“The Emma Tenayuca Project” by V. Gwyn Hartung


This project is a multi-directional approach to increase recognition for labor activist and educator Emma Tenayuca, a lead organizer of the 1938 Pecan Shellers Strike in San Antonio, Texas. By collaborating with community leaders in this project, Gwyn seeks to inspire future generations of San Antonians by highlighting the struggles and successes Emma and her fellow strikers faced. The biggest part of the project is a call to honor Emma Tenayuca with a permanent monument. Other components of the project include a Twitter account dedicated to sharing information about Tenayuca, an ofrenda dedicated to Tenayuca displayed at Centro de Cultural Aztlan, and a map that is composed of important places in Tenayuca’s life. Through each of these efforts, Gwyn worked with the community to preserve the legacy of Emma Tenayuca and the thousands of others like her who aim to make the world a better place. This project is designed to build on this momentum and keep her in the public’s mind so that this excitement does not plateau or disappear completely. By keeping her story in the public eye, I aim to inspire future generations to continue the work that Emma herself did and keep her story alive to share with the people they love.

The first tool created was a map that detailed important places in Emma’s life. Gwyn came across some of these locations by researching the local newspapers for mentions of Emma and those related to her. She also created a Twitter account to share snippets of Emma’s life on the internet. She focused on sharing quotes, pictures, and bits of research that she found. The Twitter account dedicated to Emma, @EmmaTenayuca, currently has over 490 followers and averages about 20 retweets and 80 likes per tweet on original content. A crucial part of the Twitter account was highlighting local community members and their commitment to continuing Emma’s legacy. She also developed a petition to honor Emma Tenayuca with a permanent monument or memorial that currently has 370 supporters (people who signed), 4,258 views, 77 shares, and $143 in contributions from 8 promoters.

One of the more popular tweets from The Emma Tenayuca Project Twitter. (Hartung, 2022).

Partnering with Centro de Cultural Aztlan gave Gwyn the opportunity to create and display an ofrenda dedicated to Emma Tenayuca. Entitled “La Pasionaria,” the ofrenda design was created with the theme of passion. The exhibit was a success, there were many people interested in the exhibit with visitors taking pictures and discussing the ofrenda with others around them. KSAT, a local TV station, contacted her about the project, and she interviewed with multiple news agencies about the project and what Emma Tenayuca means to me and to the San Antonio community. All of these interviews have included a link to the petition. Any attention that is received from an article or short television interview will bring more visitors to the petition page and will increase the likelihood of people signing it.

Photos of the Emma Tenayuca ofrenda. (Hartung, 2022).

 This project has been ever-evolving and exciting. It received a massive amount of support from the community at large and has caught the attention of higher-ups such as Julián Castro, the 16th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a prominent politician. The Twitter account has 493 followers and the map has been shared with several undergraduate history courses. The ofrenda was met with kind comments and interested viewers. The Emma Tenayuca Project is still in progress and it is my wish to fundraise and erect a monument in honor of Emma Tenayuca. But the broader goal of increasing the recognition of Emma and her incredible actions has been met. The creation of tools to help with learning about Emma’s impact has allowed for easier access to her story. The project has inspired artistic endeavors and participated in community engagements. The Emma Tenayuca Project owes everything to Emma Tenayuca, La Pasionaria.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *