That’s Not Fair! Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice/¡No Es Justo!: La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia

Book – Non-fiction. By Carmen Tafolla, Sharyll Tenayuca, Celina Marroquin. 2008. 40 pages.
Bilingual (Spanish and English). Biography for upper elementary of labor activist Emma Tenayuca.

  • Time Periods: Prosperity, Depression, & World War II: 1920 - 1944, 20th Century | Themes: Labor, Latino, Organizing, Women's History | Reading Levels: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8 | Resource Types: Books: Non-Fiction, Picture Books, Spanish/Bilingual
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Book co-author Carmen Tafolla. Click photo to read article about her selection as poet laureate of San Antonio and how her books are banned in Tucson. Photo by David Terry.

The true story of noted labor organizer Emma Tenayuca, beginning with her childhood in San Antonio, Texas. This bilingual children’s book describes how in 1938, while in her early 20s, she led 12,000 workers in the historic pecan shellers strike. Historians regard this as the first successful large-scale act in the Mexican-American struggle for civil rights and justice.

This is the first book published about this significant Latina civil rights leader. Written for readers 6 and up, That’s Not Fair was the April 2008 national Las Comadres Book Selection and was listed in Críticas Magazine’s Best Children’s Books of 2008.

“Striking illustrations . . . an important book celebrating the struggle for justice and civil rights. —School Library Journal

“Tells of Ms. Tenayuca’s life, not as an organizer, orator, or leader but as a girl whose sharp mind and compassion for others sows the seeds of activism.” —National Catholic Reporter

By Carmen Tafolla, Sharyll Tenayuca, Celina Marroquin. Illustrated by Terry Ybañez.

ISBN: 9780916727338 | Published by Wings Press.

 

 

About Emma Tenayuca

Painting of Emma Tenayuca by Robert Shetterly from Americans Who Tell the Truth.

Tenayuca was born in born in San Antonio, Texas in 1916. Through her work as an educator, speaker, and labor organizer, she became known as “La Pasionaria.” From 1934-48, she supported almost every strike in the city, writing leaflets, visiting homes of strikers, and joining them on picket lines. Her first knowledge of the plight of workers came from visits to the “Plaza del Zacate” where socialists and anarchists came to speak. Contact with fired workers led her to join the Communist Party in 1937 and the Workers Alliance (WA) in 1936, an organization of the unemployed founded by Socialists and Communists, 90 percent of whom were pecan shellers and agricultural workers. The WA held demonstrations for jobs, not relief, and demanded that Mexican workers had the right to strike without fear of deportation, and to a minimum wage and hour law.

Emma Tenayuca standing inside jail, June, 1937. Photographed in San Antonio, Texas.

When 12,000 pecan shellers marched out of the factories in 1938, she was unanimously elected strike leader. “What started out as a movement for organization for equal wages turned into a mass movement against starvation, for civil rights, for a minimum wage law, and it changed the character of West Side San Antonio.” As a result of anti-Mexican, anti-Communist, and anti-union hysteria, she was forced to leave Texas to ensure her own safety and well being. She returned to San Antonio years later to work as a teacher.

About the Pecan Shellers Strike

Primary documents and questions about the Pecan Shellers Strike from the Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 website, produced by SUNY-Binghamton.

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