A small cemetery in South Texas is apparently enforcing a “whites only” policy and barring Hispanics and Blacks from being buried.
Donna Barrera, a resident of the community of Normanna, Texas, located near Beeville recently learned of the shocking cemetery rules after her husband of 44 years passed away. She sought to have him buried in the San Domingo Cemetery which is supposed to be free for local residents, KIII TV3 in Corpus Christi reported.
UPDATE: Shortly after this article published, the San Domingo Cemetery Association reversed its decision and confirmed that it would allow Mr. Barrera to be buried in the cemetery, a Corpus Christi Caller-Times article reported. The daughter, who wished to remain unnamed, of Mr. Bradford spoke on behalf of the association and said this was not about race, but was a misunderstanding. The article reports:
She said the cemetery was originally a family cemetery meant for the descendants of the original founders, who were mostly white, but there is no policy that barred Mexicans. She said the board’s decision against the burial was because he was not a descendant and didn’t fit the criteria since he’d only been a resident about 15 years, she said.
“Fifteen years is new in little town years,” she said. “But regardless, he is a resident no matter the time frame.”
Barrera spoke with Mr. Jimmy Bradford, head of the San Domingo Cemetery Association and was stunned to learn she could not bury her late husband’s ashes in the cemetery because he is Hispanic. “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,” Mr. Bradford told KIII reporter Michael Gibson.
“I love my husband with all my heart,” Mrs. Barrera said told Gibson. “That was 44 years with him and then all of a sudden this comes out of the woodwork.”
Bradford told Gibson the cemetery land was donated by his great-great-grandfather who asked that the land be used for the people of Normanna. He was asked if he would reconsider his apparently racist decision. “Well, I guess if she tells Obama and he comes down here and tells me, I guess I’d have to. Otherwise, No,” Bradford replied.
Breitbart Texas spoke with the district attorney that serves Bee County, Jose Aliseda. He was shocked to learn about this situation. “I find it disturbing that this kind of thing is still going on decades after the American GI Forum was established over very similar circumstances.” He said he found it ironic that a whites only policy was being enforced in a cemetery named “San Domingo.”
While he said it doesn’t appear to be a criminal matter, “I find it very disappointing that something like this is still going on in South Texas.”
The American G.I. Forum (AGIF) was founded in 1948 by a group of Hispanic WWII veterans, according to the organization’s website. It was established to protect Hispanic veterans who suffered from racial discrimination.
Private Felix Longoria was killed during the war in the Philippines during a volunteer operation which occurred in the closing days of the war. His body was returned home to his community in Three Rivers, Texas. Three Rivers is located in Live Oak County, just west of Bee County. The cemetery where he was to be interred had a fence separating a section for “Mexicans Only.” The funeral home would not allow the Longoria’s family to use the chapel because “the whites would not like it,” the AGIF website states. The organization responded and President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered that he be buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Texas State Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) represents the residents of Bee County. “This situation must be resolved immediately, and my staff has contacted local officials, Mrs. Barrera, and the NAACP to help do so,” Senator Zaffirini told Breitbart Texas via email. “Unless the cemetery caretaker, Mr. Bradford, changes course, I’m afraid a lawsuit will be necessary to compel him to recognize Mrs. Barrera’s constitutional rights and end this incredible injustice.”
“Mrs. Barrera and her family should be mourning their loved one, instead of having to fight to secure him a resting place in his own community. Denying someone a burial on the basis of race is not only shocking—it’s illegal. What’s more, this kind of discrimination harks back to dark periods of our state’s history, to which we should not return.”
“Some cemeteries are regulated and some are not,” said Janice McCoy, executive director of the Texas Funeral Service Commission (TFSC), to Breitbart Texas in a phone interview. “This is a community cemetery and these types of cemeteries are exempt from our rules.” The TFSC is the official state agency with overview of cemeteries and funeral homes.
“It’s against the law,” Texas Cemetery Association spokesman Jim Kennerly told Breitbart Texas in a phone interview. He referred this writer to the Texas Health and Safety Code section 711.
Paragraph 32(a) of that statue states: “A cemetery organization may not adopt or enforce a rule that prohibits interment because of the race, color, or national origin of a decedent.” It continues in paragraph (b) which states: A provision of a contract entered into by a cemetery organization or of a certificate of ownership or other instrument of conveyance issued by a cemetery organization that prohibits interment in a cemetery because of the race, color, or national origin of a decedent is void.
This section was adopted by the 71st Texas legislative session in 1989 and was later amended in the 73rd session in 1993.
“Something like this should be in the abyss of history,” Kennerly said. “I guess there are still ignorant people out there, but they need to abide by the law.”
Breitbart Texas also reached out to Texas State Representative J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville) who represents Bee County, and the Department of Justice’s Southern District of Texas office in Houston. No response has been received from these Rep. Lozano’s office.
Angela Dodge, public information officer for the DOJ in Houston responded saying “It would not be appropriate for us to comment or speculate on anything like this that is not part of the record.” She suggested that Breitbart Texas contact a law enforcement agency of legal scholar.
KIII TV3 reported that the incident has been referred to the local congressional office, LULAC and the NAACP.
At this time, it appears Mrs. Barrera’s only recourse is to file a civil lawsuit against the San Domingo Cemetery Association.
This article has been updated with additional information.
Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.