Civil Rights

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.

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.

George J Korbel


By Vinicio Sinta

For George Joseph Korbel, going back to Pearsall, Texas, a city about 55 miles southwest of San Antonio, unearthed memories of a time when Mexican American and black Texans were almost completely excluded from the political process.

"When I drove into town, I just felt cold. This was such an awful place, just an awful place," said the veteran civil rights attorney, who has fought for minority voting rights in Texas for more than four decades.

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.

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.

Raymond Phile Alvarado


By Mary Margaret Tobin

It was Nov. 26, 1943, and Pvt. Raymond Alvarado played poker with his buddies on the HMT Rohna as it sailed along the coast of Algeria. The soldiers were relaxed. They chatted about their wives and girlfriends back home, about the smells of home-cooked Thanksgiving meals, about the comfort of a real bed.

Alvarado remembered he was dealt a good hand. “I had a dead man’s hand: aces and queens.” Little did he know that a few hours later the reality of death would be all around him.

Angel Zavala


By Andie Salazar

Between April 1944 and December 1945, Angel Zavala experienced everything from seeing the architecture of England and the islands of the South Pacific to nightly bombings and a searing sun at sea.

What was a 22-year-old from Coupland, Texas, who enjoyed softball and the song “Las Cuatro Milpas,” doing half a world away from home?

Fighting in World War II.

Joe Henry Lazarine


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

Joe Henry Lazarine’s interview is more of a conversation between two old friends than a question and answer session. After all, Lazarine was raised in Beeville, and so was interviewer Eloy Rodriguez, the son of one of Lazarine’s longtime compadres.

According to U.S. census data, Beeville’s population is approximately 12,680. It’s the largest city in Bee County, part of a region of South Texas rich in segregation history, so it’s not surprising these two Mexican Americans know each other well.

Alejandro Paiz Garza


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

When Alejandro P. Garza got called up for the war, he was working in a Houston shipyard as a welder. Garza was 18, and, the year before, had dropped out of A.C. Jones High School in his hometown of Beeville, Texas, to help his family out.

Luis Alfonso Diaz de León


By Julia Bulhon

“War is horrible, but it helps you grow,” said Navy veteran Luis Diaz de León, of witnessing conflict’s brutality first hand.

As if that weren’t enough, Diaz de León has also withstood racism, earned a master’s degree, raised a family and campaigned for a United States Senate seat within his lifetime.

Still a teenager, he entered the Navy on March 2, 1944. His rank: Quartermaster.