Thursday, April 10, 2014

Local professor uses settlement for scholarships

Brownsville Herald
April 10, 2014
by Melissa Montoya

A battle waged against the federal government has paid off for Eloisa G. Tamez, a professor at the University of Texas at Brownsville.

One of Brownsville’s most vocal opponents to the border fence, Tamez took the federal government to task when it tried to condemn her land to build a swath of border fence there.

The federal government is expected to pay Tamez $56,000 for the land it took from her, according to court documents. Tamez said she will be establishing a scholarship for students at the university with a portion of her settlement.

The scholarship fund launches on May 3, her parent’s 80th wedding anniversary. Her parents are deceased, but Tamez said she wanted to honor them this way because, even though they left school at an early age, they were strong proponents of education.

“The reason this is important to me and for the community to know and everyone else to know, including the federal government, is that land was taken from me by the government — land that had been part of the outcome of how my mother and my father and grandparents before them carved a life for us because they were farmers,” Tamez said.

The scholarship fund ensures her parents will be remembered and makes a good situation out of a bad one. The scholarships are for graduate nursing students where Tamez teaches as an associate professor in the College of Nursing.

Tamez is one of a group of people who fought the seizure of their land for the fence. She said the government was reluctant to give information on why the border fence needed to be built.

“It was almost like we weren’t worth receiving an explanation,” Tamez said. “We are supposed to be quiet about it. I wanted to know why... That’s what education does for you; it helps you to verbalize.”

The land in dispute was .026 acres along the Rio Grande Valley. Tamez and her family have lived on the land since 1767 when a Spanish land grant gifted them the property. The litigation had been pending since 2008.

The protracted legal battle was worth it, Tamez said.

“I told them you can take my land, you can build a walk across it, but you’re not going to take my voice,” Tamez said.

Tamez is still uncertain how much money will go into the scholarship fund, but it needs to reach $20,000 in order for it to be ready for distribution. She said she hopes students will benefit from what was a bad situation.

“This converts something negative into a positive outcome for this community,” Tamez said.

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