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Fronteras: Chicano And Religious Activists Helped Pull San Antonio’s Barrios Out Of Addiction In The 1970s

The History Of ‘Huffing’ In San Antonio Barrios

News of inhalant abuse doesn’t make headlines like other addictive substances, but spray paint, glue and felt markers are among the easiest addictive substances to obtain. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that more than 684,000 young people aged 12 to 17 in the U.S. used inhalants in 2015. The numbers were highest among 12- and 13-year-olds.

Huffing became a nationwide concern from the 1960s to the 1980s and it took its toll in San Antonio’s West Side barrios. Legislation was attempted to curb abuse by cracking down on the “tecatos” — the junkies — and the businesses that sold spray paints and other dangerous inhalants.

But it wasn’t restrictions or law enforcement that pulled many barrio residents from addiction. It was members of the community including those associated with the Chicano movement.

Matthew Hinojosa, who recently received an M.A. in History from the University of Texas at San Antonio, discovered this community effort while conducting his own graduate research. He explored inhalant and drug abuse in the Alamo City from 1969 to 1980 and the role played by Chicano and religious activists in the path to recovery. What he discovered was an effort spearheaded by community activists who engaged with Texas legislators to tackle the issue of addiction.

“That was really a combination of efforts between community members, between mothers, families,” explained Hinojosa, “as well as Chicano activists and political radicals kind of working together to combat this issue that was facing barrio youth.”

Hinojosa says he hasn’t drank alcohol since 2015, which made his research topic of addiction a more personal matter. He is hopeful his research will expand when he begins his studies in August at Princeton University under the Ivy League university’s historian, Rosina Lozano.

Honduran Teen Seeks Refuge From Gangs, A Chance At Prosperity In U.S.

The unprecedented arrival of Central American children in recent months has highlighted the United States' complicated and overwhelmed immigration system. The pandemic forced licensed shelters to limit the number of children who could stay and federal officials opened several unlicensed temporary shelters.

Migrant teen Oscar made the difficult trek to the U.S. from Honduras to escape the gangs and pursue his dreams of being a pediatrician. An unaccompanied minor, his arrival in the U.S. was complicated by an order from Gov. Greg Abbott to yank state licenses for permanent shelter for these children.

KERA North Texas and the Dallas Morning News teamed up to tell the story of Oscar’s journey from his home country, to Texas and then to Indiana.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren