Political & Civic Engagement

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

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.

Emily Matilda Martinez Alvarado


By Jasmine Powell

Emily Martinez Alvarado never served her country in the military. She served it at home, as one of the thousands involved in the Chicano movement, by way of the Crusade for Justice, and as an important civil rights activist during the Vietnam War era.

Emily Matilda Martinez was born on Feb. 18, 1935, in Taos County, N.M. She moved with her family to Taos as a baby. When she was three, her parents separated. They divorced two years later. She was their only child. Both later re-married and had more children.

Charlie Ericksen


By Jordan Strassner

Charlie Ericksen spent most of his adult life creating a strong bond with Mexican-Americans, writing news stories and columns about them, and advocating for better treatment for that community.

Mary Espiritu


By Rebecca Millner

In more than 40 years of service, Mary Espiritu De Leon received at least 45 awards and honors, recognizing her commitment to San Antonio's Latino community, and especially its women.

Her role as a spokeswoman and advocate grew out of her own struggle to succeed as a professional Latina at a time when her ethnicity and gender were considered strikes against her.

"I always wanted better for myself than just being a mother and a housewife," Espiritu said. "I wanted a good job, to move ahead and improve myself, regardless of whether I was a Latina."

Teresa Lozano Long


By Lindsay Fitzpatrick

Growing up on her parents’ dairy farm in South Texas, Teresa Lozano Long learned the importance of education and philanthropy early in life.

“My parents believed that you went to school everyday,” Lozano Long said. “The best report card was one with zero number of absent days.”

She recalls her parents’ dedication to the education of not only herself and her two brothers, but also the children of their employees at the farm.

Jack Greenberg


By Samantha Gallion

Jack Greenberg had been working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 17 years in 1966, when he received repeated requests from Mexican Americans and Native Americans.

“We had a great deal of success with civil rights cases, and people who we ordinarily didn’t represent came to us asking us to represent them,” Greenberg said.