The Daily News titled this photograph “Mexican American Female Gang” when it ran the photo in 1942 but the systematic criminalization of Mexicans in the 1940s as a justification for racially-motivated attacks (especially directed at zoot suiters) makes me a little wary of the title. In any case, these women seem so utterly cool to me. They’ve been arrested and are sitting in a police station when this photo was taken but look at the nonchalant, almost bored, expression of Frances Silva on the upper left and the raised defiant chin of Josephine Gonzales on the bottom left, as well as the cavalier pose of Lorena Encina on the bottom right in her baggy zoot suit pants and perfect hair. The other two women on the bench are Juanita Gonzales and D. Barrios. These sister-friends (consider the protective gesture of Encina’s elbow on Barrios’ leg) are such badasses, all of them.
Sacramento, California. 1971.
Emma Tenayuca Biography
“I was arrested a number of times. I never thought in terms of fear. I thought in terms of justice.”
This is my grandmother, Dominga Villegas (in the foreground) and “Mama Piedad” (in the background). I am not sure how/if they’re related. One of the houses behind them is the home that my father was born in, in Weslaco Texas. There was no running water, no electricity and they had a pump and an outhouse in the backyard. According to my father, the street was a dirt road back then and the Mexicans lived on one side of town and white people lived on the other side. The town was segregated. They may have been poor but my grandmother looks amazingly beautiful and confident in this photo.
Submitted by Dagny Villegas (Indianapolis, IN).