‘Racism from cradle to grave’: Texas cemetery sued for ‘whites only’ policy


Source: The Guardian

By  in Houston

At San Domingo cemetery in rural south Texas, there are headstones marking the graves of people with names such as Davis, Baker, Harris and Moore.

But in a county where half the population is Hispanic, non-Anglo names are strangely absent from the plots. When Dorothy Barrera tried to arrange her husband’s burial earlier this year, the apparent reason became clear.

A Hispanic rights group has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that cemetery officials in the small town of Normanna have for decades operated a “whites only” policy in violation of state and federal law.

The alleged rule came to light after Pedro Barrera died aged 70 in February. His wife, Dorothy, a fellow US citizen, who is white, anticipated that one day they would both be interred in San Domingo, on the outskirts of Normanna.

The settlement is an hour’s drive north of Corpus Christi and had a population of 113 at the 2010 census, nearly half Latino. Yet the only headstone at San Domingo with a Spanish surname dates to 1910 and is pointedly placed just outside the cemetery’s chainlink fence. Most of those buried at another local cemetery have traditionally Hispanic names.

The civil rights suit brought by the American GI Forum of Texas against the Normanna Cemetery Association alleges that when Barrera approached the San Domingo cemetery’s caretaker, Jimmy Bradford, he told her the association had voted against allowing his remains to be placed there “because he’s a Mexican” and that she could “go up the road and bury him with the niggers and Mexicans”.

Bradford could not be reached for comment. In March he told Kiii local news that “he wasn’t supposed to be buried there, because he’s a Mexican, or of Spanish descent, or whatever you want to say. That’s what I told her and that’s what we’ve been doing” and that the only way the decision would be changed was “I guess if she tells Obama and he comes down here and tells me I guess I’d have to. Otherwise, no.”

After more local media coverage, Bradford reversed course and told Barrera in March that her husband could be buried in San Domingo. She has yet to decide where to place his ashes and is understood to be considering legal action of her own.

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