Chapter 11: The Chicana and the Arts
10. Who was Charlotte Hernandez Terry?
Charlotte Hernandez Terry or Carlotta Hernandez, as she called herself, was a single mother, who contributed something important to Chicano Park. More than that she was a musician, a guitarist who both performed and composed words and music. She designed an image that now appeared on one of the pillars in the Park. While some recognizable icons of the culture were usually up for grabs, she wanted to be credited for her work. It had been placed there without her knowledge, taken from a flyer, she said, where it once appeared. Eventually, Charlotte was recognized for her art.
Charlotte Hernandez Terry is more evidence of women’s involvement in the Chicano Park activism. Proper recognition for her design and for the words that she had chosen to go with it, "
La Tierra Mia" has since been given. These were the words of revolution and pride she thought fitting, taken from the mouth of Emiliano Zapata, a hero of the Mexican Revolution who fought for the poor and landless people. In her image, a hand held the little piece of land on the map of California surrounded by Zapata’s words. Charlotte, a technical artist by trade, used the design style she had learned in drafting classes. Since those days, her image, the design and the words have become a kind of logo for Chicano Park. The words rang especially true for the theme of the takeover in Chicano Park, representing land that had once belonged to the Mexican people, taken over by the United States in the war of 1848.
Charlotte, as a woman, and with her one small design, became a dynamic part of the Chicano Park mural movement. Songs of consciousness and fervor she wrote herself. She composed both the music and the words and performed at many locations, the schools, public performances, and conferences.
In 1974, I invited her to speak and perform in my Chicano Studies classroom and she agreed. My own daughters heard her music and the students in my classes were learning about the history and the culture of the Mexican people, born on the land. They appreciated her cuentos, stories of struggle and change, especially those which exhibited a Chicana consciousness. Our history was not written down and they wanted to hear more about how women had contributed to civil rights in San Diego. Charlotte’s Chicana songs challenged the students to think about the struggles of the women, the Chicana people. "
Mama Works Hard Everyday" was a kind of chant, a song of daily and difficult struggle, almost a grito. The words, "
Mama works hard for her weekly pay" became a demand for change and justice. Others of Charlotte’s works were corridos, ballads of the people. The presence of women showed—because women wrote, although they were not published, and women painted, although they were not fully recognized.