Latinitas - A Strong Voice for Latina Youth

The Latina Rosa Parks - Carmelita Torres

Have you heard of Carmelita Torres? She was a part of the Bath Riots of 1917. She has been compared to Rosa Parks because she took a stand against discrimination and inhumanity. In the early 1900's, it was common practice for U.S. health officials to force Mexicans crossing the bridge into the U.S. to bathe, strip naked in front of an inspector and undergo a lice treatment. These toxic and harmful chemicals were used to kill lice and prevent typhus. A 17-year-old Mexican maid crossed the border daily from Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, TX to work as a housekeeper. Carmelita, tired of suffering this injustice and indignity, refused to take a gasoline bath and convinced other people on her trolley to do the same. When bystanders saw Carmelita and her group resisting this humiliating procedure, a protest began called the Bath Riots. In addition to exposing these Mexican workers to harmful chemicals, some health personnel had been reportedly taking secret photos of the women in the nude and distributing them. U.S. and Mexican troops stopped the rebellion and Carmelita was arrested for protesting. The baths continued on for some time, but were eventually stopped as health professionals realized how dangerous these chemicals were. Carmelita remains a strong example of a Latina standing up for her rights.

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