Juanita Flores Smith

As Interviewed by Mateo Rives, March 17, 2019

Juanita Flores Smith: In Her Own Words

It was normal at that time that their name was highly likely going to be changed if they had a Hispanic name. Many of the people in my time who did not have an American name then their name was Americanized.

At that time all the Hispanics had to sit in the back of the classroom. Because the schools were segregated -- we had an all black school and for migrants. They were not allowed to attend the regular schools, they had to attend the segregated schools for most of my childhood.

There was violence, especially when I was in Elementary school. Some students did not want to eat the food that was given to them because the didn’t like it or they were not used to eating that type of food, so they were forced -- some of the teachers that were monitoring the cafeteria would force the kids to eat. Sometime they were physical, they would restrain them. What I saw sometimes was that if the kids did not like the food, they would put the food in the milk cartons and the teachers would force the kids to eat the food in the milk carton, even if the student wanted to vomit. Sometimes the kids were even given corporal punishment.

Even though it was after desegregation, we were not allowed to speak our own language, so we were punished for speaking our own language. That was one form of Americanizing the people that wanted to maintain their own language and their cultural views. In my opinion that was wrong, and nowadays they are still doing that. There are still people who are told not to speak their language. I have family in Minnesota, and when I travel there and speak to my family in Spanish, the people who are non-Hispanics either looked at you ugly or they insult you, like saying, “Go back to Mexico.” Then I have to educate them that Texas isn’t Mexico. How does that make a person feel? Discriminated because your language is not being welcomed.

I believe that from what I see and from issues that are happening in our country, that discrimination is there and it’s even more now, and I think it’s because of the views of our current political party. That has given the opportunity for those people who have held their views under the radar. Now they are openly discriminating against people. Especially people of color or people who speak another language.