Education

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.

Yolanda T Trevino


By Stacie Richard

When Yolanda Treviño graduated from Pearsall High School in 1959, she was determined to make her life elsewhere. The racism of the small town was too confining.

"I left Pearsall because of the racism," said Treviño. "I just couldn't stomach it. I wasn't coming back… Education was my way out."

Juan Martinez


By Meredith Barnhill

Juan Martinez, Jr. is the embodiment of the patriotism Mexican Americans demonstrated during his time in the Army.

Born Nov. 20, 1922, in El Paso, Texas, to Juan Martinez, Sr. and Sebastiana Valdez Martinez, he grew up speaking both Spanish and English. Though both of his parents were from Mexico, he identifies himself as “American,” not “Mexican-American.”

Martinez was the third of five children and the only boy. The entire clan practiced Catholicism and attended church at least once a week at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in El Paso.

Raymond Garcia


By Andres Salinas

Raymond Garcia, a proud Mexican-American who grew up in a small, segregated Texas town, enlisted in the U.S. Army to help support his family and to help his country. He fought as a heavy machinegun specialist during the Vietnam War.

Henry Oyama


By Lauren Harrity, California State University, Fullerton

After growing up in a Spanish-speaking Japanese-American family in Tucson, Arizona, Henry "Hank" Oyama went on to be a tireless supporter of bilingual education for American children.

Oyama always felt more Hispanic than Japanese-American. His mother, Mary Matsushima, was raised in Mexico and spoke primarily Spanish; his father, Henry Heihachiro Oyama, died shortly before he was born. His neighborhood friends were mostly Hispanic.

"Tucson was like a small Mexican town at this time," Oyama said.

Jesus Esparza Muñoz


By David Pearl, Cal State Fullerton

Jesus "Jess" Esparza Muñoz emerged from a fragmented and impoverished family to live a version of the American Dream, including a stint in the U.S. Navy that allowed him to travel the world.

Vicenta Sanchez Lopez


By Mary Mejia

In 1938, Vicenta Sanchez Lopez became the first Mexican American woman to graduate from her high school in her predominantly Anglo home town of Sonora, Texas, about 200 miles west of Austin. Just one year earlier, the first Mexican American man graduated from Sonora High School.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, she said, Anglos controlled Sonora and discriminated against minorities.

Adan Daniel "Dan" Arellano


By Jennifer Monsees

Once a migrant worker, Dan Arellano became a realtor; once a struggling student he turned into an author. Arellano had a way of taking life’s difficult lessons and making the most of them.

The Navy veteran used the discrimination he experienced as a Mexican American to fuel his desire to teach history so that others do not repeat the mistakes.

Gloria Lerma Rodriguez


By Stephanie M. Jacksis

The United States should have let the Vietnamese fight their own battle during the Vietnam War, said Gloria Lerma Rodriguez.

Among many other bizarre aspects of the war, which left many “mentally disturbed,” Lerma Rodriguez said, American soldiers at times slept with allies and enemies in the same foxhole.

“It was terrible, using innocent children with grenades hidden under their clothes. Very unjust. Thanks to God it’s over,” she said.

Angela A. Vela


By Veronica Rosalez

Growing up in Austria, Angela Vela had a front-row seat to the effects Hitler and World War II had on Europe. But in a time when fear and turmoil plagued the country, Vela was fortunate enough to find something very different – love.