Latinas

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.

Carmen García-Rosado


By Eduardo Miranda, California State University, Fullerton

While World War II was underway thousands of miles away, Carmen García Rosado, a young schoolteacher who lived in Caguas, Puerto Rico, saw in a local newspaper that the U.S. Army wanted to recruit Puerto Rican women to support the war effort.

Rita Abeytia Brock-Perini


By Ben Wermund

As a captain in the U.S. Air Force Nursing Corps, Rita Brock-Perini provided care to thousands of soldiers, as well as guidance to hundreds of nurses in the largest Air Force hospital in the United States during the bloodiest years of the Vietnam War.

Some of the soldiers, who were often drafted right out of high school, had suffered severe physical and psychological wounds. Caring for them took a toll on the younger nurses at the hospital, Brock-Perini recalled.

Berta Parra


By Rachel Taliaferro

Berta Parra’s memory is slipping away from her.

People, places, names, dates – as she sat in an armchair at the Ambrosio Guillen Texas State Veterans Home, in her native city of El Paso, she worked through the gaps to tell her story. Despite the haze of a fading memory, a few images stood resilient in her mind – ironically, the images Parra had tried the hardest to forget.

Maria Cristina Parra


By Adrienne Lee

Maria Cristina [Pozos] Parra knows few details about World War II outside the stories her husband, Ambrosio Parra, chose to tell her, and a wound on his foot that left him in pain for the rest of his life. As she put it: “He told me a little bit, but he didn’t like to talk about [it].

Maria Pozos and Ambrosio Parra met in the mid-1940s at Randolph Air Force Base – located in Universal City, Texas, just outside San Antonio – when her supervisor asked her to escort Ambrosio, the new employee, to the base’s machine shop. Five years later, they got married.

Guadalupe Rodriguez Flores


By Jeffrey McWhorter

Morning broke as the train rolled into Texarkana, Texas.

“Now don’t close your eyes,” the porter admonished a 22-year-old Bertha Flores, “because we’re getting close … and we’ll pass it real fast.”

For the past twenty-four hours, the eager young woman had asked the porter the same question every hour: “Where are we?” And each time she received the same patient reply, “Still in Texas.”

Wilhelmina Cooremans Vasquez


By Kim Loop

Sisters Wilhelmina Cooremans Vasquez, 79, and Delfina Cooremans Baladez, 81, have done nearly everything together throughout their lives, including joining the workforce during World War II.

In early 1942, when the United States was mobilizing to join the war in Europe and the Pacific, the two sisters were eager to help.

Sara Frances Garcia Valenzuela


By Jessica Eaglin

Sara Valenzuela’s strong work ethic has remained a mainstay throughout her life.

On July 31, 1924, Sara Frances Garcia was born in the small town of Edna, Texas – the first child of eight – to Henry Andrew Garcia, a mechanic, and Mary Cisneros Garcia, a homemaker.

"I was the leader of my family," Valenzuela said. "I had to be the example in my family and my role was to help my mother."

She grew up during World War II, a point in United States history that significantly changed American life, particularly for women.

María Isabel Solís Thomas


By Aaan Zukowski

María Isabel Solis Thomas remembers the day as if it were yesterday: She and her sister, Elvia, are standing on a dock at a Richmond, Calif., shipyard, waving goodbye to sailors boarding American ships destined for battle during World War II.

Thomas recalls a young sailor asking for one of her tiny cross earrings. Not one to part easily with any of her jewelry, Thomas remembers Elvia’s shock when she gladly removed the earring and gave it to the sailor as a going-away memento -- even though she’d never see the sailor again.

Carmen B. Salaiz Esqueda Abalos


By Kenneth Cantu

Back when Rosie the Riveter was proclaiming to women all across the U.S., “We Can Do It!” Carmen (Salaiz) Esqueda Abalos proved it.

Her husband, Mike, having enlisted in the Navy, Abalos joined the war effort by working in the Kennecott mine in Santa Rita, N.M., taking a job that once belonged to a man.

“They were doing a job over there, and so they had to have a replacement over here,” said Abalos, who at the time was only 21 years old and had a young baby named Mike Jr. “[We were] just looking forward to them coming home.”