San Antonio civil rights icon Emma Tenayuca to be honored with street designation

Tenayuca led pecan shellers strike in 1938

SAN ANTONIO – Local civil rights icon Emma Tenayuca is set to be honored decades after her work and activism in San Antonio.

On Monday, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo, along with the Mexican American Civil Rights Institute, announced they had recently co-wrote a council consideration request seeking the designation of a Memorial Way to commemorate the Tenayuca’s legacy.

The stretch of road dedicated to Tenayuca will be located on Cevallos Street from Interstate 35 to Probandt Street.

“She thought it was important that people be treated fairly, especially workers, children, and families. She would be very gratified that there was recognition for what she did because a lot of people were not as courageous or saw the same thing but did not take a stand,” said Sharyll Teneyuca, Emma’s niece.

Teneyuca is best known for leading the 1938 San Antonio pecan shellers to strike, which lasted over a month.

The strike eventually led to the establishment of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established the right to a minimum wage, time-and-a-half, overtime pay, and the prohibition of child labor on June 25, 1938.

“The area was selected because the factories where the original pecan shelling strikes took place are still there. It’s important that we honor that history of Emma and labor rights work,” said Teri Castillo, District 5 Councilwoman.

“There was a lot of poverty. But the people who were hit the hardest or suffering the most were the unskilled labor workers at the time. Pecans was the leading industry in San Antonio and over 12,000 people were impacted by the strike. I think it is a great tribute,” said Teneyuca.

Nirenberg said this is the first step to honor several local civil rights leaders who are part of the fabric of Mexican-American history in San Antonio.

“This is part of a larger effort that here in the largest Latino majority city in the country. We have not done a proper job in commemorating Mexican-American leaders throughout our history, and that’s part of what we’re announcing today,” said Nirenberg.

“She didn’t think one moment about her own safety, about the sacrifices she would have to make. she just did it because she was called to do it,” said Teneyuca.


About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.