The other night I watched a well done documentary created around the story of what became known in the media as the "Longoria Affair", which took place in 1948 in the city of Three Rivers, Texas. The director of the only funeral home in town of about 2000 people refused to allow chapel services for the body of a Mexican-American Soldier killed in action during WWII. Three Rivers, TX was a planned township started in 1913. This planned township with Anglo street names in one area and a smaller area across the railroad tracks streets with Latino names was the first segregated planed community. So, what happened with Felix Longoria, the WWII Vet. because of all the media attention he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. But the racism continued.
After WWII, the Mexican-Americans who serviced in the military often found that they could not use their VA benefits to go to school, to get a housing loan or to use the VA medical facilities.
The film went on to look at the Hispanic Civil Rights Movement under the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. I found even though I was a teen during the time, there was so much I was unaware of, how little we sometimes know of the history being made around us. I was in high school in the 60's and remember many marches for civil rights and anti war we joined in Berkeley, Calif. the center of demonstrations at the time. I went to an all white high school in the suburbs of San Francisco and really had no understanding of the Civil Rights Movement. My friends and I shouted and chanted holding signs of protest, but in our safe white world we had never felt the inequality of it...it was just theoretical to us. Still I am proud that we did something and that I continue with my church to be involved in social justice work. Though I wish there was not the need for this "civilized society" to be reminded about fairness to all of its citizens.
Soon, I am going to see how it is to be the one who is the immigrant. But my experience will be very different I'm sure, starting with the fact that I am traveling as the privileged retiree to a tourist area, with money to spend not as the immigrant from a war torn or poverty situation hoping for a better life. Though, I do think my goal is the same for a better life, a fuller enriched life for the experience. I will face some of the same challenges of the immigrant, like not knowing the laws, language, local customs and culture. I wish I could say I was a fast learner, but don't think I am. I've been trying to learn Spanish for years, wanting to more easily communicate with my students and parents in the all Latino high school I worked at in California. Now I am going to understand really how it feels when you have the frustration of not being understood. Lucky my friend who we are sharing the house with does speak Spanish and much of the population speaks English, being a tourist area we will be living in. Still for this journey I am stepping out of my comfort zone a little to enjoy a mild winter at the beach.