Latinas

Elva Alicia Medrano Rodriguez


By Jazmin Sanchez, California State University, Fullerton

When loved ones go to war, it is not easy for those who are left behind. Religious faith helps some endure the experience.

Elva Alicia Medrano Rodriguez's brother, Camilo, served in the Vietnam War and rarely sent letters home. To cope with her brother’s absence, Rodriguez, a vocational nurse, turned to prayer and focused on her work with terminal patients.

Margaret Juárez Gómez


By the Voces staff

Margaret J. Gómez credits her early political awareness to her father. He was a Mexican immigrant with little education, but he closely followed political and world events.

“He read the newspaper from cover to cover every day,” she said. “A lot of times, he knew a lot more about what was going on in the world than I did, so when I got home from work, he would talk to me about what was going on."

Iris Galvan


By Rebecca Chavoya

An old Hispanic man pushed a tamale cart down the streets of Rosenberg, Texas, in 1974. Iris Galvan, 18-year-old high school student and member of Juventud Unida, approached him with a warm, welcoming demeanor.

“Have you ever thought about voting?” she said. “You have a right to vote. You are a citizen of this country.” 

The man shrugged off her suggestion, saying that he knew his voice didn’t matter. “I don’t speak very good English,” he said.

Felicita Munguia Arriaga


By Hope Teel

In 1959, Felicita Munguia Arriaga was a 12-year-old accompanying her mother to the polls, where the older woman planned to cast her vote for a man named Joe Hubenak.

Very few Hispanics were voting during that time for various reasons, including fear and illiteracy, but because she worked for Hubenak and his wife, Jesusa Munguia and her husband had agreed to go vote for him.

Ernestine Mojica Kidder


By Haley Dawson

Ernestine Mojica Kidder vividly recalls one of her earliest memories as a young child in Taylor, Texas. Her father lifted her into his arms and pointed to a schoolhouse in the distance. “That’s where you’re going to school as soon as you’re old enough,” she remembers him saying. “When you’re 6, you’re gonna go to school.”

A child of the World War II era and a woman of the Civil Rights era, MojicaKidder was among the first Hispanic women for whom a higher education became both a possibility and a reality.

Alma Hernandez Salinas


By Estefanía de León

Alma Salinas, a lifelong Democrat, switched to the nascent Raza Unida Party in the 1970s. A native of Pearsall, Texas, Salinas used to take Mexican Americans to the polls on election days. But it seemed the Democratic Party, which the community supported, was doing little to improve their lives.

"We thought going to vote would make a difference, but then we found out that the ones sitting in the Democratic chair have the say so you can't go further," said Salinas, who is now 82.

Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza


By Megan Breckenridge

Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza became the first minority district clerk of Travis County in 1991 and only the second minority woman to hold that position in the whole country. She went on to serve for 24 years, championing the causes of Latina women, women's health and the arts.

She launched her career in politics as a 24-year-old in 1970, when she ran for president of the Mexican American Youth Organization. She finished second behind Paul Velez, but that was enough to make her vice president.

Antonia Santana


By Cindy Tapia, California State University, Fullerton

When you think about heroes, people that left everything they had to fight a war, you usually think about strong, buff men. But women also have served in the military along side of men.

One such woman was Antonia Santana.

Santana was raised in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. As a young girl she lived with her parents, five sisters, two brothers and her two grandmothers. She said 11 people living under the same roof was not as chaotic as one would think.

Lupe Uresti


By Shelby Custer

In December of 1975, Guadalupe Arredondo Uresti, a 31-year-old homemaker, spoke at a kick-off rally for the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project in the old Civic Center of Rosenberg, southwest of Houston.

Uresti, who also devoted time to working in her father's furniture business, remembered exhorting her Mexican American neighbors to register and to vote - to make their voices and needs heard. Even though she trembled with nervousness, she made an impression.

Velia Erlinda Sanchez-Ruiz


By Rachel Hill

Voter participation was always a priority for former gym teacher Velia Sanchez-Ruiz, who grew up under segregation in Texas. Sanchez-Ruiz, who was 71 at the time of her interview, recalled what life was like as she grew up in of Lockhart, Texas, 30 miles southeast of Austin, during that period. She was born in 1942, one of seven children born to Cruz Garcia-Sanchez and Adela Mayo-Sanchez, a civil servant that worked at Bergstrom Air Force Base and a homemaker. They lived on the Mexican and African-American side of the city.