Heroes, Border Crossings, and School Segregation

Distance Traveled from San Antonio: 977,397 steps

Location: Junction, Sonora, and Del Rio, TX
Churches: Trinity Episcopal, St. John’s, and St. James’

Opening Prayer
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.
Prayer of Thomas Merton 

 

Welcome to Junction, Sonora, and Del Rio, TX!

Junction
About 115 miles northwest of San Antonio, with a population of 2500, Junction is a destination spot for river seekers and deer hunters. The South, North, and Main Llano rivers converge just outside of Junction, making it the perfect spot for kayakers, canoers, and tubers. Junction is also the central market center for Kimble County’s livestock, wool, mohair, and pecan production. 

Junction is home to Trinity Episcopal Church. They have a service of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday at 11 am. They are currently served by The Rev. Sam Hunnicutt. In 2011 a lifelong member of the congregation was awarded the boy scout rank of eagle scout for helping restore the steeple and bell tower. 
 

A common story we see on the news today or hear about in our local papers is the discovery of new information on a historic individual that reveals either actions or thoughts they held that cause us to reconsider their legacy.  History, much like humans ourselves, is complicated and a simple view of black and white doesn’t always work to understand an entire historical narrative.  For the city of Junction one individual who called the city home who looms largely in Texas history, but leaves a complicated legacy is that of former Governor Coke R. Stevenson.

Coke Stevenson was not only one of Texas’s longest-serving governors, but also holds the distinction of being the only individual to hold the three offices of Speaker of the Texas House, Lieutenant Governor, and Governor.  He also oversaw a major expansion of the Texas economy during the Second World War and narrowly lost the senate election that saw future President Lyndon B. Johnson elected to office.  While Stevenson had many accomplishments, it is now noted by many historians and biographers today that Coke pushed back strongly against the early civil rights movement and was known to hold incredibly racist ideas.  When informed of the lynching of an African American man in Texarkana in 1942, Stevenson responded “You know, these negroes sometimes do things that provoke whites to such violence”.

Human nature is incredibly complicated, and throughout our lives, we constantly reevaluate how we view certain actions and whether they are morally correct.  The challenge for us students of history is to learn how to balance and accurately portray the historical record and what this means in telling the stories going forward.  We can speak both to the good that Stevenson did as governor, but also his failings and acknowledging the racist thoughts of many politicians throughout much of the 20th century.

Sonora
Sonora has a population of just under 3,000 and offers the best of both the Hill Country and West Texas. Eight miles outside of town are the Caverns of Sonora, a beautiful active cave where 95% of the formations inside are still growing. Sonora also offers fun entertainment in their historic downtown, courthouse, and Old Ice House Ranching Museum. They also have a nature preserve where native birds and plants can be viewed. 

Sonora is home to St. John’s Episcopal Church, a very active parish currently served by The Rev. Casey Berkhouse. 
 

If we were to look at a map of the North American content, I am sure many would be able to pinpoint where the US-Mexico border is located, even if it is not drawn in on the map.  Whether the border follows a natural feature such as a river or mountain or is an imaginary line through the countryside, there are real impacts from these demarcations of landscape that have not always existed.  One group that has been heavily impacted by the international border between the US and Mexico is the Lipan Apache of both Sonora and Nogales.  

The Lipan represents one of twelve tribes that make up the larger Apache nation, and while the group is recognized as a sovereign nation by the state of Texas they are not recognized at the federal level on either side of the border.  Historically the Lipan would move fluidly between the two countries and would face bloody wars with both the Mexican and US militaries that decimated their numbers.  With the strengthening of the border throughout the 20th century and limiting the ability for the tribe to move, many Lipan on the Mexican side would lose touch with their history and culture, till by the early 90’s only 70 registered tribal members remained in Nogales.  

This would begin to slowly change in the early 2000s as contact was reestablished, allowing families once divided by the border to begin to share the culture and rituals that had been lost.  The Lipan of Nogales began working closely with their relatives in Sonora, and through the work of the two have established a non-profit “One Step Towards Federal Recognition”.  This non-profit seeks to gain federal recognition for the tribe on both sides of the border and allow for the Lipan to join other federally recognized tribes which are allowed free access across the border.  As the Lipan continue to struggle in the journey for greater recognition, the stories and rituals of the past that were once lost on one side of the border are now being shared once again and a tribe divided is once again becoming one.

Lipan Apache at the state capital in 2013

The Lipan Apache Events and Activities page can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/lipanapachetribe 

Del Rio

Del Rio is 150 miles west of San Antonio with a population of 35,000. The original name for the town was San Felipe Del Rio, after the lore that the Spanish first held mass in the area on St. Phillip’s Day in 1635. It would not become an established town until after the Civil War. The name of the town was shortened to Del Rio by the US Post Office in 1883.
Del Rio offers a wide variety of attractions, including the Laughlin Air Force Base Museum, the Amistad National Recreation Area, and the San Felipe Springs, which produces 90,000,000 gallons of water a day.
The Episcopal Church’s presence in Del Rio began in 1871 when The Rev. Engleton Barr. The St. James’ Mission was established in 1883. A church building was completed in 1884, with 13 members accounted for. They became a self-sustaining parish in 1919, and the current building was completed in 1949. They worship together at 9 am on Sunday mornings and are served by The Rev. Arnoldo Romero. 

The scars of when segregation of the races was the law of the land in much of the Southern United States can still be felt in many communities to this day.  Even as separation of the races reigned as the order of the day, there were members of these marginalized communities who attempted to fight these injustices.  One of the first and most prominent fights in the state of Texas occurred in Del Rio on March 21st, 1930, when Jesus Salvatierra and several other parents in Del Rio hired lawyer John L. Dodson to file a suit against Del Rio ISD, charging that students of Mexican descent were being deprived the benefits afforded to students at “white only” schools.

From the beginning of the 20th century until the 1960s, many Texas schools worked under the tripartite model of segregation, with schools for whites, blacks, and Latinos being established, that while billed as separate but equal, were anything but equal.

At the initial trial, Dodson and fellow lawyer M. C. Gonzales (also a member of the “League of United Latin American Citizens” (LULAC)) argued that Mexican students were being deprived of the same quality of education and resources as other “white” students.  In this initial trial, the judge ruled in Salvatierra’s favor and granted an injunction.  However, when the case was brought before an appeals court in San Antonio, the injunction was voided and a rehearing of the trial denied.  Undeterred, Salvatierra and the LULAC lawyers brought the case to the Texas Supreme Court, who refused to hear the case and with it brought an end to this particular case.  While Del Rio v. Salvatierra may be viewed as a loss, the case proved to be a factor in the galvanizing of various segments of the Latino population of Texas and helped give birth to Latino activism in the state.  
 
Eventually in the 1948 case Delgado v. Bastrop ISD, the US Western District Court of Texas would rule that the separation of children of Mexican descent was a violation of the fourteenth Amendment and ruled that Mexican students no longer be segregated into their own schools.  Despite this victory, this court case would not be enforced in much of the state, resulting in the continued segregation of Latino students well into the 1960s.  Even as late as 1971 in the case of Cisneros v. Corpus Christi ISD elements of Salvatierra’s case be used to make the argument to forcibly end the segregation of Texas public schools.
 

Closing Prayer
Holy God,
In the effort to dismantle racism, I understand that I struggle not merely against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities – those institutions and systems that keep racism alive by perpetuating the lie that some members of our family are inferior and others superior. Create in me a new mind and heart that will enable me to see brothers and sisters in the faces of those divided by racial categories. Give me the grace and strength to rid myself of racial stereotypes that oppress some in my family while providing entitlements to others. Help me to create a nation that embraces the hopes and fears of oppressed people of color where we live, as well as those around the world. Help me to heal your family making me one with you and empowered by your Holy Spirit.

Adapted by Debra Mooney, Ph.D. from Pax Christi
 

Next Stop Coming Thursday, July 1st

Next Location: Bracketville, Montell, and Uvalde, TX
Distance to Travel: 198,000 from Del Rio
Churches: St. Andrew’s, Church of the Ascension, and St. Phillip’s