San Antonio

Leno Flores Díaz

By Kathy Adams

As an immigrant from Juarez, Mexico, living in East Los Angeles in the ’20s and ’30s, Leno Flores Díaz remembers going to school in hand-me-downs and feeling ostracized when the teachers anglicized his name.

“They had all kinds of names. They never could pronounce my name. … It was discrimination, racism,” said Díaz, adding later in writing that whenever there was trouble at school, he was always called to the office as a suspect.

Wilhelmina Cooremans Vasquez

By Kim Loop

Sisters Wilhelmina Cooremans Vasquez, 79, and Delfina Cooremans Baladez, 81, have done nearly everything together throughout their lives, including joining the workforce during World War II.

In early 1942, when the United States was mobilizing to join the war in Europe and the Pacific, the two sisters were eager to help.

Sara Frances Garcia Valenzuela

By Jessica Eaglin

Sara Valenzuela’s strong work ethic has remained a mainstay throughout her life.

On July 31, 1924, Sara Frances Garcia was born in the small town of Edna, Texas – the first child of eight – to Henry Andrew Garcia, a mechanic, and Mary Cisneros Garcia, a homemaker.

"I was the leader of my family," Valenzuela said. "I had to be the example in my family and my role was to help my mother."

She grew up during World War II, a point in United States history that significantly changed American life, particularly for women.

Hermenejildo Salas

By Shaun L. Swegman

Hermi Salas was an 18-year-old private in the Marine Corps when he boarded the ship that took him from his homeland and into the war. It was Dec. 6, 1943, almost two years to the day from the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought America into World War II.

Private Salas; who was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion of the 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Corps Division; waited on a ship for three weeks as backup for men fighting on Saipan. Then, three days after D-Day, July 21, 1944, the military sent him to his first campaign on Guam.

Alfred Q. Valenzuela

By E.J. Urbanczyk

Alfred Valenzuela was an 18-year-old sailor in 1943 when he found his older brother in Hawaii.

Valenzuela recalled looking for Claudio, eight years his senior, at Schofield Barracks, a United States installation.

“He [Claudio] was very surprised when he saw me: this 18-year-old kid, the youngest one of the family, in front of his barracks … asking for him,” Valenzuela recalled.

Telesfora Barbara Gonzales Gonzalez

By Emily Cox

Florence Gonzales Gonzalez set a strong example for her siblings and coworkers throughout her life with her hard work and efforts toward perfection.

“I became a Mrs. how-you-do-it,” said Gonzalez, recalling how she took care of her siblings.

Edward Frazer

By Kathleen Bily

Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Edward Frazer’s first teacher thought he was mentally disabled because he spoke only Spanish. But during his World War II service in the Philippines, that Spanish became one of his best assets.

“I found Spanish useful in all my jobs, for helping people and as a means of learning a livelihood,” Frazer said. “In the Army, I would even help soldiers write love letters.”

Amos Pacheco

By Eunmi Christina Lee

One September night in 1942, Amos Pacheco and Gloria Robles both happened to be at Bergs Mill Platform, a San Antonio, Texas, dancehall with a music box and bar.

“I was dancing with this other girl and she said, ‘I’m too old for you; go dance with her.’ So I went up to her and she was a little girl, 14 years old with pigtails and with white socks,” recalled Pacheco of seeing his wife for the first time when he was 16 years old. “I didn’t know how to dance very well, but I asked her to dance and that’s where the trouble started.”

Joe Bernal

By Erin Peterson

Minorities living in Texas owe Joe Bernal a favor. As a first-term State Representative from San Antonio’s West Side during the 1960s, Bernal’s first bill aimed to wipe discrimination laws off the books.

At a time of heated political debate regarding racial tensions wrapped around the country, he not only actively sought out change, but ushered in that change.

Refugio Miguel Vasquez

One Valentine's Day, Mike Vasquez knocked on the door to the Cooremans' house with three boxes of chocolates for the daughters still living at home. Fourteen-year-old Wilhelmina, the youngest, answered the door. She was so shocked to discover the biggest box was for her she slammed the door and left Mike outside until her mother reminded her of her manners. Though Wilhelmina was too young for a relationship, the two kept in contact.