What It Was Like Growing Up In A Segregated Texas Town

“You didn’t look at yourself in the mirror as a proud person – you saw yourself as inferior.”

By Ramona MartinezOctober 16, 2015 8:30 am, ,

This story originally appeared on New Visions, New Voices

In the 1950s, Taft, Texas, was a segregated cotton town with a sizable Mexican-American population, all of whom lived on the south side of the railroad tracks. It was in a part of the state that had a history of Anglo-on-Mexican violence, including police brutality and lynchings. Ramona Martinez spoke to Grace Flores-Hughes, who was born and raised in Taft, a place where success and upward mobility were not often seen.

“I was called ‘wetback’ or ‘dirty Mexican’ – there was not only a difference, but hatred,” Flores-Hughes says.

Children of Mexican immigrants were discouraged by their teachers, mostly they were enrolled in a non-college program set up as an alternative curriculum by the school. There were huge dropout rates: boys became laborers and girls got pregnant and married at a young age.

Members of Grace’s family accused her of trying to be like una Americana when she talked about going to college.

“It was kind of like, if I don’t make it, neither will you,'” Flores-Hughes says.

She says she believes the racism and differential treatment contributed to a feeling of worthlessness.

“You didn’t look at yourself in the mirror as a proud person,” she says, “You saw yourself as inferior.”

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