TX

Gonzalo Barrientos


By Ashley Mastervich

As one of the first Mexican Americans to represent Travis County in the Texas House of Representatives and Senate, Gonzalo Barrientos Jr. was part of the first wave of Latino officials who led the way for minority groups in local, state and national politics. Following the lead of his early role models, men like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Barrientos devoted his career as public official to challenging the inequalities he witnessed and endured in his youth.

James Ramirez


By Britini Shaw

James Ramirez remembers a time when Mexican- American communities held dances to pay for the poll tax in Austin. He would ask himself, "Why do people have to pay to vote when it's their constitutional right?"

By the time he was eligible to vote, at age 21, the federal government had outlawed the poll tax. But Ramirez saw that Mexican- American faced other hurdles when it came to voting and political participation. He dedicated his life to getting his community involved in campaigns to exercise their rights.

Antonio Becerra


By Martin do Nascimento

Antonio Becerra has always found a way to remain steadfast, persistent and determined in the face of adversity - first as a Mexican American growing up in rural Texas in the 1920s and '30s, then as a German prisoner of war and finally as a six-time political candidate - unsuccessful the first five times.

In his late 80s at the time of his interview, "Tony" Becerra was still living in his hometown of Rosenberg, 34 miles southwest of Houston.

Bob Perkins


By José Andrés Araiza

Bob Perkins spent 36 years as an elected judge in Travis County. Perkins attributes his strong ties to the Mexican-American community as one facet for his worldview; this group was his main base of support and proved to be decisive in his first run for office.

Perkins retired in 2010 from the 331st Criminal District Court, where he presided over numerous high profile cases against prominent elected officials. Perkins hopes his fair administration of these cases sent a message about a system that often favors the affluent.

Rosalio Rabbit Duran


By Katy Lutz

Rabbit's Lounge was a dimly-lit, tiny bar that boycotted Budweiser while serving up some of the coldest beer in Austin, Texas. It might have seemed a very unlikely candidate for the Austin hub of Chicano politics in the early 1970s - if one hadn't also met its indefatigable owner, Rosalio "Rabbit" Duran.

Duran was born to diehard Democrats, Ezequiel Duran and Eva Gonzalez Duran, on May 18, 1933, in Austin. As an adolescent, Duran gained his nickname "Rabbit" because of his incomparable running speed in youth sports.

Harriet Murphy

Raul Alviso Gutierrez

Paul Cedillo


By Vinicio Sinta

One evening during the early 1970s, a crowd much larger than the usual Latino activists who periodically met in Rosenberg, Texas, poured into the local A.W. Jackson Elementary School to listen to a speech by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

Paul Cedillo, an attorney and activist who first contacted Jordan about the disenfranchisement going on in his community, recalled the moment as a milestone for minority communities in the then-segregated Texas town.

Jordan's oratory was electrifying, as she talked to local Hispanics about changing the system.

Genaro V Lopez


By Simon Wagner, St. Bonaventure University

World War II "actually made a man out of me," Genaro V. Lopez told his son, Genaro, during their father-to-son interview for the Voces Oral History Project.

Born April 8, 1925, in Brownsville, Texas, to Manuel and Angela Velazco Lopez, Lopez was the middle child among four brothers and two sisters. His father drove a truck for a greengrocer and was known as "El Gallo" for his sideline as a cockfighter.

Lopez's father expected him to clean the roosters' cages.

Juan Mejia


By Frank Trejo

From childhood poverty in South Texas through the Battle of the Bulge, one of World War II's bloodiest conflicts, Juan Mejia proved he was a survivor.

Mejia's wartime experiences included being listed as missing-in-action for a time, but he said it never occurred to him that he might die.

"The closest I got was when a piece of shrapnel fell on me here on my coat," he said. "I just did this, brushed it off."