Political & Civic Engagement

Blandina Cardenas Flores


By the Voces Staff

Former University of Texas-Pan American president Blandina “Bambi” Cardenas Flores found her life’s purpose at a very early age: working to provide quality education to students, no matter their ethnicity or their economic status.

Over a long career that included positions in government and education, Cardenas Flores helped pioneer efforts toward equal opportunity in the K-12 system and higher education. She eventually became the first Latina president of a University of Texas System institution.

Eleazar M. Lugo


By Anusha Lalani

As the son of migrant farm workers, Eleazar Lugo might not have seemed a likely leader of a six-week school walkout in Uvalde, Texas. But in April of 1970, only a few weeks before his high school graduation and with a great deal at risk, Lugo accepted a key role in the walkout, which would have a lasting effect on him and on the school system.

Vilma Martinez


By Carlos Devora

From working as a lawyer to serving as president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund to being appointed ambassador to Argentina, Vilma Martinez has been a trailblazer.

Her work has helped bring down discriminatory laws and expand the political power of Latinos.

She has accomplished this even in the face of racial and gender discrimination.

Olga Muñoz Rodriguez


By the Voces Staff

When the Uvalde High School walkout began in April 1970, Olga Muñoz Rodriquez was a young mother working for the telephone company. While her son was not yet in school, she knew from experience the discrimination that Mexican-American students faced, so she joined the protest.

The walkout fueled her commitment to civil rights, which would lead to her becoming a community leader, radio commentator and newspaper publisher in Uvalde, which is about 80 miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas.

Elvia O. Pérez


By the Voces staff

Elvia Pérez’s senior year in high school was turned upside down when she joined a student walkout to protest the firing of a popular Hispanic teacher.

Pérez, then 17, had been a top student. She had won a community citizenship award and had heard she might be chosen as valedictorian of her class of 1970 at Uvalde High School. But once she joined the walkout, she became a radical agitator in the eyes of the school board in the town about 85 miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas.

Josué "George" Garza


By Taylor Gantt

In 1970, George Garza was a popular middle school teacher in Uvalde, Texas. But when the school board repeatedly declined to renew his contract, he became a central figure in a six-week school walkout that changed the small town for generations.

These days, Garza downplays his own part in the walkout.

Alfredo R. Santos


By Brigit Benestante

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, Alfredo Santos was ashamed of his ethnicity.

“I didn’t like being a Mexican,” he said. “I was embarrassed, I guess, to be a Mexican.”

Sergio Porras


By Chris Touma

Two years before Sergio Porras received his draft notice to serve in the Vietnam War, he was marching in the streets of Uvalde, Texas, with hundreds of other Mexican-American high school students.

It wasn’t war or the draft they were protesting. The students of Uvalde High were fed up with discrimination in the town’s public school system.

Uvalde, 86 miles southwest of San Antonio, was divided by railroad tracks. Whites lived in the northern section of town; the Hispanics, south of the tracks.

Olga Tobías Charles


By Voces Staff

In the spring of 1970, Olga Charles was a senior at Uvalde High School in South Texas. With just a few weeks before graduation, she was preparing to follow her mother’s career advice: Go to business school and become a bookkeeper, like her Aunt Julia.

José Aguilera


By Brigit Benestante

As a high school student in South Texas, José Aguilera participated in a six-week walkout that was ultimately unsuccessful and resulted in him leaving school. Yet he has no regrets: The experience defined him as someone who would stand up to the discrimination he had witnessed and felt.

“[The walkout] defined me as a person. I am really proud of that,” he wrote to the Voces Oral History Project.