StoryCorps opened in Oklahoma City to a windy autumn morning in front of the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall. Oklahomans welcomed us warmly even though the weather kept it a little chilly in the Booth.
Mary Sosa and her daughter Stephanie Armstrong came to the MobileBooth through our partnership with the Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma, an organization that helps develop active communities through leadership training and grant assistance. Stephanie was most interested to find out what her mom was like before she became the president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association: “Were you a troublemaker as a child?”
Mary described herself as a headstrong girl: “I had my opinions and I voiced them. They weren’t always well received and it would get me into a lot of trouble. My mom used to say in Spanish ‘Ay, Maryita, que boca tan dulce tienes.’ I was always talking smack or saying things that perhaps I wasn’t supposed to be saying. I was always questioning why things were the way they were.”
Mary’s attitude got her in trouble with one teacher in particular when she was caught speaking Spanish at school. “We had to speak only English even when were at the playground.” Mary’s teacher spanked her as a punishment and told her that if she spoke Spanish she would amount to nothing.
Despite that confrontation – or maybe because of it – Mary didn’t change her mind: “I refused to never speak Spanish. I was determined to speak my language come hell or high water. I was gonna do it, and I did. And I’m glad I did, even though it did hurt when they spanked me.”
As an adult, Mary has no regrets about her rebellious youth. In fact, Mary sometimes thinks back on her old teacher and wonders what she would think of her now: “Every now and then I think about it and I say boy, I wish she could see me right now and see all the achievements that I’ve accomplished by keeping my language.”