This Texas cemetery is getting sued for being 'whites only'

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Cemetery's request sparking new controversy

When Dorothy Barrera tried to have her husband's ashes buried at a cemetery in her rural Texas town, the cemetery refused. When she asked why, Barrera says, she was told "because he's a Mexican," according to a civil complaint filed against the allegedly "whites only" cemetery.

Instead, Barrera was told she could "go up the road and bury him with the niggers and Mexicans," by the Normanna Cemetery Association caretaker Jimmy Bradford, according to the complaint, which was filed Friday.

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Normanna, about 80 miles south of San Antonio, has a population of 113 people, 55 of whom are Hispanic. There are two cemeteries in the town—the San Domingo and Del Bosque cemeteries -- that fall under the Normanna Cemetery Association, the defendant in the case.

"It is widely known to Normanna residents that the San Domingo Cemetery is 'whites-only,' and that the Del Bosque Cemetery is for Latinos and other non-Anglos. No Latinos are buried within the gates of the San Domingo Cemetery," the complaint, filed in March, states.

The San Domingo Cemetery is more than 100 years old and initially was a private family cemetery. In 1977, it was turned over to the Normanna Cemetery Association for the use of "the people of Normanna," according to the complaint. Barrera and her late husband, Pedro, lived in the town for 15 years.

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"Post-mortem racial segregation in the 21st century is astounding," said Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which helped bring the lawsuit. "This case demonstrates how regrettably deep the roots of anti-Latino prejudice are in this country and in Texas."

The cemetery does have one grave with a Hispanic surname -- that grave, dated 1910, is separated from the other graves by a chain-link fence, MALDEF said.

In March, the cemetery ultimately agreed to allow the remains to be buried in the cemetery after intense criticism from local media—but Dorothy Barrera countered, saying the funeral caretaker showed up at her house with armed officers, intimidating her. Her husband's ashes were never buried in the cemetery.

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Texas has discrimination laws on the books for cemeteries, including one that specifically states that "a cemetery organization may not adopt or enforce a rule that prohibits interment because of the race, color, or national origin of a decedent." But because the San Domingo Cemetery is a "community cemetery," that law doesn't apply to it.

"This is morally wrong," said John Martinez, Commander of the American G.I. Forum of Texas, Inc., which also helped bring the lawsuit. "It happened in the 1940s and 1950s and, in today's time and age, I can't believe this is still happening to Hispanics and Hispanic veterans."

Related: Other community cemeteries in the US, including religious cemeteries:

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This Texas cemetery is getting sued for being 'whites only'
A family gathers in prayer as they visit a family member buried in the Islamic Garden at Restland Cemetery Friday, July 17, 2015, in Dallas. A proposal to bring a Muslim cemetery to Farmersville has stoked fears among residents who are vehemently trying to convince community leaders to block the project. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Alia Salem, executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations poses for a photo by an open-air pavilion in the Islamic Garden, a burial site for members of the Muslim faith that is part of the Restland Cemetery, Friday, July 17, 2015, in Dallas. A proposal to bring a Muslim cemetery to Farmersville has stoked fears among residents who are vehemently trying to convince community leaders to block the project. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
A family gathers in prayer as they visit a family member buried in the Islamic Garden at Restland Cemetery Friday, July 17, 2015, in Dallas. A proposal to bring a Muslim cemetery to Farmersville has stoked fears among residents who are vehemently trying to convince community leaders to block the project. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
In a photo from Sunday, May 10, 2015, in Hamtramck, Mich., Barbara Morse touches the grave marker of her great-grandmother Vichna Benstein at the Beth Olem Cemetery on the grounds of the General Motors Co.'s Detroit Hamtramck Plant. Public access to the green oasis is limited to a couple days a year, including this past Sunday. The Jewish cemetery survives through historical quirks _ particularly a pact reached about 35 years ago to preserve the cemetery as GM sought to demolish a neighborhood and build a plant. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
In a photo from Sunday, May 10, 2015, in Hamtramck, Mich., the Beth Olem Cemetery is shown on the grounds of the General Motors Co.'s Detroit Hamtramck Plant. Public access to the green oasis is limited to a couple days a year, including this past Sunday. The Jewish cemetery survives through historical quirks _ particularly a pact reached about 35 years ago to preserve the cemetery as GM sought to demolish a neighborhood and build a plant. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
This Nov. 22, 2011 photo shows a historic Jewish cemetery on West 21st Street in New York. The cemetery served as the burial ground for the Shearith Israel congregation, between 1829 and 1851. Shearith Israel, which was founded by Spanish and Portuguese Jews, dates to the 1650s and is considered the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. (AP Photo/Beth Harpaz)
This Oct. 13, 2014, photo shows headstones in Washington Cemetery in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The predominantly Jewish cemetery dates back to the late 1800's and is almost filled to capacity. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
In this April 12, 2016 photo, Desiree Moninski, walks on land located across from her house in Dudley, Mass., which is the site of a proposed Muslim cemetery, a project vigorously opposed by area residents. Regarding the land once farmed by her grandparents, Moninski said she and other opponents have legitimate concerns that have nothing to do with Islam. "I grew up here. It's farmland, and I'd like to see it stay that way," she said. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
In this Nov. 5, 2010 photo, a disciple of the Osmanli Naksibendi Hakkani order exits the main residence of the dergah (Sufi center) in Sidney Center, N.Y. The town was thrust into the spotlight in summer 2010 after a controversy over the Muslim gravesites, bitterly dividing some residents while transforming others who say their lives and their town will never be the same. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)
EMMITSBURG, MARYLAND, UNITED STATES - 2013/05/10: Cemetery for Daughters of Charity religious order of nuns, Elizabeth Seton National Shrine. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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The post This Texas Cemetery Is Getting Sued For Being "Whites Only" appeared first on Vocativ.

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