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Hispanic Heritage Month: Women shaping Amarillo

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This is National Hispanic Heritage month.  Over the coming weeks, the Amarillo Globe-News will be telling the stories of prominent leaders in the Amarillo Hispanic community.

Lilia Escajeda

LiliaEscajeda is an Amarillo City County Member.  The 71-year-old is originally from El Paso. 

“I do think we have a story to tell, and that is we’re part of the fabric of this country, especially in the southwest,” says Escajeda, “Some of our forebearers were here before it became a United States of America, and our culture obviously is interwoven in everything, including food and language.”

She says a lot changed with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“We weren’t allowed to eat in public places, just like the African-American community. There were boundaries. When I started working in the ’60s, there were no Hispanics visible in the office — maybe working in the back office, but not the front.  As my mom recalls it, when they first moved here, I have two little brothers, and they wouldn’t cut little Mexicans’ hair.  She finally found a barber that would cut my little brother’s hair.”

Maria Lamino Fields

Fields was described as a “guiding force in the founding of Wesley Community Center,” in a 1985 Amarillo Globe-News article. 

Fields was born in Rio Cuarto, Argentina, moved to Amarillo, and married M.P. Fields, a representative of International Harvester Corp.

She was bilingual.  She understood the needs to the Spanish-speaking people living in an English-speaking country.  She was an interpreter, organized the members of the Women’s Society for Christian Service to teach sewing and cooking to the Hispanic community, and together with Dr. George Waddill started a baby clinic until the health department took over. 

Fields then took action to secure a center that would meet the needs of the Hispanic community.  She even saved her money to invest in the project.  The result was the Wesley Community Center which is open to all nationalities and faith backgrounds, but the focus remains on the Hispanic Community.

Fields died Feb. 2, 1985 in Hereford.

More of the story about Escajeda and Fields is available from the Amarillo Globe-News.