Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

San Antonio Four visit UTSA for Women’s History Month

Three of the group members participated in a Q&A after the documentary screening. Ethan Pham, The Paisano

The San Antonio Four is a group of four Latina lesbians who were falsely accused of gang raping two young girls in the height of the satanic ritual panic in the early 90s. Anna Vasquez, Cassandra “Cassie” Rivera, Kristie “Kris” Mayhugh and Elizabeth “Liz” Ramirez were wrongfully convicted of this horrific crime. Their trial was rampant with homophobia.

Last week, the group visited UTSA to discuss their documentary, “Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four.”

The event was part of UTSA’s women’s history month and was hosted by the women’s studies program and the intro to LGBTQ studies class.

After the film screening, Rivera, Mayhugh and Ramirez hosted a Q&A.

“We’ve pretty much just been living life and sharing our story,” Ramirez said. “We’ve visited cities, town and places, making people aware of what happened to us.”

The women have visited prisons and law schools, discussing the documentary and their recent exoneration.

“We want people to be knowledgeable of the situations we went through and that others are going through,” Rivera said. “There are so many people who are incarcerated for stuff they did not do.”

The women’s nightmare began in 1994 when Ramirez’s two nieces (age seven and nine at the time) accused them of sexually assaulting them during a week they spent at their aunt’s apartment. The girl’s father, who had been rejected romantically by Ramirez, disapproved of her being a lesbian.

Years later, one of the girls recanted, and admitted her father planted the ideas in their head. None of the accusations were true. According to the San Antonio Four, their lesbianism and junk science was brought up during the trial to depict them as sexually deviant criminals.

Ramirez (sentenced to 37 and a half years) and the other women (sentenced to 15 years), discussed surviving nearly 15 years in prison knowing they were innocent.

“I told her (a fellow inmate) ‘you know what, I am scared,’ and that is just not something you tell someone,” Ramirez said.

For all the women, their faith in God was crucial to remaining positive and persevering. During their time in the prison, they all reached out to people and organizations they knew to try and get their story heard and clear their names.

Their glimmer of hope came through Darrell Otto, who taught a small college in the Yukon Territory in Canada and worked with The Innocence Project. The case seemed off to Otto, so he began to investigate.

“You have to tell yourself everything is going to be okay,” Rivera said. “All of a sudden, by the grace of God, a man named Darrell Otto from Canada was interested in us. He opened up our case, and he found the truth.”

According to Rivera the transition into civilian life after over a decade in prison was very different for the women, who have since adjusted. Since their exoneration, the women have experienced an outpouring of support.

“We don’t experience any kind of discrimination now,” Rivera said. “When people see us, they tell us they are happy for us. I think everything has been so positive…we’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback and attention. It’s an amazing world right now; we didn’t expect that.”

The event ended with offerings from the hosting class, which included poetry and a drag performance by student and local drag queen Serene Fantasea.

The documentary is available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes. To follow the women and upcoming events check out the documentary’s Facebook page at

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