Emma Tenayuca

La Pasionara de Texas (example for Unit 3, EA 2)

"I was arrested a number of times.

I never thought in terms of fear. I thought in terms of justice."

December 21, 1916 - July 23, 1999

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Early Life

  • Family’s residence in Texas predated both Mexican Independence from Spain and the Mexico-U.S. War
  • One of eleven children, Emma moved in with Grandparents to ease the financial burden on her family.
  • At age 7, she began visiting Plaza del Zacate in downtown San Antonio with her grandfather to hear speaches made by Magonistas

Emma Tenayuca

Getting Involved

  • Early 1930’s: Read Leo Tolstoy and Karl Marx while attending Brackenridge High School in San Antonio
  • In 1932-1933, at the age of 16 she is arrested for joining picket line to protest the working conditions of the mostly female employees at Finck Cigar Company
  • Founded Two International Ladies’ Garment workers unions

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Pecan Shellers' Strike

Monday, Jan. 31st 1938 at 12am

San Antonio, TX, United States

San Antonio, TX

In 1938, Emma lead a strike on behalf of pecan shellers in a Texas food processing plant. This is known as the Pecan Shellers’ Strike.



Thousands of employees at hundreds of plants suffered:


  • Inadequate sanitary conditions (no indoor toilets or sinks)
  • Crowded Conditions
  • Poor ventilation
  • Poor illumination
  • Brown Dust caused high rates of tuberculosis
  • 148/100,000 in San Antonio
  • 54/100,000 in the Rest of the U.S.





Reduction in Wages for Shellers was the final straw

Pre-1938 Wages:

  • Pickers: $.06-.07/lb for pieces and halves
  • Shellers: $.50/100 lbs
1938 Wages:
  • Pickers: $.05-.06/lb for pieces and halves
  • Shellers: $.40/100 lbs
Wages After the Strike was Settled:
  • Pickers: $.07-.08/lb for pieces and halves
  • Shellers: $.25/hour of work





Reaction to the Strike:


  • Strikers were gassed, arrested, and jailed
  • More than 700 arrests were made by City Officials



Strike Duration:


  • 37 Days

Strike Aftermath

  • After the Strike, mechanized shelling became the norm as unskilled labor became too expensive.
  • Historians consider the Pecan Shellers’ Strike to be the first significant victory in the Mexican-American struggle for political and economic equality in this country

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In her words...

"What started out as an organization for equal wages turned into a mass movement against starvation, for a minimum-wage law, and it changed the character of West Side San Antonio.”

Her Life After the Strike

Joined Communist Party because it advocated her passion for minority rights


Became Chairperson of Texas Communist Party in 1939


In San Antonio’s Municipal Auditorium, a small meeting of the Texas Communist Party was attacked by 5,000 people who were “huntin’ Communists”

  • Escaped through a tunnel with the aid of city police
  • Blacklisted in San Antonio.
  • Mayor of San Antonio’s political career ended

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Life as a Teacher

  • Communist Party Member, 1937-1946
  • Moved to Los Angeles after San Antonio and was Hounded by the FBI
  • Moved to San Francisco and majored in Education at San Francisco State College, earning a degree in 1952
  • Returned to San Antonio in 1960 and earned Masters in Education from Our Lady of the Lake University in 1974
  • Taught in Harlandale School District in San Antonio until she retired in 1982

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Carmen Tafolla, San Antonio Poet Laureate, wrote:

"La Pasionaria, we called her, because she was our passion, because she was our heart -- defendiendo a los pobres, speaking out at a time when neither Mexicans nor women were expected to speak at all."

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Annotated Bibliography

1. Shetterly, Robert. "Emma Tenayuca." Americans Who Tell The Truth. Robert Shetterly, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Americans Who Tell The Truth provides general biographical information about numerous leaders. This page particularly is about Emma Tenayuca and her life. Here is where you discuss how the webpage was evaluated and how it helped with your research.


2. Shetterlys, Robert. "Emma Tenayuca." Americans Who Tell The Truth. Robert Shetterly, n.d. Web. 02 May 2016.

Americans Who Tell The Truth provides general biographical information about numerous leaders. This page particularly is about Emma Tenayuca and her life. Here is where you discuss how the webpage was evaluated and how it helped with your research.


3. "Matt Smith." Gale Biography in Context. Detroit: Gale, 2013. Biography in Context. Web. 11 May 2016.

The Biography in Context gives an overview of Matt Smith's life. Here is where you say why you chose this source.


4. "BBC Announces Peter Capaldi Is The Next Dr. Who." Morning Edition 5 Aug. 2013. Biography in Context. Web. 11 May 2016.

This source introduces Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. Here is where you say why you chose this source.


5. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/v/vincentvan104644.html

This is a quote from Brianyquote.com., Here is why I chose this source.