Last week, I wrote briefly about two Chicana teachers, Socorro Gomez-Potter and Yolanda Almaraz Esquivel. This week, as I read through these oral history interviews conducted by Garcia, I thought about the nature of archives and their historic lack of representation for women and especially women of color. These “missing voices” are problematic in archives, and Garcia’s collection serves as a partial remedy to this issue.
Both women attended California State University San Bernardino to receive advanced degrees in education and were two of just 21 ethnic Mexican students on campus. They returned to the Coachella Valley area to become teachers. They were advocates for bilingual education and student rights. This advocacy was often met with discrimination and even physical assault. When Yolanda witnessed a white teacher assault a student on several occasions, she confronted the teacher and was then physically assaulted herself. Unfortunately, the district chose to cover up this incident so Yolanda, Socorro, and their allies organized protests, encouraged parents to boycott the school, and participated in a student walkout on April 8, 1976.
Ultimately, they were reassigned to non-teaching roles. Their devotion made an impact, however, as the Coachella Valley District implemented bilingual education soon after, and the teacher accused of assault was “encouraged to retire.” Through Garcia’s research and oral history interviews, the stories of these brave Chicana women can now be heard and made available to researchers. The “missing voices” are no longer missing in this case. But, of course, there is still much work to be done.