A cemetery in a tiny Texas town was facing a lawsuit this month over its rule to only inter the remains of white people. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, working with the American G.I. Forum of Texas, recently sued the Normanna Cemetery Association over a "whites only policy" it claims violates a federal civil rights law, the Texas Tribune reported Thursday.
The issue gained national attention in February when San Domingo Cemetery operator Jimmy Bradford told Dorothy Barrera, a white Normanna resident, that it would not accept the ashes of her late husband Pedro, who was Hispanic. Barrera said Bradford instructed her to "go up the road and bury him with the n------ and Mexicans," according to NBC News. Bradford eventually relented, but Barrera has not yet buried her partner there.
The April 29 lawsuit alleges that the Normanna policy violates the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which guarantees equal property and contract rights to all people. The attorneys are demanding the policy be revoked.
"Post-mortem racial segregation in the 21st century is astounding," Thomas A. Saenz, the defense fund's president and general counsel, said in a news release. "This case demonstrates how regrettably deep the roots of anti-Latino prejudice are in this country and in Texas."
Data from the 2014 American Community Survey estimates that Normanna's population is about 65 people. Of them, 11 identify as Hispanic or Latino. Two are black.
Local Bee County Constable Cliff Bagwell told the San Antonio Express-News that he thought the case was closed after Bradford gave Barrera permission to bury her husband there. “From what I understand, it’s kind of a private cemetery. But I’ve also heard it's supposed to be for citizens of Normanna," he said. "Everything was running real good until this one person made trouble. She can’t fit in. She wanted it her way, and that was it."
Barrera has said she may file her own lawsuit against the cemetery association. The United States Justice Department is also looking into the situation, according to KIITV.