Privileges and Prejudice: A Return to the South

The Texas Story Project.

Growing up in a textile mill town in North Carolina, Teresa Van Hoy is no stranger to the inequalities that our society presents. In the 70s, her father, Bill Van Hoy, was the lead advocate for the desegregation of schools in her town. Because of Bill’s advocacy, many residents of the town turned on the Van Hoy family. Bricks were thrown through windows, and Teresa was even physically assaulted by her classmates while waiting for the bus, masked by the darkness of the morning. As soon as she was able to, she packed up her things and moved to Connecticut. 

In 1989, her husband, Roberto, was about to get his PhD in math, so he was applying for jobs all over the country. One day, he asked Teresa to type addresses for schools in Texas. Because of the harassment she faced during her childhood, she was not very fond of the idea of moving to the south, so she told Roberto that there was no way she would ever move to Texas. However, the desperate need for a job won out, and he did end up applying to some Texas schools. He ended up getting five job offers from all over the country, one of which was in Texas. To everyone’s surprise, Teresa chose Texas.

By the time that the job offers came, Teresa was pregnant with her first son, Alejandro. One of the most important reasons for her decision to move to Texas was the fact that it would be difficult to raise her child multi-culturally if she stayed in Connecticut. She also realized that the house prices were way too high, and being close to Roberto’s family, who lived in Mexico, would be nice. The icing on the cake though, was that it was now her turn to pursue her PhD, and the best graduate school in the country for Latin American History was UT Austin. 

As the moving date grew closer and closer, the old memories from her childhood made her doubt her decision to move to Texas. When Roberto came back from a job interview reporting that in San Antonio you can hear Spanish on the wind, that comforted Teresa. In May, Teresa went down to Texas for a pre-move visit in order to find a house, a job, and a pediatrician, all in one weekend. By all appearances, this was going to be the easiest move of her life. Her son Alejandro was born in July, and six weeks later on August 25th the whole family packed up their Honda Civic with no air conditioning and started the lengthy drive to Texas. Because of the stress and anxiety of a hot car and a move across the country, Teresa’s milk gave out. They were forced to buy formula so that Alejandro could eat, but he’d never had formula before. Now Teresa was having to deal with a rightfully angry baby who had been on the road for three days and was incredibly hot, and all of a sudden the move is not as luxuriously easy as she had thought it would be in May.

Finally, they arrived in San Antonio. When Teresa opened the door, she discovered that the house was full of huge cockroaches. Nobody had lived in the house for a few months, and when Teresa had chosen it in May she had only looked at it from the outside and booked it immediately. She had to put her purse and her diaper bag in the only place that didn’t have any cockroaches-- the refrigerator. She took her baby out into the yard and both baby and mother cried. At that moment, it seemed like moving to Texas was the worst decision of her life.

While nine months pregnant with her second son Andrés, Teresa started graduate school at UT. In September of 1992, one week after she started going to graduate school full time, Andrés was born, and Teresa never missed another day of classes. In addition to the ordinary challenges that graduate school presents, she also had to deal with sleepless nights with her newborn, but Teresa was determined to get her PhD.

When it was time for the boys to start school, Teresa and Roberto decided to send Alejandro and Andrés to the worst school they could find. They wanted to raise their children fully bilingual and bicultural, and the schools that were 95% low income schools were the ones that most of the hispanic children went to. Most of their friends moved to Alamo Heights so that they could ensure their child got a great education, but Teresa and Roberto figured that between Roberto being a mathematician and an engineer and Teresa being an expert in the humanities they could teach their children anything that the school didn’t. On the weekends, Teresa even paid Alejandro and Andrés to do extra school work like writing papers, solving math problems, and learning vocabulary words. 

But the extracurricular school work was not enough. By the time Alejandro was in the eighth grade, even though he was in GT classes and got straight A’s, he was already two years behind the top private school kids in math. So, Teresa had to make the difficult decision of sending him to a top private school, St. Mary’s Hall. When the other mothers called Teresa out for “fixing it” for her child, but leaving theirs in the dust, she started a non-profit organization for mentoring and training west side kids to demystify the process of getting into Ivy League schools. She did her best to ensure that other kids enjoyed access to top schools as her own kids. 

When Alejandro started school at St. Mary’s Hall, Teresa was so worried that he would live in a bubble of privilege and become snooty that she promised him that if he ever started acting up, she would come and embarrass him in front of all of his new friends. And even though he made friends with kids who had amazing houses, cars, and clothes, Alejandro continued to proudly wear shabby clothes and drive terrible cars. And his new friends were wonderful and down-to-earth, too.

Because Alejandro was raised biculturally, he learned Mexican manners. When you enter or leave the house you give your mom a kiss. The first time he brought his friends to the house he kissed Teresa like he usually would, and when he saw that his friends were just going to pass by, he yelled at them to kiss his mom. Sensing how uncomfortable they were, Teresa told Alejandro that they were going to “let ‘em off the hook.” Relieved, the boys went to Alejandro’s room to play video games. On the way out, after Alejandro kissed his mom goodbye, all of the boys filed by and gave her an awkward kiss on the cheek. From then on, the boys would always greet Teresa with a kiss on the cheek any time they saw her, to the point that their moms were amazed when, at Lacrosse practice, their own sons kissed Teresa but not them.

While Alejandro made his best friends among his private school classmates, Andrés stayed close to his old friends from the west side. And to this day, even though he’s 27 and lives in San Francisco, they remain the best of friends. 

Alejandro stayed connected to the west side, too. He and Andres tutored in Teresa’s non-profit, “San Antonio Students Stand and Deliver,” helping younger Rhodes Middle School kids prep the SAT, attend Duke TIP, and jump-start their candidacies for admission to elite universities. Alejandro also brought his new friends over to help tutor. Alejandro and Andres went to MIT; the latino west side kids whom they tutored likewise got into top universities including Duke, Princeton, Dartmouth, UT, Yale, etc.

By moving to Texas, Teresa changed her experience of the south from one of racial division to a place where she was able to raise a happy, bicultural family.

Alexis Dillon is a criminology major at St. Mary’s University in the class of 2022. She has been a part of the color guard staff at Winston Churchill High School since 2018. She also graduated from Winston Churchill High School in 2018, where she was an active member of the color guard for all four years and served as color guard captain her senior year. She is continuing her participation in the pageantry arts by auditioning for Origins color guard in September of 2019.

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