Emma Tenayuca

Emma Tenayuca was a Latina labor activist and born in San Antonio. From a young age, Tenayuca noticed the inequalities in her community and family, specifically along the lines of colorism, heritage, and economic status. She witnessed the differences between her Spanish descended mother and her Mexican descended father and how their world views differed. This, along with her grandparents’ encouragement, led to her being passionate about fighting social injustices.

Her journey starts when she joined a picket line as a junior in high school as she watched the women staff of the Finck Cigar Company strike. Due to participating, she was arrested. Tenayuca later joined the Workers Alliance of America, where she organized strikes, letter-writing campaigns, and protests. Her actions often caused her to be arrested and receive death threats. One of her biggest contributions was heading the pecan sheller strike in 1938, where 12,000 people went on strike for higher wages. Over 1,000 people were arrested during this 3-month strike.

After World War II, Tenayuca began to remove herself from organized politics, though she still strongly believed in social justice and racial unity. She completed an undergraduate degree and became a teacher. As a teacher, she continued being a leader and mentor as she encouraged students who were interested in activism. Tenayuca’s activism and leadership is remembered through the protests and strikes she helped lead and organize. She passed away on July 23, 1999, and is known to the Tejano community as “La Pasionaria de Texas” (the passionflower of Texas).