Gloria A. Garcia

As interviewed by Valentina G., March 16, 2015

Gloria A. Garcia: In Her Own Words

Was born in a little town called Pearsall, Texas. Came from a family of seven and attended all the public schools in Pearsall. Pearsall town of about 4000 population.

It was going to school where you were reminded to speak English. My mother didnít speak any English and my dad spoke very little. I didnít know any English when I entered school. I remember asking kids sitting next to me, ďWhat is the teacher saying? What is she saying, I donít understandĒ -- and the teacher would snap and say, ďRemember, youíre supposed to be speaking English!Ē But I would talk under my breath and say, ďWell, I donít know any English.Ē Since I was very well behaved and a loner, I never really got into any trouble. I do remember other kids get spanked with a ruler or with soap (in their mouths) because they didnít want to mind the teacher. They were the ones who really got it from the teacher -- just because they were speaking Spanish.

In that school all the teachers spoke English and all of us spoke Spanish. At the time, they didnít want you to speak Spanish and you just couldnít help it because you didnít know any other language. So I did see it as a form of segregation.

When I was growing up in the 60s, you got to see on TV how African-American people were treated. They were hosed down with the water, they couldnít go to certain restaurants, or if they did they got served in the back. You didnít see it in the literature. We didnít have the books back then because we were going through it. You didnít see it in books, but you did see it on TV.

Back then it was just the norm and you accepted it. You still see it on TV, and you still see that the struggle is continues about people being treated unfairly. It will continue because of certain people or groups that refuse to be together. In some states you still see it a lot more.

We grew up being segregated in different schools. I started school in 1956 and there was an elementary school. In a little town you have the divider of the railroad tracks. All the Mexican-Americans lived on one side of the tracks and all the white people lived on the other. So you saw it right there. When we would go out somewhere, we tended to stay on our side.

You saw it in the schools and the people being divided with the railroad tracks. All people spoke Spanish on the west side and then on the east side they had an elementary school were all the white kids who attended spoke English. When you grow up, you donít think about it. Being reminded to not speak Spanish was one thing that I noticed. I didnít see it as being scared. ďHow come I canít speak Spanish?Ē And it wasnít that I was afraid. But the parents would just say, ďThatís the way things are.Ē You didnít question it, it was normal. But as you grew older, you come to realize that that should have been fixed.

I didnít see the schools for White people. Our school was old, and I think we had what we needed. I didnít see another elementary school while I was in elementary school. So it was kind of hard for me to see what type of schools they had because we never went to the other side of the tracks. It wasnít until middle school that I got to see the schools -- and I think they looked better than ours. In elementary, middle school and high school, all of the teachers were White. I donít remember any Black teacher working as a full-time teacher. There werenít many Blacks in my town. There was only that neighborhood lady that lived about a block away. She was a friend of my momís, and her name was Maria Brooks -- a very nice lady.

White kids wouldnít approach you. I kept to myself. They had their little cliques and hung around with their own friends. The Mexican-Americans were over here by themselves. I think it was up until high school that you felt a little bit more comfortable if you wanted to approach somebody. There were some friends of mine that had friends that were from other ethnic races. Close friends, in my case. I would talk to them if they talked to me, but I didnít go out of my way. Or if they asked me something, I was friendly. But I tended to be that type of person who just hung around my own friends and I never wanted to get into any trouble. The teachers would call your house, and if you got in trouble at school, then you would get in even more trouble. So you had to be very careful. In my case, I was very careful because I didnít want to get into any trouble at home.

My dad owned a business on the White side of town. He bought it and it took him the longest time (to purchase it) because they were hesitant on selling it to him because he was Mexican. He was able to buy it because the owner just wanted to sell, and he didnít care who he sold it to. There was a lot of outside influences. And there were other people in the community that would come to the owner and say, ďWhy are you selling it to him, you know we donít want anyone on our side of town.Ē Those were some of the hassles he had to go through. It went on for a really long time. It was a lot for the townspeople. And in a little small town like that, that owner was willing to sell it. But he had to listen to everybody else gang up on him. Eventually, he sold it to my father. He was caught in between. He was being influenced by the other people that were being racist. He didnít have any other choice. My father was one of the first ones on the other side of the tracks that was able to buy a business.

All of Texas was segregated. East Texas, I think, is still known for being really racist. There are still the existence of groups that get together nationwide, like the Ku Klux Klan or the Skinheads. In Texas, there is still fighting so that the White race could become the well-known race [superior race] and for it to continue to be like that instead of wanting for everybody to be together.

I felt safe. I never was afraid of being hurt in a little town. It was very peaceful, very quiet in a small little town. So I didnít feel any danger. I think there was a time when there was an unrest and a lot of people got hurt and put in jail and families were separated, but they kept telling everyone that it was the law.