El Paso On May 20, 1969, Armando C. Hernandez’ mother, then a waitress in a drugstore lunch counter, received a letter from her son in prison at the Ellis Unit of Huntsville. The mother of four other children, all raised in El Paso’s southside ghetto, Mrs. Hernandez had long been separated from her husband. The letter from her son brightened an otherwise typically gray day. “I will never set foot inside prison walls again!” he wrote. Armando, 23, had been in and out of detention homes, jails, prisons. The 114121 offense had been car theft although, perhaps more exactly, it amounted to joyriding. He would take a car, drive it around town, abandon it. Then he was charged’ in a serious stabbing, an offense reduced to aggravated assault. The testimony implicating him was, at best, flimsy. Those who knew him, while not whitewashing him, claimed this was not his type of crime. He had a good heart. But he also had a record, and he was sentenced to a county jail term and a fine. Currently he was serving a three-year prison sentence for attempted escape. It was one of those surrealistic happenings which only the law can attempt to justify. Indicted for armed robbery of a drive-in store, he broke away along d court corridor and was downed by a former cop. The robbery accusation was dismissed, but he was now charged with attempted escape and sentenced to three years in prison. Thus he was serving time for having broken away at a time when since the charge that brought him into custody was dismissed he was being held without substantial reason. Mr. Rechy, an El Paso writer, will have his third book published next May, when Grove Press will release This Day’s Death. Mrs. Hernandez’ expectations were high, that May. Previous letters that month had expressed similar determination: “Please don’t lose your faith in me, believe me. . . . I’m tired of spending my life in these John Rechy dungeons. . . . I’m keeping my nose clean . trying to get out as fast as possible. . . . I was interviewed by a counselor. . . . I told him I wanted to be a mechanic. . . . I promise you you’ll have a house of your own.” True, other times, during other sentences, Armando had written of his intention not to be in trouble again. This time, however, it sounded convincing. There was the young girl he wanted to marry. It would all work. The optimistic attitude on Armando’s part was particularly encouraging in view of the fact that it was surviving a recent ruling by the Board of Pardons and Paroles that he must serve all his sentence. On May 27, Mrs. Hernandez wrote her December 5, 1969 Twenty-Five Cents A Journal of Free Voices A Window to the South The Texas Observer A Death at Huntsville
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