Norma Rodriguez

As Interviewed by Mario Bellavia, April 30, 2019

Norma Rodriguez: In Her Own Words

Growing up, can you recall a difference of treatment based on being Mexican American?

I actually do not remember the incident, which means that you hear it so it becomes a part of your memory, but I recall that my mother was looking through an old box and she found a piece of newspaper. The article had to do with discrimination and it turned out that I was involved in it, I was about maybe four or five years-old and my cousin and I had gone to the swimming pool, and our uncle had taken us -- her dad had taken us. And she had a summer membership to go. She was a little bit more light, more fair-skinned than I was because she also had, in addition to her Mexican ancestry, she also had German ancestry.

So we looked different *laughs*, I had the darker hair -- and we were told that we could not go into the pool because we could not swim on that day. So when we were told that we went and told our uncle and he came and spoke to the person that had denied us going in to the pool and he said, “What is the problem?” And he said, “Well they can’t swim today. But you can bring them back next Thursday.” And my uncle said, “But, why?” and he said, “Because that’s when they can come and swim. They can’t swim on any other day.” And so what it amounted to was that Mexican-Americans could not swim in the pool except on Thursdays because Thursdays was the day that the pool was cleaned, because back then, they had to drain the pool and refill it.

Of course on Thursdays that would be the day that the water was the dirtiest, and that was the day that Mexicans could swim, and that was the only day. And my uncle said, “My daughter has a summer membership to swim and that means that she can swim everyday.” And the man just kept saying, “I’m sorry, Mr. Guerra, but you’re going to have to bring them back on Thursday.”

So of course my uncle was very, very angry and we left and he went directly to one of the -- either city commissioners or it might’ve been a school board member, and that man, Mr. Garcia, took it to the newspaper. There was an article in the paper -- and that was the article that my mother was reading and telling me about it. After that, once it came out in the newspaper, the rules were changed and we could swim any day of the week that we wanted.

That is all for today. Thank you for listening.