The Resurrection of Mr. Spanish

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For decades Marfa, Texas, was a segregated town. Anglos and Latinos lived alongside each other but attended separate schools and were buried in separate cemeteries. The Spanish-speaking children, of Mexican origin, attended Blackwell School, where well-meaning teachers forced them to learn English.

Students who attended Blackwell in the 1950s still remember the day when a teacher ordered them to write down on a little piece of paper, “I will not speak Spanish in class.” The notes were placed in a cigar box. Everyone was asked to go outside, and the box was buried next to the flagpole.

“We had gone to family funerals before, so we understood that there was a funeral going on, but we didn’t know why,” remembers Jessi Silva. “And everybody was very quiet when they buried Mr. Spanish.”

Maggie Marques was one of the students who dared to break the rule. The teacher heard her using that banned language and sent her to the principal, who gave her three whacks with a paddle. “It was my first time, and I was hurting, so I ran home,” Marques remembers. “I didn’t go to school for three days. I had big bruises.” 

The area where they buried Mr. Spanish was eventually razed. Yet in 2007, for their school reunion, some of the former students built a tiny wooden coffin for a reverse reenactment in which Mr. Spanish was dug out from the ground. When they opened the box, it revealed a Spanish dictionary they had placed inside. Everybody cheered!

Easter is a good season to celebrate life and to celebrate the lives of all people. We do this because as Christians we are committed to “respect the dignity of every human being” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 305). “Every human being” includes our families and neighbors as well as those who live in distant lands. It includes everyone we know as well as the billions of people we will never meet. It includes those who come from privilege and well as people of racial, ethnic, and other minorities whose lives have often been exploited or ignored.  

This Easter, how can you celebrate the life of someone who is different from you?

— Hugo Olaiz

Photo: The resurrection of Mr. Spanish, photo by Michael Hunn

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