fortably at a wooden confessional
box to pour out our every
thought, action, and desire as we
remember them from the previous week, and as they emerge
under the prodding of the faceless inquisitor on the other side of
the metal grate. If we lie to him, it
is a mortal sin: few Catholics
brought up like Inez would doubt
the truth of the rape she first
confessed to her priest.
And few Latinas could fail to
believe Inez Garcia's inability to
describe the experience of rape to
the policemen who arrested her.
We are painfully shy about our
bodies and about sex. When she
later complained of pains "down
there" to a woman prison attendant, she was taken to a doctor
who reportedly implied that Inez
was upset, imagining things, and
didn't examine her.
As a Latina with a barrio
experience of racism, I believe
that a white woman in the same
situation would have been properly questioned by the police and
examined for sexual attack by a
doctor. If the men involved were
Chicanos, as in this case, a white
woman might even have been
released with little or no bail;
acquitted or given a suspended
sentence by a jury of her peers.
We Latinas are not encouraged to
be articulate about any part of our
experience, much less about abuse. Our teachers are nuns who
encourage our silence as an
exercise in self-sacrifice.
The Anglo "experts" who administered IQ tests to Inez found
her to be mentally inadequate, yet
her discussion of her own political
situation was sophisticated e-
nough to make many Anglo
journalists suppose that she had
been brainwashed by her white
feminist supporters during the
Most of all, Inez expressed the
fierce pride that is the strongest
force in the life of a Latina. She was
raped, dishonored by the men
who, she says, continued to taunt
her, and to promise future humiliations. She answered with the
violence she had been taught was
a just response; the only way to
prevent a woman's humiliation in
a macho culture. In fact, Inez's
failure to resist the rape while it
was going on, even if it had been
at the cost of her own life, remains
shameful to her.
So in the courtroom, hearing
her humiliation treated as irrelevant and her own word
disbelieved or denied, this Latina
pride burst forth. She could not
listen passively to witnesses challenging the honor of her word.
She shouted back. She would not
say she was sorry She stormed out
of the courtroom and no Latina
will ever question that this was her
statement of innocence: her
Anglo observers were stunned
by this all-or-nothing fierceness,
"We'll make you part
of the news, as stories
are developing for
our 6 p. m. newscast."
Dave Ward and Jan Carson
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For an intriguing and different
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whether out of shock at her self-
destructive behavior, or a racist
assumption that she could not
possibly be making her own decisions. Shana Alexander in Newsweek and other less famous journalists wrote about her as if she
were a helpless victim, a Galatea
who had been transformed into
an angry self-destructive heroine
by the radical women of her own
In fact, many women have had
to face a dilemma in the case of
Inez Garcia. We want her free, out
of prison; yet we also want to
respect her own chosen course of
action. In the courtroom, she decided to defy the twin macho
assumptions of Latin culture that a
woman belongs to a man; and that
a woman dishonored by belonging to more than one man is
herself at fault, as sinful as Eve. She
defied the shameful silence with
which women, especially Latinas,
are supposed to treat their own
sexual enslavement. I am grateful
Like Inez Garcia, I was raped.
Like Inez, I was too shamed and
afraid to report it to the police. But
unlike Inez, I did not strike back. I
lived out the female, passive part
of the Latin code of honor by
trying to kill myself. And I never
spoke of what happend — not
until Inez freed me with her defiance, her shouted insistence on
her own right to self-defense. She
freed me, and untold numbers of
other women, to speak of our own
past without shame, and to finally
put to rest the nightmare ghosts of
our own memories.
I believe the justic e in that California courtroom was both racist
and sexist. But if justice were a
woman and truly fair, she might
be a Latina.
And then she would understand what it is to be Inez Garcia.
Maria Del Drago is Coordinator of
Continuing Education Programs
for Women, University Extension,
California at Berkeley. She is also a
Regional Coordinator of California Women in Higher Education, a
member of its Third World Council; a member of San Francisco's
Concilio Mujeres and ^f the In^z
Garcia Defense Committee.
"I'll have less fear Qf raping „
a woman than I did before.
After Inez Garcia was convicted of second-degree murder in
her first trial, Nan Blitman interviewed one of the jurors, Samuel
Rhone, a 60-year-old black factory worker:
Blitman: Could a woman ever get off on the ground of self-
defense if she killed a man during the attack?
Rhone: No, because the guy's not trying to kill her. He's just
trying to give here a good time. To get off, the guy wi'l have to do
her bodily harm and giving a girl a screw isn't doing her bodily
Blitman: What part did rape play in your deliberations?
Rhone: Well, some brought up the rape, but then someone
threw up their hands and said, "You heard what the judge said —
it's a murder trial, not a rape trial!"
Blitman: Was the rape discussed a lot?
Blitman: Did you say anything about it?
Rhone: When I was discussing, I was mostly fighting the
women. I asked them .about the heat of passion, and they said
they'd have cooled off. I told the women that when I leave here,
I'll have less fear of raping a woman than I did before. At least f
know that if I get shot, she won't get away.
Blitman: What did the women say?
They thought I was kidding. They said, "You don't mean t
Did you mean it?
I wasn't joking. They took it for a joke. I didn't. I was
thinking of all the men out there reading it. I told them that."
© Nan Blitman, 1974
Reprinted by permission from Ms. Magazine.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE INEZ GARCIA CASE
On March 19,1974 in Soledad, California, Inez Garcia killed Miguel
Jimenez, one of two men who had just raped her. She failed in* her
attempt to kill the other, Luis Castillo.
Inez Garcia was convicted of second degree murder (the original
charge had been first degree) in September, 1974 in Monterey,
California. She was sentenced to five years to life in the California
Institution for Women at Frontera.
During her incarceration, she fired Charles Garry and hired Susan
Jordan. Garry had begun work on her appeal, but Jordan filed it. Her
appeal was successful. The State Court of Appeals found the judge's
instructions to the jury on "reasonable doubt" were incorrect.
A new trial was ordered. Garcia was released on $5,000 bond in
December, 1975, after serving 15 months in jail.
In February, 1976, Susan Jordan was dismissed from the case. Garcia
hired and fired two other lawyers before her new trial began in
December, 1976 in Monterey County,California. She was assigned a
public defender and the same prosecutor as before was assigned.
In January, 1977, Garcia dismissed her public defender and rehired
Susan Jordan. The jury was selected and presentation of evidence began
on February 14, 1977.
On March 4, 1977, in a landmark decision, Inez Garcia was found
innocent of murder. Her legal defense had been changed from
"impaired consciousness" to "self defense" in light of her rape and the
threats on her life.
HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH • MAY 1977 • PAGE 13