minot, ND.
Nickie 1 Nickie 1
Subito Santo!2 Mil gracias 2
E pluribus unimos 3 ¡Vaya con Dios! 3
Rest in Power, Anne Feeneyby Alexandra Bradbury (1951-2021
editor and co-director of Labor Notes )
This week the U.S. labor ing protest in the capitol
movement lost its best- rotunda.
known and best-loved She sang at many
troubadour: the great folk- Labor Notes Conferences,
singer-songwriter Anne and at every convention
Feeney who died of Covid ever held by the rank-and-
on February 3, at age 69, file group Railroad Work-
with her children at her ers United, and she was a
side. With her fantastic regular at the annual Great
songs and feisty spirit, Labor Arts Exchange. In
she made an incalculable 2005, she received the Joe
contribution to the move- Hill Award from the Labor
ment. She is irreplaceable, Heritage Foundation for
gone too soon. Left, on the Staley strike line in Decatur, Illinois, in 1995. Right, at the Labor Notes Conference in her lifetime achievements
Feeney’s beloved orig- 2012. Photos: Dexter Arnold, Jim West (jimwestphoto.com) integrating arts and culture
in the labor movement.
inal anthems like “Have
You Been to Jail for Justice?” and “War on the Workers” and rocking A FIERCE ADVOCATE
renditions of classics like “Union Maid” and “Solidarity Forever” are
staples of the picket-line playlist. Her frequent touring partners Evan Feeney released 12 albums and performed with such artists as
Greer and Chris Chandler wrote: Starting in 1987–when she was in- Pete Seeger, Loretta Lynn, John Prine, Toshi Reagon, the Indigo
spired by Faith Petric to quit her job as an attorney and dedicate her Girls, and Billy Bragg. She was a fierce advocate for more music
life to touring and making music in support of workers–Anne played and arts—and better treatment for musicians and artists—in the
more than 4,000 shows across North America and Europe. She per- labor movement, telling UE News: I can’t even imagine the civil
formed for striking workers on countless picket lines, in union halls, rights movement without singing. I can’t imagine the early CIO
and at some of the largest protests of the last century, including the days without singing. Music instills power and bravery. Those
protests that shut down the WTO in Seattle in 1999 and the March for kids, sweating in those Alabama churches, singing We Shall Not Be
Women’s Lives in 2004. Her performance at the WTO was featured in Moved, then walking right out into a barrage of police dogs and
LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2• the documentary This is What Democracy Looks Like. She organized fire hoses. It’s the music that allowed them to face all of that, and
dozens of tours supporting various causes, including the Sing Out for build the movement and change the world, in my opinion… It will
Single Payer Healthcare tour in 2009, and raised tens of thousands be a more exciting movement when labor arts and culture gets the
of dollars for strike funds and progressive causes. respect it deserves from labor unions.
A memoriam from the Electrical Workers (UE) recalls: Feeney After Pete Seeger persuaded her to get more active in the
told the UE NEWS in 2017, “I love going to picket lines,” and she Musicians Union (AFM), she became president of the Pittsburgh
could often be found wherever workers were in struggle. She played Musicians Union—the first female president of any U.S. musicians
at a 1982 UE Local 610 rally in Swissvale, PA during their historic local. Later she was one of the catalysts who helped form AFM Lo-
6 1/2 month anti-concession strike against Wabco (now Wabtec). cal 1000, the traveling musicians local, which allowed touring folk
She played at rallies in North East, PA supporting Local 684’s first- musicians to earn a real pension for the first time.
contract struggle, and in Erie, PA sponsored by Locals 506 and 618 The granddaughter of an Irish immigrant mineworkers orga-
during national GE contract negotiations. She served as “minister of nizer, Feeney loved Ireland and its music, and led annual singing
culture” for several high-profile national strikes and lockouts, includ- tours there. When she wasn’t on the road, she lived in Pittsburgh,
ing the Staley strike in the “War Zone” of Decatur, IL and the Fron- where she also co-founded Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. She
tier Casino strike in Las Vegas, both of which went on for six years. was a two-time survivor of cancer; to defray her health care costs,
Feeney also contributed to UE organizing efforts at the GE fa- supporters organized benefit concerts and in 2016 a tribute album.
cility in Parkersburg, West Virginia in the early 1990s, writing and Musician, friend, and photographer Bev Grant has compiled a
recording a song about Parkersburg workers’ struggle for a VHS touching tribute video featuring Anne’s singing and photos from
tape produced by UE that was mailed to every worker. throughout her life, including many picket-line snapshots.
She sang for steelworkers, carwash workers, strawberry work- In lieu of flowers, her children ask supporters to make a dona-
ers, miners, railroad workers, anti-sweatshop activists, homeown- tion in her honor to the Thomas Merton Center, a social justice
ers fighting foreclosure, public transit supporters, auto workers
opposing NAFTA, and more. She sang on the steps of Berkeley’s activist hub in Pittsburgh, bit.ly/donate-to-thomas.
main post office when activists built a tent camp to keep it open. NOTE: Anne Feeney was the first performer in Esperanza’s series,
6 She sang at the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising, and at the subsequent mujercanto: a celebration of women, song & thought that took
Solidarity Singalong, where activists braved arrests in a daily sing- place on the patio at 1305 N. Flores.on June 1, 1991.
The Legacy of
in San Antonio
Ford Foundation Fellow, Writer, Scholar
Social Justice Activist, Community Advocate
Rudy Rosales, recently retired UTSA Professor of Political Science, is author of The Illusion of Inclusion
and currently serves on the board of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, The Conjunto de Nepantleras.
Born and raised on the westside of San Antonio, Rudy grew up living at the Alazan Apache Courts.
by Rodolfo Rosales
After World War II, America was confronted with two major to lead in the struggle against one of the most devastating health LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2
issues that would define America into the twenty-first century. crisis faced by the U.S., a continuing tragic and wanton killing
The first issue was that while all Americans put their lives on of Black lives by police actions across our urban environment,
the line in the war against fascism fought overseas, the cancer of an economic crisis in the midst of the pandemic, lack of access
racism continued to undermine the very life of our democracy. to decent health care, a crisis in access to housing for millions of
As W.E.B. Dubois stated in “The Forethought”, to the classic The Americans, and on January 6 a failed insurrection on our Con-
Souls of Black Folk (1903), “This meaning is not without interest gress - we have a long and hard journey ahead, even with Donald
to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century Trump limping off into the sunset.
is the problem of the color line”.
Through all of this, the most profound issue that we face as
Ironically the first step in addressing this cancer at the nation- a civilization beyond this horrible period, aside from climate
al level was in 1948 when President Truman, albeit with an in- change, is the widespread poverty that we have faced throughout
ternational reputation in mind in the wake of a world war against the history of this nation. When you are poor you don’t have
fascism, integrated the military. Then in 1954, described as access to education, to health care, to a decent paying job, to a
“Simple Justice” the Supreme Court, facing an intense civil rights decent and safe community – to a voice – and what connects all
politics in the streets, ruled in Brown v. Board of Education, To- of those needs is a decent place to live which is the one issue that
peka, Kansas, that “Separate but Equal” was inherently unequal. is ensconced in the economic analysis of society, or in more pre-
The most powerful blow, however, emerged from the streets – cise terms, hidden, is housing. This observation becomes critical
The Little Rock Nine, the Greensboro Sit-in, the Freedom Rides, when the foundation of politics has historically been a space that
the Standoff with George Wallace, the March on Washington, the is universally called community, in a space where we can extend
Bombing of the Church in Birmingham, killing Four Young Girls, ourselves to each other. Following this logic, a home presupposes
the assassination of Malcolm X, Bloody Sunday: the March from community, the space where home is protected, where culture
Selma to Montgomery, the black student rebellions leading to the and its traditions are produced and preserved, and most impor-
establishment of Black Studies on university campuses – with tant where agency/citizenship emerges. The point is that the link
these actions and events simply being the highlight of a tumul- is from community to home. A place to live does not in itself
tuous intense struggle for racial justice. The end result was the make a community. But a community does presuppose homes,
passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of not simply houses. From this perspective, a nation’s ability to
1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. reproduce a civic culture emerges from the linkage between home
The Historical link between Housing,
Community and Poverty In the midst of this grinding history of poverty, the first half
of the 20th century exposed an incredible uncaring attitude in our
The historical struggle for racial and social justice is far from national political leadership. During this period the government
over, especially as we race through Trump’s destructive four- focused on a housing policy that was geared to the needs of the
year term. In the midst of a public health crisis unmatched by upper class and middle class white urban residents: “Upper- and
any in our history, we face the efforts of a solipsistic President to middle-income Americans found their ability to secure quality
delegitimize the voting rights of Blacks and Latinos, refusing to
accept the legitimacy of our national general elections, refusing 7housing greatly enhanced by federal income tax, highway, and other
pro-suburban policies. By contrast, Congress proffered increasingly
miserly aid to low-income families for whom the goal of homeown- San Antonio: A Colonial Reality
ership remained plainly unreachable.” (John Bauman, et.al.).
It was not until the 1960s that Mexican Americans had any
This was exacerbated in the Sun Belt era as our post-WW presence in the governance of San Antonio. From 1951 to 1987,
economy begin to restructure in response to the decentralization the city was dominated by a White business coalition, the Good
of production at the cost of cities in the manufacturing belt, better Government League, whose primary goal was growth and expan-
known as the “Rust Belt.” Industries fled to the Sun Belt seeking sion. Health care for most poor families was still for all practical
cheaper costs to do business in the anti-union, anti-tax environ- purposes delivered in the emergency room at the Robert B. Green
ment of right-to-work states. Eventually this bleeding from the Hospital downtown. The Mayor at that time, Walter McAllister,
once mighty industrial centers only paused in the Sun Belt on its explains how they (Mexican Americans) just aren’t motivated to
way to greater profits internationally where unions were almost improve themselves like the Anglos, adding “just too bad they
non-existent, taxes were minimal, bringing production costs to a (the police) don’t crack them over the head more than they do”.
minimum. (1970 NBC Report). The Good Government League’s master-
piece was the construction of Hemisphere Park in 1968. The
Meanwhile cities were in a fierce competition for the invest-
ment opportunities presented by this restructuring. Cit-
ies from Sacramento to Phoenix to Dallas to San Anto-
nio, including cities in the south, all engaged in growth
outwards and at the same time in the re-gentrification
of older established neighborhoods. Many times, this
meant the razing of older neighborhoods. The question
remains “where do all the families that have had to live
through that chaos go?
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 seemed to be the
answer to this complex “social problem.” The prob-
lem, though, was that housing was not approached as a
social issue, it was seen as an economic “gold mine,”
and as such it ended up in the hands of private interests
who were more interested in profit than solving a social
problem. Indeed, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s meticu-
lous analysis of housing and the Black community
in the Post-World War II housing reforms provides a
devastating picture of how black families fared in those
LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2• reforms. (Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor) Caught in a vicious
triangle of greed by the real estate industry, the financial
institutions and governmental institutions, Blacks found Conceived at a time when housing, schools, and public facilities were legally segregated, Los
themselves in a lopsided market of exchange value, Courts wee built to provide affordable housing for San Antonio’s majority Mexica American
where the houses they were sold consistently were low- Westside. Providing modern amenities along with social and recreational activities. Los Courts
ered in equity while whites benefited from a market of were a welcome change from the overcrowded and often poorly built row houses, called corrals
use value (or home value) where the equity consistently (corrales), that were common along the Alazan and Apache Creeks in the early 20th century.
rises with the market. Aside from a profound exposition and land upon which it was constructed was on 90 acres immediately
critique of the racial politics of real estate, her study points to the south of downtown San Antonio.
need for developing a community basis for addressing a system
that heretofore overwhelmed individual families. The question Steve Bennett, journalist, found in his research on Hemisphere
then is not only how is this done but who are the main actors in Park one of the oldest neighborhoods in San Antonio: “Just south
providing an opportunity for community to grow and develop? of downtown, its people and architecture reflected the melting pot
of immigrants — German, Polish, Alsatian, Mexican, African-
Shifting our focus to San Antonio, Texas, poverty has been for American — who had established their homes in the area since Texas
all of the 20th century a grinding reality with families crowded was a republic.” “It was a real mix of people, and architecturally,
into living conditions where apartments, called “corrales” (corrals the neighborhood took a little of La Villita, a little of what’s now
in English) were literally organized around a single water faucet, called La Vaca and a little of King William,” said Lewis S. Fisher,
that is if they had water. Without saying, health care for most principal of Fisher Heck Architects, local experts in preservation and
poor families was for all practical purposes delivered in the emer- historic restoration. “It was a real San Antonio neighborhood.” (Steve
gency room at the Robert B. Green Hospital downtown, the only Bennett) The end result was not good for anyone concerned in that
public hospital in San Antonio. The public schools in the poor neighborhood; the renters were left without any resources to find
neighborhoods were intensely segregated and poorly funded, new homes and/or communities and older established residents lost
not to speak of the intense starvation wages that were the rule. homes that were there for generations. Beyond that, perhaps the most
8 Indeed, poverty in San Antonio after World War II stubbornly efficient tool in the move to return capital to the inner city was the
remained a pervasive reality. establishment of Urban Renewal. As Marisol Cortez describes it:
“As with other cities globally since the 1960s, the move to return capital to inner availability of housing. But in a counter-intuitive sense, a second
city San Antonio has been framed by neoliberal theories of wealth generation reason is because of community. “Aunque sea en pobresa, la
through the attraction of“creative class”professionals and private investment. For gente tiene sus propia raices en su comunidad” (Even in poverty
the historically neglected neighborhoods peripheral to downtown, redevelopment people have their own roots in their community). Across the city,
has primarily meant the various displacements of gentrification: land grabs, priva- poor communities show their pride in their communities through
tization of parks and public spaces, demolition of historic landmarks and sacred their parishes, churches, schools – this despite the characteriza-
spaces, and the expulsion of the poorest and most vulnerable residents from the tion of barrios as crime and drug infested. Indeed, this seemingly
urban landscape, primarily the poor and homeless of San Antonio’s majority Brown contradictory picture is true because communities continue to
and Black population. (Marisol Cortez“No Nos Moverán: Embodying Buen Vivìr.”) struggle with the social problems they face in their poverty.
According to John Salazar, the San Antonio Metro Region leads Veblen’s Absentee Ownership in the Westside LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2
the nation in poverty. The demographics of this poverty, while
taken for granted by the citizens of San Antonio is horrific. The The irony that we address in this essay is that in the westside
overwhelming majority of impoverished families are Latinos, today that we have an agency, The San Antonio Housing Author-
with 62% with a high school diploma. The literacy rate in the ity, governed by a board of directors and a professional
impoverished areas is 25%. Lastly the per capita income is $22, executive director from outside the very community that
557.00. Considering that education defines the path to success in they pretend to know what is good for a particular pub-
society, then it is not simply the very poor (19.22%) that are inse- lic housing community in the Alazan Apache Courts. Or
cure in their housing. While there are impoverished communities perhaps, their vision is based on the idea that the good
throughout San Antonio and Bexar County from the southside of the many outweighs the good of the few.
to eastside, the incidence of a major part of this poverty is in the
near westside. Ben Olivo, of the San Antonio Heron, points out: One could argue that the good of the larger com-
munity, San Antonio, outweighs the good of the few, the
But with development comes a downside. Some community members are 600 families in the Alazan Apache Courts (public hous-
concerned about the potential for mass displacement caused by rising property ing built in 1939). The good can be defined by the fact
values, predatory practices by investors and code violation enforcements in a part that the Alazan Apache is seen as an eyesore, riddled by
of San Antonio many people consider the cultural heartbeat of the city. If the crime, drugs, and of course we must not forget poverty.
West Side gets gentrified, what’s left? As well the structures are old and dilapidated, beyond a
Trinity University’s Drennon echoes the same sentiments:: reasonable effort to rehabilitate. We also have to add the
“It’s going to be so beautiful, but at the same time, it’s going to increase people’s plans to build middle class apartments that will provide
property values,”she said.“If we do nothing to address that, the question becomes, the incentive for investment in a part of San Antonio
‘Are we more comfortable with beautiful creeks or with the displacement of people?’” that is, as I mentioned, an eyesore and not a good target
Indeed, the profound class divide is clearly observable. Most for the development that San Antonio seeks as it attracts
of these families are there not because of choice but because of development away from the sprawling suburbs to the
The problem is, as the title for this subsection states,
what we are witnessing is a leadership in an agency that
knows only the business side of development. They are
not part of that community that has been through thick and thin;
a community that is being treated not unlike stock on a ranch:
“round them up, move them out.” Thorsten Veblen addressed the
issue of powerlessness of communities in the face of the unfeel-
ing competitive capitalist society in his book, Absentee Owner-
ship. And, indeed, this continues, in different forms, to this day.
What we are witnessing today, and it is nothing new, is a pub-
lic agency, whose goal is to address the issue of housing for the
poorest communities, using their public power to displace com-
munities to advance the interest of important economic actors in
our community. The argument, of course, that has been advanced
by the leadership at the agency is that they are planning new
housing units for the dispossessed. (did I say dispossessed? My
bad.). The flaw in the policy of erasing an entire community to
build nicer units, from a Veblen concept of absentee ownership,
is that renter occupants have no rights in the face of an aggressive
economic take-over of the place of living of hundreds of families.
Added to that, the promise made to displaced families has rarely
been met. Finally, absentee ownership is in direct opposition to a
community’s right to living space.
9Continued on Page 15
Source of Income discrimination…..
theby Kayla Miranda reality of Section 8
When Section 8 vouchers are the topic of any given “afford- out of every 50 housing choice voucher recipients ever actually
able housing” conversation, there seems to be an almost fairy finds a home because of all the obstacles mentioned above.
tale version readily available. “ With a voucher you can get a Some would argue that anyone should be able to decide
house with a yard! You can live anywhere in the city! It’s all who they allow to live within their property. Even if that means
your choice!” It is, after all, called the Housing Choice Voucher excluding individuals based on source of income. So let’s take a
Program. But much like our most beloved fairy tales, there is typical landlord out of the equation and just focus on those land-
the happy “Dis- lords who accept
ney” version and tax dollars from
the much darker the city and county.
“Grimm” ver- Is it acceptable
sion. Unfortu- for a developer to
nately for many accept city funds
voucher hold- and city grants for
ers, the latter is development but
closer to reality. refuse to accept
The truth is tax dollars for
there are about rental payments?
14,800 low-in- Programs like
come families in Tax Increment
San Antonio that Reinvestment
have vouchers to Zone, or TIRZ,
help them with are designated
their rental costs, as a response
either through to a community
the San Antonio Section 8 vouchers can only be used in certain areas and only if the owner’s requirements are met. need identi-
Housing Author- fied by the city.
ity or the Housing Authority of Bexar County, and an additional Affordable housing is always a need in any community. So those
14,600 households are on the waitlist. Only 2,287 owners rent to landlords should be required to accept vouchers and any income
households that receive vouchers from SAHA. Just because you that is legal in order to address that need.
LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2• get a voucher doesn’t mean you will be able to find a rental unit Locally, a source of income discrimination policy requiring
to accept it. Another fact that is left out is Section 8 landlords entities who accept incentives or assistance from the city be pro-
have different qualifications. They can have stricter policies and hibited from discriminating based on source of income has passed
be more selective of the tenants they choose to rent to than public the Housing Commission, but met resistance from the apartment
housing units. Everything from background checks to rental associations in the Planning and Development Committee. It is
history is at their discretion, much like a market rate landlord. now set to go to City Council B session. If this policy passes both
Many owners and property managers simply chose not to accept B session and A session, all new developments who accept city
a voucher. assistance going forward would be required to open up this much
In Texas, any landlord can decide whether or not they want to needed housing to low income individuals that were previously
accept a renter’s source of income. In fact, Texas joins Indiana as denied access for the period of time that is tied to the investment.
the only two states in the country that have explicitly prohibited For example, if the incentive lasts for 30 years, that is how long
cities from passing Source of Income discrimination ordinances. they can not discriminate. It would remove one of the many bar-
This means a landlord can deny any tenant housing, even if they riers to affordable housing for thousands of households. There is
are perfectly capable of paying rent, just because their payments never a single solution that will solve everyone’s problems. The
come from social security payments, child support payments, fed- only way to solve something as large as the housing crisis is to tar-
erally funded vouchers and any income that is not from a job. This get multiple obstacles simultaneously. The best way to help with
is a roadblock for many renters in San Antonio. You would think this particular subject is to sign up to speak at public comment or
that money is money. Imagine walking into a grocery store with a to contact your council representative. Hope to “see” you there!
crisp $100 bill and your cashier asks you, where did you get that? BIO: Kayla Miranda, a housing justice advocate organizing in the
Is it from an employer? Well if it’s from Social Security I can’t Westside of San Antonio resides at the Alazan/Apache Courts.
accept it. That sounds ludacris doesn’t it? As long as a person is
capable of producing the monthly rent payment, that payment
should be accepted. SAHA has recently discovered that only 28
!Muchas Gracias! 246 Esperanza Donors!
Your Support Keeps Us Going!
First Name Last Name Cynthia Spielman Gail Taylor Julie Lyon Mary Lennon Robert Dresser & Choco LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2
Adam Ramos Cynthia Szunyog George & Lucille B. Morales Julio Noboa Mary Galindo Leandro Dresser
Adrian Castro Daisy Fran Clark Gilberto Hinojosa Junda Woo Mary Mills 11
Adriana Abarca Dallana Camargo Gina Sandoval June Jackson Hartley Mary & Arturo Morales Rogelio Saenz
Aissatou Sidime Danielle Blount Gladys Mason Kaitlin Andryauskas Mary & Jesse Tovar Roger Singler
Alan Brown Dava Henandez Gloria Ramírez Karin Gabrielson Mary & Tom Crofts Romana Radlwimmer
Alicia Arredondo David Stokes Gloria T Deviney Kathi Firns-Hubert Mary C. González Ron Soele
Alicia Salinas Sosa David Miron Grace Rosales Kathleen McDonough Mary Esther & James Rona Kobell
Alicia & Michael Lyons David D. Dobbs Gregg Moses Kathleen Kane Rosalie Reyna
Allis Ozornia Debbie Racca-Sittre Gregory Fox Kathleen Ann Hudson Escobedo Rose Reyna-Sánchez
Allison Rogers Debra Ann Enriquez Gretchen Reutzel Kathryn Vomero Mary Helen Abrams & Jo Ann Rusty (Ronald) Guyer
Amalia Ibarra Grisel Szpicek Kayla Miranda Mary Jane & Richard Sandra Ramírez
Amalia Cabezas Sifuentes Gwyn Hartung Kelly Dejong Sara Rios
Amelia Valdez Dee Dee Belmares Hall & Pat Hammond Kevin J. López Martínez Sarah Pinnock
Ameyaltonal Deems Standley Smith & Dr. Imelda DeLeon Kye Sherrod Megan Tambio Sarah García
Amy Ellerbrock Inmaculada Lara Bonilla L.S. Combs Micah Culpepper Sashi Carreon
Ana Cerda William C. Smith Ismael Dovalina Larry Mercado Michael Gross Seth Grossman
Andrea MacRae Devon Carver J. Michael Short Laura Rendón Michael Jinno Sharon Spears
Anel Flores Devon Drake & Associates Jack Elder Laura Carter Michael Lueck Sheila Bourgoin
Anne McCarthy Diana Rivera Jackie Velez Laurence Miller Michele Casella Brinkley Siani Mak
Anne C. Larme Diane Olbert Jacob Beach Leah Stolar Migdalia Penaloza Socorro Morales
Anne Marie Kirkpatrick Dolores & Reynaldo Campos Jacqueine González Lee Morales Mike LoRusso Stella Anaya
Annie Klug Donna Gray Jaime Caro del Castillo Leona Pallansch Monica Savino Stephen Kern
Antonio Cabral Donna Klink Jaime A. Mejia Leonard Gutiérrez Natalia Guerrero Sunny Bak
Arturo Madrid Donna Pereira James Lucker Leslie Cagan Nathaniel Soria Susan Vega
Aurora Sánchez Dortha McMahan James & Jann Carter Leticia Sánchez-Retamozo Neifa Dovalina Susan Jones
Autumn Heep Dudley Brooks & Tomas Janice Huff Letty García Nelda R. Cortez Susan T. Flores
Azul Barrientos Janice Sung Liliana Wilson Nikki Kuhns Susana Segura
Bojana Mamuzic Ybarra Frausto Janie Barrera Lilliana Saldaña Norma Moore Suzanne Poirier
Brent Floyd Dwight Platt Janis Kitsuwa-Lowe Linda Ortega Norma Elia Cantú Suzy Gerfers Evans
Bria Morse Dyhanara Rios Jazmin González Lisa Aguayo Olivia Roybal Sylvia Reyna
Brian Benavidez Eileen López Jazmine Nosseir Lourdes Alvarez Patricia & David Kruse Tamara Casso
Brian Carison Elida Moreno Jeffrey Hons Lourdes Pérez Patrick Saliba Taylor Watson
C. Michael Donoghue Elise McHugh Jennifer Gwin Lucy Dimando Pauline Enriquez Teofila Ramírez
Camilla Bustamante Elizabeth Aguilar Jennifer Martínez Lucy Duncan Paz García Teresa Cuevas
Cárdenas Family Elizabeth González Jennifer Sutherland Margaret Joseph Peter Maher Terrie De La Garza
Carmen Boudreau Elizabeth Wood-Hull Jennifer García Margarito Carillo Peter Valverde Tiffany Ross
Carmen Nitsche Elizabeth Tremaine Jennifer Nicole Reyes María Valdez Peter Bourne Timothy Carrasco
Carmen Tafolla Elizabeth Huber Jenny Malette Brett María Rodríguez Rajia Tobia Tony Stevens
Carol Bertsch Enrique & Isabel Sánchez Jessica Uramkin María Ojeda Ramon Rivera-Servera Trader’s Emporium
Carol Rodríguez Erin Singleton Jim Mullin María Alejandro Raquel Adams-Evans Tristan Cameron
Carolyn Atkins Erlinda Cortez Joe N. Dorothy Santos María DeLeón Ray Cage Vanessa Perretta
Cervando Martínez Esmeralda Porras John Hennings María Garza Raymond Baird Veronica Méndez
Charles Mazuca Esmeralda Alday John Henneberger Maria Elena & Al Alonso Rebecca Parrish Waldman Victor García
Choco Leandro Esteban V. Escamilla José Garza Marianne Bueno Richard Arredondo Victoria Mihalik
Claire Elizabeth Esther García Joseph M. Barraza Marilyn Wallner Richard Reams Virginia Bonnefil
Connie & Phillip Reyes Eugene Rodríguez Josie Merla Martin Marisa González Richard Aguilar Wendy Ochoa
Consuelo Martínez Fanny & Mack Thomas Jovanni Reyes Mark Lee Hickman Robert Perales William Kaiser
Cristina San Miguel Juan Tejeda Martha Wallner Robert Zweig Xavier Sánchez
Cruz Ortiz Mayahuel Julie Corpus Mary Hays-Pierce Robert Fuerst Yoly Zentella
Fatima Montez Robert Perales Yon Hui Bell
Felicia Betancur Joubert Robert Milk
Frank Anaya Robert Saenz Romo
Frieda & John Barefield
G. Vanessa Rodríguez
Next Month: Our Thanks to our Monthly Donors
Popotillo Art by Martha Patricia García Clayware by Esperanza’s MujerArtes Clay virgen by Enedina Vásquez Cruz Wool shawls from Puebla, Mexico
of Los Reyes La Paz in the state of Mexico clay arts Cooperative of Santa Maria Atzompa, Oaxaca, MX.
Zapotec rugs by Guadalupe Vásquez of
Mexican blouses of various styles Esperanza Tiendita Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, MX
from La Red Cooperative representing
LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2• Order Online Margarita Collection of vintage clay
12 states of Mexico sculptures:The Last Supper
Black Velvet huipiles from Juchitán,
Oaxaca, MX then pick up at the
Esperanza Peace & Justice Center
922 San Pedro Avenue
Or call 210-228-0201
for an appointment to visit and shop for:
• T-Shirts, Books & CDs
• Jewelry (Feather, Filigree, Chakira)
• Zapotec Rugs
• Traditional Mexican Apparel
(rebozos, huipiles, blouses, woolens)
• Clay Arts (by Enedina Vásquez, Irene
Aguilar & Esperanza’s MujerArtes)
• Vintage Collections of Latin
American apparel & folk art
12 Landes Collection of Vintage Latin American Clay figures by Irene Aguilar, Ocotlán de Guadalupe wood sculpture with Milagros
Apparel: Santiago Atitlán, Guatemalan huipil Morelos, Oaxaca, MX background by Jorge Morales, Mexico City, MX
Filigree earrings from Tehuantepec
I Was Shackled to My Bed After Giving
Birth. Then They Took My Baby Away.
by Keeley Schenwar, TRUTHOUT kind of breastfeeding or pumping by
inmates was out the question. They
I’m R87914. Even though I’m no lon- said a breast pump was a safety risk.
ger in prison, that number, just like my But after a struggle, activists finally
social security number and name, will got the Department of Corrections to
never change. I’m also a proud mom allow breast pumps in Logan Prison.
and a new one at that. There were no Until I started last year, using a breast
balloons or cards, no flowers or family pump in an Illinois prison without the
allowed in the delivery room at the baby being at the facility had never
time of my daughter Aniela’s birth. been done.
The prison where I was incarcer-
ated wouldn’t allow mothers-to-be to No one should ever have to
go into labor naturally. Too inconve- be handcuffed, shackled and
nient. Each birth was scheduled ahead
of time. Mothers were not told until pulled away from their new-
the morning of their scheduled labor born child.
day that they were being taken to the
hospital and induced. Families of the
women were not told until after the Still there was no funding for a
baby was born; a three-minute phone breast pump. Further efforts led to the
call was allowed after the birth, per donation of three breast pumps, along
discretion of the officer. Keeley Schenwar with her baby. with the other supplies needed to save LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2
During my 36 hours of labor, an officer COURTESY OF KEELEY SCHENWAR and freeze milk.
would sit on the couch, and watch me, and So, when I got back to prison, there
make occasional small talk and sometimes even pretend like they were two of us women who had just given birth the day before.
cared. Their shift, just like any other person’s, would end and
I chose to use a breast pump and send home milk. She decided
eager to go home, they would leave, a new officer would walk in. against it when we found out that if we used the breast pump, we
Pregnant women in Illinois and a few other states are not al- would be restricted to staying only in the health care unit of the
lowed to be shackled, only handcuffed. I can’t imagine having to prison until further notice. (In some ways, that was kind of living
waddle in shackles eight or nine months pregnant. But so many
of the guards in Illinois complain about not being able to use the in a prison inside of a prison.)
For the next month and a half, I stayed in the health care unit
shackles during pregnancy.
and pumped every two to three hours — that is, of course, after
After birth, women can be shackled — regardless of any
we were done mixing up pieces to the different pumps and finally
pain from stitches one may have, or the women with C-sections. got one of them set up correctly. I had a picture of my daughter
Once the baby is born, all restraints are once again an option, per that had been taken at the hospital, and I looked at it while I
discretion of the officer.
pumped. I labeled bags of breast milk with the time and date, and
So, there I was. Still in tears, both from being happy and
also in pain, with my first born in my arms, an officer still on every two weeks my family would have to drive four hours to the
prison and pick them up, which ended up not really being pos-
the couch and my feet shackled to the hospital bed, all the time
sible. Milk would be wasted if it was brought out before visitors
knowing that in less than 48 hours my daughter would be taken were allowed to leave. All visitors need to be escorted in and out
from my arms and I would be driven back to the prison, hand-
of the prison at set times, and no coolers can be brought in to help
cuffed and shackled the entire ride.
preserve the milk, so some of the milk was spoiled. On top of
I cried the whole drive back to the prison after I was pulled
this, for most women, it is not possible for their families to come
away from my daughter. I closed my eyes and just tried to keep
seeing her face. and pick up breast milk.
I was taken out of the health care unit after a month and a
Although I could not breastfeed my daughter, I was the first half. The breast pump stayed in the health care unit. I was al-
person in my prison to be able to pump milk while incarcerated.
Before that, the Illinois Department of Corrections said that any 13lowed to go there every three hours during the day, but I was not
allowed to go at night. That about. Also, prisons need reli-
meant I couldn’t pump at night. able pumps that are not old,
A month after that happened, I donated pumps with scattered
stopped being able to produce pieces, and mothers need to
milk, not long before I went have access to the pump at all
home to my baby. That felt like times.
a lot of pumping for no reason. But also, when it comes
In the end, I was not able to down to it, my question is why
breastfeed my daughter when I we need to be thinking about
came home. breast pumps in prison in the
Here’s another thing that’s first place. Why are all these
important to mention: After I moms sitting in prison when
was taken out of health care, their babies are on the outside
one day they called me back missing them?
in. Another woman was about Prison separates parents from their newborns and makes breastfeeding impossible. If new mothers are incarcer-
to start using the breast pump. This cruelty must end. JARED RODRIGUEZ / TRUTHOUT ated, they need to have access
They called me in to find out to breast pumps. But really, no
how to put the second breast pump together. It wasn’t because I breast pump can replace being with your baby. No one should
knew a lot about setting up a breast pump — it was because they ever have to be handcuffed, shackled and pulled away from their
knew so little. There was no one at the prison who could really newborn child.
support people in using the pump. NOTE: This essay was written in 2014.
So, it’s a good thing that breast pumps are now allowed at
the prison, but it’s not enough. If they even had one person in
the prison who knew what they were doing, and knew what was Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
going on, it would make a difference. It wouldn’t need to be BIO: Keeley Schenwar was a mother and an advocate for in-
someone’s full-time job. More people just need to know what’s carcerated women. She spoke out about the injustices of prisons
going on. When I told the male guards, “I need to use the breast and the cruel treatment of incarcerated mothers. Keeley died on
pump,” they laughed at me and had no idea what I was talking February 4, 2020.
LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2• Truthout is proud to launch
the Keeley Schenwar Memorial Essay Prize.
This prize will go to a formerly incarcerated person for an es- 2020. This prize is in the spirit of Keeley’s desire for the kind
say of 1,500 words or less on the topic of prisons, policing or a of world where everyone can live a good life.
related subject. It may be written as a first-person narrative (al-
though that is not a requirement). Two Keeley, was the sister of Truthout Editor-in-Chief Maya
winners will be chosen and awarded a Schenwar, and was one of the inspira-
prize of $3,000 each. The essays will tions for Truthout’s early and sustained
be published on Truthout. dedication to covering the injustices and
violence of incarceration and policing.
This prize is in honor of Keeley We are launching the Keeley Schenwar
Schenwar, who was a devoted mother, Memorial Essay Prize on the first anniver-
daughter, sister, friend, writer and sary of Keeley’s death to continue draw-
ing attention to the cruel realities of
advocate for incarcerated mothers. the oppressive systems she struggled
Keeley was incarcerated, on and against and wrote about.
off, over the course of 14 years. The deadline for submissions is
She wrote often, both poetry May 1. Prizes will be announced by July 1.
and prose, particularly focusing on her experiences of Essays can be emailed to [email protected]
incarceration and addiction. Keeley spoke out publicly
about the inhumanity of the U.S. prison system and (Feel free to submit your essay either as an attachment or
within the body of the email.)
wrote about her own experience of incarceration. She
wrote this essay about giving birth while incarcer- Alternatively, essays can be mailed to:
ated, and the brutality of being separated from Truthout
her newborn baby. PO Box 276414,
Sacramento, CA, 95827
14 Keeley died on February 4,
Notas Y Más Give an end-of-year
tax deductible gift
Give to the Esperanza in spirit of solidarity so
Community meetings and art events are currently on hold due we can continue to speak out, organize and
to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check websites, FB or fight for our communities for another 30 Years.
call 210-228-0201 for virtual meetings and arts programming Your support is needed NOW more than ever!
each month. www.esperanzacenter.org
Thank you for your gifts!
Exhibit Reopening 2021 The Friends of Send donations to Esperanza
¡Printing the the Texas Esperanza Peace
And Justice Center
Revolution! The Rise Historical
922 San Pedro Avenue
and Impact of Chicano Commission’s San Antonio, Tx 78212
Graphics, 1965 to Now Preservation Scholars Program To sign up as a monthly donor,
Call 210.228.0201 or
offers students from underrepresent-
Smithsonian American Art Museum ed ethnic and cultural backgrounds, email: fundraising @esperanzacenter.org
Washington D.C. (8th & G Sts, NW) and those from non-traditional
Virtual Conversation Series academic backgrounds, exposure to for online giving options.
the wide variety of degrees and
Join the SAAM for an online specializations applicable to historic ¡Mil Gracias!
conversation series that examines preservation in a 10-week internship
Chicanx graphics & its impact. under the supervision of THC staff
For info & tickets go to EventBrite: in Austin and/or in the field at
bit.ly/printing-the-revolution historic sites to complete a project of
March 25, 6:30 pm their choosing. A $5,000 stipend is
The Legacy of Printmaking also provided by the FTHC.
April 15, 6:30 pm Internship Applications for Summer
Spirituality and Indigeneity within 2021: Open thru March 19, 2021.
Chicanx Art For complete information or to
Displacement As it is, capitalist development has taken over as a priority by LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2
Continued from Page 9 those who as absentee owners do not even have an interest in
the public housing units except as a golden apple for develop-
Through a ers. However, using public resources to seed development,
long historical SAHA’s persistence on removing 600 families with no con-
string of dis- sideration for the intangible elements of a community, such as
placements San education, church, heritage, interrelationships, - the stuff that
Antonio con- makes a community possible - flies in the face of a housing
tinues to place policy that has as its goal to house the poorest among us.
expansion” as a The good news that SAHA has canceled their plans to raze
priority over the communities that it has to serve. The leaders the Alazan Apache Courts in the name of development, howev-
of this city, both political and private, have continued to plan er, is only the first step in the struggle against gentrification and
with a blind eye to families and communities in neighborhoods its devastating impact on communities in the westside, south-
as well in public spaces, such as public housing. The problem side and eastside. Not to rest on our laurels, the second step
in a competitive urban market economy is the language of eco- is to step outside the public housing struggle and revive what
nomic competition establishes a political narrative that negates can be seen as community anchors, i.e., cultural centers, local
museos – too many to mention. A third step is to build a united
the needs of communities. front of community associations, organizations, and advocates
and convene a conference calling for a bill of rights that would
Conclusion address gentrification, displacement, rent control, and most
important the right of families to their space in the city.
Hence, herein lies the critical issue. SAHA is insistent on
displacing an entire community in the name of economic 15Endnotes available upon request from [email protected]
development, in the name of beautifying our wonderful city.
LA VOZ de ESPERANZA • March 2021 Vol. 34 Issue 2
for Upcoming Concerts
The Femme Frontera Esperanza Peace & Justice Center Non-Profit Org.
Filmmaker Showcase is an 922 San Pedro San Antonio TX 78212 US Postage
annual film festival held in El 210.228.0201 • www.esperanzacenter.org PAID
Paso, Texas, which celebrates
short films made by women San Antonio, TX
filmmakers from around Permit #332
the world, most especially
women of color from border Haven’t opened La Voz in a while? Prefer to read it online? Wrong address?
communities. TO CANCEL A SUBSCRIPTION EMAIL [email protected] CALL: 210.228.0201
Check Esperanza’s website and
Facebook page for more information
Museo del Westside
“Women & Activism in the “Historias Familiares”
cNporemoMwfiianlregchin! Romana Ramos
with Donna Guerra, certified archivist
Caring for your documents,
1881-1969 photos, and memories
https://www.museodelwestside.org/ March 13, Saturday, 11am
*Your questions are encouraged!
For more information: www.esperanzacenter.org