Juanita Flores - Smith

As Interviewed by Zarqa Fatima, March 2, 2018

Juanita Flores-Smith: In Her Own Words

Juanita Flores-Smith, a victim of segregation, racism, and sexism in the late 1900s.

Discrimination is part of the fabric of many Americans at the time, and even now it is still part of the fabric of some Americans -- not all Americans, but some Americans. We had to eat last in the cafeteria. So whenever we lined up, the whites had to be lined up first and they got to go sit first. In the classroom, we had to sit in the back. We had to suit-out in P.E. So we had to suit-out after the whites, and we also had to take showers after the whites, if there was time. If there was no time, then we just didn't take a shower. We were required to shower.

If we spoke Spanish on campus, on the property of the school, whether it was on the sidewalk, we were punished. If we were caught, we had corporal punishment, and so you were gonna be spanked with paddle. You were not allowed to speak Spanish because we all had to be assimilated into English, because speaking English was the prefer -- and we were supposed to get rid of our language.

There was bias. So like if girls got caught speaking Spanish they had corporal punishment with the paddle, about an inch or two-inch thick paddle. And they got three hits the first time and after that they got more. They doubled. But the boys, if the boys got caught, they would be sent to the coach and the coach would punch them with a fist on their stomach or on their chest or their arms. So I was opposed to that. Why are you doing that to the boys just because they're men, or supposed to be men? And the girls get... I mean, not that I wanted to get punched in the stomach, but why are we going to punish more severe the boys compared to the girls.

My brother did stand up in 1981. He was an eighth grader. Even though desegregation had already happened. And even though now the Mexican students around people could sit wherever in the classroom, they didn't have to sit in the back. Those teachers, they were still making the white students sit in the front and the brown kids in back. So my brother refused. And the principal came and kicked him and kicked him. And so my brother fought back. And he got expelled for that.

I'm very proud of my roots, of my ancestors. Proud that they actually were here before the Americans. Then it became the U.S. I'm proud that my grandparents actually left the U.S. territory and went to live in Mexico even though they were, they were American citizens. But they decided to go to Mexico and not be enslaved or be treated the way that people were treated at that time. So they decided to go to Mexico and be treated better than being discriminated...