MALDEF SUES TO END "WHITES ONLY" CEMETERY IN TEXAS
Seeks Court Order to Halt Exclusion of Mexican Americans
April 29, 2016
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX - Today, MALDEF filed a lawsuit in a Texas federal court against the Normanna Cemetery Association and its caretaker for maintaining a policy of burying only Anglos in the San Domingo Cemetery, in violation of state and federal prohibitions on race and national origin discrimination. MALDEF filed the lawsuit on behalf of the American G.I. Forum of Texas, a non-profit membership organization that serves and advocates on behalf of Latino military veterans throughout the State of Texas.
"Post-mortem racial segregation in the 21st century is astounding," said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "This case demonstrates how regrettably deep the roots of anti-Latino prejudice are in this country and in Texas."
Located in the community of Normanna in Bee County, the San Domingo Cemetery has for decades maintained a policy of prohibiting Latinos and African Americans from being buried in the cemetery. Earlier this year, the cemetery refused to bury Pedro Barrera, a Mexican American resident of Normanna. His wife Dorothy sought to have him buried at the cemetery but, in response to her request for burial services, the San Domingo Cemetery caretaker told her "absolutely not." He explained that the association had already voted against the request and directed Mrs. Barrera to bury her husband at a different cemetery.
"Segregated cemeteries were part of an architecture of discrimination against Latinos in Texas," said Marisa Bono, MALDEF Southwest Regional Counsel and lead counsel for the plaintiff. "We look forward to closing this shameful chapter in our state's history."
One of the earliest advocacy efforts of the American G.I. Forum of Texas centered on the exclusion of a Latino World War II veteran from funeral services because of his race. The incident, now known as the "Felix Longoria Affair," happened in Three Rivers, Texas, only thirty miles from Normanna.
"This is morally wrong," said John Martinez, Commander of the American G.I. Forum of Texas, Inc. "It happened in the 1940s and 1950s and, in today's time and age, I can't believe this is still happening to Hispanics and Hispanic veterans."
MALDEF seeks a court order that puts an immediate end to the discriminatory practices at the San Domingo Cemetery and allows people of all races to be buried there.
A copy of the complaint in this case is available here.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.