SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio African-American Community Archive and Museum (SAACAM) now has a traditional Mexican ofrenda in its courtyard to pay tribute to the life of civil rights leader and respected educator Dorothy Price Collins.
Teresa Van Hoy, professor of history at St. Mary’s University, said SAAACAM contacted her about putting up an ofrenda, or altar, in memory of Collins.
Several of her students Friday morning adorned the ofrenda with candles, marigolds and items symbolizing Collins’ commitment to education and civil rights.
Collins, a longtime educator in the Edgewood Independent School District, died last April at the age of 90.
As a lifetime member of the NAACP, Collins was known for helping desegregate a whites-only restaurant inside what had been the landmark Joske’s Department Store in downtown San Antonio.
Terri Williams said her godmother participated in “protest activities or sit-in activities that, you know, that actually tried to move the needle.”
Collins, who had been a teacher at Winston Elementary and a principal at Las Palmas Elementary, was also known for her devotion to her students, the most famous being the legendary singer Gloria Estefan.
Armeania Hudspeth, a lifelong friend, said Collins was asked back then why she was spending so much time helping the first-grader who didn’t speak English.
Hudspeth said Collins told them, “Because this is a child that is working hard to get to a different place than where she’s been.”
In a 2013 KSAT interview, ahead of Estefan’s performance in San Antonio, Collins said of Estefan, “She was a shy little girl, but I was so proud of her picking up so quickly.”
That once “shy little girl” who became an international star and her first-grade teacher formed a lifelong bond, Hudspeth said.
She said Estefan would call Collins every year to sing her “Happy Birthday.”
The last time, Hudspeth said, was two weeks before Collins died.
Hudspeth recalled a tribute sent by Estefan for the funeral that said, “Mrs. Collins was the one who pushed her and kept encouraging her to do more. Even when other people did not see that, Mrs. Collins did.”
Hudspeth said, “(Collins) took an interest in all of her students, and Gloria Estefan was the benefit of that.”
A photo taken when Estefan returned to San Antonio shows the famed singer smiling, sitting next to her beaming first-grade teacher of years ago.
“That’s who she was,” Hudspeth said.
The ofrenda for Collins includes the photo of Collins and Estefan; a bottle of her favorite soda, Coca-Cola; and other reminders of her life.
“What an honor,” her goddaughter said. “She would be delighted.”