Discrimination Continues after Death at Texas “Whites-Only” Cemetery
By Cameron Langford, Courthouse News Service
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) — The caretaker of a South Texas cemetery invoked a "whites-only" rule and turned away a woman who wanted to bury her Hispanic husband there, the American GI Forum claims in court.
Normanna, Texas is an hour north of Corpus Christi. Of its 113 residents, 55 are Hispanic and 53 are white, according to recent U.S. Census data.
Residents' ethnicity determines which of the town's two cemeteries they'll be interred in, the American GI Forum of Texas says in the April 29 federal lawsuit.
The GI Forum, an advocacy group for Latino military veterans, sued the Normanna Cemetery Association and caretaker Jimmy Bradford.
"It is widely known to Normanna residents that the San Domingo Cemetery is 'whites-only,' and that the Del Bosque Cemetery is for Latinos and other non-Anglos. No Latinos are buried within the gates of the San Domingo Cemetery," the complaint states.
To drive home the discrimination-after-death, the GI Forum says, a chain-link fence was erected around the cemetery to separate the only headstone with a Spanish surname — from 1910 — from the graves of Anglos.
Dorothy Barrera asked Bradford in February for permission to bury the ashes of her husband of 40 years, Pedro Barrera, in the cemetery.
"Mrs. Barrera, who is Anglo and a U.S. citizen, intended that she and her husband be buried together in the San Domingo Cemetery," the complaint states.
"In response to her request for burial services for her husband, Mr. Bradford told Mrs. Barrera 'absolutely not.'"
Bradford told Barrera the Normanna Cemetery Association had already caught wind of her plans and its board voted against it.
"When Mrs. Barrera asked why 'the board' wanted to exclude her husband's remains from the San Domingo Cemetery, Mr. Bradford responded 'because he's a Mexican,' and that she could 'go up the road and bury him with the niggers and Mexicans,'" the lawsuit states.
Media picked up the story and Bradford relented in the face of the unflattering coverage. He did so begrudgingly, however, with a heap of intimidation, the GI Forum says.
"Bradford appeared at Mrs. Barrera's home with two armed Anglo police officers," the complaint states.
"Mr. Bradford stated that Mrs. Barrera could bury her husband in the San Domingo Cemetery, but insisted that Mrs. Barrera leave with him immediately. Mrs. Barrera became frightened and refused to go with Mr. Bradford and the police officers."
The GI Forum seeks declaratory judgment, an injunction and punitive damages for civil rights violations and violations of the Texas Health and Safety Code (pdf).
The GI Forum adds: "(T)he rule remains in effect today and Mrs. Barrera has not buried her husband in the San Domingo Cemetery."
It is represented by Marisa Bono with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.
San Patricio Cemetery staff did not return a phone message seeking comment.
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