María Rebecca Latigo de Hernández

(1896-1986)

Radio Announcer and Civil Rights activist

Poder del Pueblo

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Toda por la Patria y el Hogar

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María Rebecca Látigo de Hernández believed that mothers create nations. In her essay "México y Los Cuatro Poderes Que Dirigen al Pueblo," she argued that the domestic sphere is not isolated from the public world, but the foundation of society. As her granddaughter Mary Jo Galindo writes, she “fought tirelessly for the civil rights, healthcare, and education of Mexican Americans in San Antonio, Texas, for more than fifty years. A midwife, orator, radio personality and grocery store owner, Hernández was important to twentieth century San Antonio history in the areas of medicine, education, civil rights and commerce.”


María was born in 1896 in Garza García, outside of Monterrey, Nuevo León, to Eduardo Frausto and Francisca (Medrano) Latigo, She taught elementary school, and also worked as a telephone operator in Monterrey when the Mexican Revolution broke out in 1914. She fled with her family to Laredo, Texas, and began to pick cotton in Duval County, where she met her husband Pedro Hernández Barrera. They married in Hebbronville, Texas and raised ten children. Shortly after the family moved to San Antonio in 1918, she began her twenty year career as a midwife in 1923. She was among the first midwives certified by Bexar County in 1927. She would travel in her horse and buggy to deliver babies, sometimes staying with the family for several days to assist in the birth. As part of her vocation as a midwife, she founded two related organizations, the Asociación Protectora de Madres in 1933, which supported indigent mothers, and the Sociedaád Obstétrica Fenareta in 1938, which was for midwives’ professional development.


The Hernández’ also became active in politics and began collaborating with attorney Alonso S. Perales in 1924. In January 1929, they took a leadership role in creating the Orden Caballeros de América, which was one of the three organizations that spawned the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) that same year.


Hernández was particularly invested in improving education. In 1934 she and her husband collaborated with Eleutereo Escobar and La Liga de Defensa Pro­Escolar, an organization dedicated “to promote the improvement of education in San Antonio’s Spanish-speaking community”and demanding better facilities and educational resources for the Westside. At the time, children of Mexican descent went to schools with inexperienced teachers, inadequate textbooks and outdoor toilets. On October 21, she was the only female speaker at a historic meeting at Lanier High School with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Texas. Over seven thousand people showed up to the meeting. Hernández gave a passionate speech, chastising the school system for denying clean water and toilet paper to the children of the Westside, and generally treating them as animals. She received such vocal support from the crowd that the Superintendent felt he needed to be escorted to his car after the meeting. La Liga’s advocacy ultimately resulted in many improvements, including a new gymnasium for the high school.

“Our ancestors were here long before Anglo-Americans. It is they who are the newcomers.”

— María Latigo de Hernández, in keynote speech delivered to the Raza Unida Party, July 12, 1970

 

“My mother…had a school in the summer….We’d be there at 9 in the morning and she’d teach us math, she’d teach us the alphabet in Spanish, and she taught us how to read and write in Spanish….We’d have our recess period and lunch….Somehow I was able to translate the knowledge my mother instilled in me by teaching me how to read and write, and (about) math before I went to (public) school. I was able to translate (the knowledge) into English and that helped me a lot.”

— Daughter Elizabeth Hernández Rocha, October 24, 1997, Somerset, Texas.

“In 1933, our family moved from Sunny Slope back to San Antonio because Mama began to investigate schools….I attended five different elementary schools and five junior high schools….When we lived on Bowie Street in an old adobe house with a dirt floor…(I attended) a segregated school that was way too small. Anglos attended from 7:30 am to noon, while the Mexican children went from 1 pm to 5 pm. It was dark by then during the winter and we had to cross Commerce Street (to get home).”

— Daughter Marie Hernández Rangel, July 2, 2002, San Antonio, Texas.