CCM PRESENTS: NOT THAT LONG AGO IN NEW BRAUNFELS
In the halls of New Braunfels High School, in the parking lots of the same, the cafeteria or actually anywhere on school grounds when I was attending in the late 70’s, Spanish was prohibited. I think the first time I was dragged into the Principal’s office for the violation of “Speaking Spanish”, it was because I had called my food by its name, out loud and to a friend who from across the table was asking me what I had brought for lunch. The cafeteria was a rather loud place, so when I responded to him that my mother had packed “tacos” for me, it was with enough force to ensure that he could hear me. He did, but so did a teacher. “Was that Spanish boy?” “Yes Sir.” “Follow me, we need to go the Principal’s office.”
This time, as every subsequent time, the speech was the same, “Your grades are good Villa, there’s no need for a suspension if you just tell me you won’t do it again.” “I agree with the rule in the classroom Sir, but when I can’t call my food what it is, then not only is it ridiculous, but you’re also forcing me to eat only food with English names.” So there I went, usually three days, but towards the end it was more. It wasn’t that surprising to me that this was happening, my parents had already told me that before my time they had had to sit upstairs with anyone of color at the Brauntex movie theatre, I had read the story of Henry B. Gonzalez not being allowed into Landa Park for his brownness, had heard of signs at restaurants in New Braunfels that read “No dogs or Mexicans” and remember me and my friends being basically stalked by N.B.P.D on the west side as we met to go swimming. I’m not sure, but aren’t Piñatas on the hit-list now too?
Growing up Chicano (Mexican-American) in New Braunfels just generally left you with a feeling that you and your kind were not welcome here and that everyone, from school to law enforcement officials, had their eyes on you ready to document every misstep you might make and one day take the totality of that record and ruin you for good. For many of my friends it was too much to take, they did exactly what was expected, they retaliated against school, law enforcement and society in general and more likely than not ended up in prison or dead, and when free, earned next to nothing. I saw the writing on the wall, got my G.E.D at a nearby community college at the age of 16 years old, enlisted in the military some time later and got the hell out. No one believes I have a juris-doctorate degree without having a high school diploma, this is why. My daughter, who many years later attended the same high school and who had to pass Spanish to graduate, threatened violence on me if I made a scene about the issue at her graduation. I didn’t.