Day of the Dead draws near (November 1st for the deceased children and November 2nd for deceased adults), an opportunity for us to nourish and be nourished by our spirit allies, our family members who have crossed over. Just the opposite of Halloween, Day of the Dead is a day to remember our connections to the other side. These spirits are not ghouls come to frighten us, but ancestors who guide and protect us.

Emma Tenayuca was a Mexican American activist and educator. Born December 21, 1916 in San Antonio, Texas, Tenayuca was a key figure in Texan labor and civil rights activism during the 1930’s, where she organized protests over the beatings of Mexican migrants by United States Border Patrol agents and labor strikes to end unfair wages. As a union activist, she also founded two international ladies’ garment workers unions and was involved in both the Worker’s Alliance of America and Woman’s League for Peace and Freedom. 

Throughout her fight for labor and civil rights, Tenayuca was arrested many times under charges of “disturbing the peace”, even though her participation during protests was strictly peaceful. She was also targeted for being a member of the Communist Party, which resulted in her being “blacklisted” and forced to move out of the San Antonio area 1939. After leaving her hometown she went on to attend San Francisco State College where she majored in Education. Years later Tenayuca returned to San Antonio and earned a master’s in Education from Our Lady of the Lake University, leading her to eventually go on to teach in the Harlandale School District until her retirement in 1982.

Shortly after her retirement Emma Tenayuca was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and passed away on July 23, 1999.

Because I, a mestiza;

continually walk out of one culture

and into another.

because I am in all cultures at the same time,

alma entre dos mundos, tres, cuatro,

me zumba La cabeza con lo contradictorio.

Estoy norteada por todas las voces que me hablan

simultáneamente.

—  Gloria Anzaldúa