María Rebecca Latigo de Hernández
Radio Announcer and Civil Rights activist
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 Sociedad 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 Eleuterio 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.