Guadalupe Hopes To Do Emma Justice

Mar 14, 2017

A play opens Friday night at the Guadalupe Theatre based on a children's book. That book is That's Not Fair, No Es Justo! And it's based on a young San Antonian's realization that sometimes things just aren't fair.


"It tells the story of Emma Tenayuca,  a civil rights activist here in San Antonio in the 1930s. And she famously led a strike that was carried out by the workers in the pecan-shelling industry here," says the Guadalupe's Joel Settles.

Owners instituted a wage reduction and 21-year-old Tenayuca engineered a strike lasting 37 days, ending when the owners agreed to arbitration. It wasn't a walk in the park--she and the workers were tear gassed and arrested.

"The majority were women. There were thousands, thousands of workers. And the way that pecans were shelled was primarily by hand. This was a really big industry at that time. What they were asking for, and bargaining for, was a fair wage," Settles says.

The book was originally written by Carmen Tafolla and Sharyll Tenayuca--Emma's niece--and was based largely on Tenayuca's childhood relationship with her grandfather.

"Through conversations with her grandfather she realizes what she can do is she can somehow help by contributing something. By helping her neighbor, helping her friend, helping her community in any way she could," he says.

Its stage adaptation even features song and dance provided by the Guadalupe Dance Company.    

"There's a great number that opens up the second act that is based and choreographed on a number they did last year at a show. The  music is provided by three young, very talented musicians, and they're providing the sound track for the play, so from beginning to end there's live music that accompanies the show."

Tenayuca would have turned a hundred years old this year, but Settles says its lessons resonate still.

"This is just as relevant today as it was back then."

The play runs at the Guadalupe Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoon. 

Find more on this production here