San Benito

Roberto De la Cruz


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

When military recruiters showed up at the local Post Office in early August of 1942, Roberto De la Cruz saw it as a ticket out of the Rio Grande Valley, an escape from a lonely laborious life in South Texas.

So when a recruiter asked the 15-year-old how old he was, De la Cruz said he had just turned 18 on August 5.

A day or two later, De la Cruz and one other San Benito guy, Jerry Tarwater, were on a train headed for Houston, to get their Navy physicals.

Carlos Pena


By Melissa Watkins

Carlos Peña's mother, Natividad, used to say the only time Anglos came around their little farm near San Benito, Texas, was when they needed another football player or when there was a war.

Guadalupe Huerta Conde


By Brooke West

Even after 58 years of marriage, Guadalupe "Lupe" Conde still serenades his wife, Maria, on some nights. It was Maria, he says, who restored the sense of peace he lost in battle in North Africa and Italy.

Conde’s life hasn’t been an easy one: His mother died when he was a child, he quit school in the fourth grade to work in the fields and he entered the service before Pearl Harbor, unaware of the impending war. The horrors he witnessed exacted a toll on him, manifesting itself in a "nervous condition" that, at the time, had no treatment.

Elena Tamez De Peña


By Jaime Margolis

When Elena De Peña was growing up, her parents emphasized the importance of a good education. Her father was a mechanic and her mother ran a grocery store in San Benito, Texas; De Peña said they set a good example for her and her siblings.

Born Elena Tamez, she and her sister Rosa wanted to be nurses after they graduated from high school, and their mother insisted they follow their dreams. They attended George Peabody University in Tennessee, where they received training in public health.