Latinas

Beatrice Amado Kissinger


By Amanda Traphagan

World War II gave Beatrice Amado Kissinger a ticket out of her small-town life in southern Arizona and into the big city adventure of serving as a Navy nurse in San Francisco.

When the United States entered the war, Kissinger was a nursing student at a Catholic school -- and tired of the discipline.

Anna Torres Vazquez


By Callie Jenschke

Unlike many other Latino World War II veterans who often found themselves in a minority during their military service, Roberto Vazquez says he seldom felt the brunt of discrimination as a soldier in his division, where he was one of 7,000 Hispanics fighting shoulder to shoulder against the German army.

Placida Peña Barrera


By: Emily Burgess

Placida P. Barrera vividly remembers her childhood days in the dry heat of Guerra, Texas, also known as "El Colorado" Ranch, where she’d help her father plant corn, pumpkins and watermelon.

Just as clearly, she recalls traveling thousands of miles and hundreds of hours across land and water with her husband, Air Force Sgt. Raymundo M. Barrera, and their six children.

Two of the children were born in Japan, and Barrera also lived in Korea, where her husband was an adviser to the Korean troops.

Carmen Conteras Bozak


By Katie Kennon

Carmen Bozak's only memory of Dec. 7, 1941 -- the day Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese -- is of a good friend and co-worker being stranded after her date heard about the attack on the car radio. The woman's date stopped the car in the middle of nowhere and told her to get out because he had to return to his base.

A policeman picked up Bozak's friend from a rural Virginia road and drove her to a nearby Salvation Army office, where she was given a bus ticket home to Washington, D.C.

Ester Arredondo Perez


By Whitney Mizer

Eighty-two-year-old San Antonio resident Ester Arredondo Perez always worked hard to accomplish her goals, whether they were traveling the world or becoming the first Latino high school graduate in Fort Bend County, Texas.

Elena Peña Gallego


By Lindsay Peyton

While scores of Latinos valiantly served their country amid discrimination during World War II, many -- such as Elena Gallego of Fort Stockton, Texas -- fought social battles on the homefront.

The wife of a WWII veteran, Gallego remembers prejudice in her hometown: Among other restrictions, the public swimming pool and certain sections of the park and library were off limits to Hispanics, signs in restaurants reading: "No Dogs Allowed" applied to Latinos, and they were only allowed on the upper balcony of the movie theater.

Emma Villareal Hernandez


By Adrienne M. Cody

One needn't go further than Emma Hernandez’s own family, well-known in their community of Pharr, Texas, for their humanitarian efforts, to understand why she has devoted her life to civic service.

Felicitas Joyce Cerda Flores


By Kendra Mayer

Education is said to open the door to opportunity, and Felicitas Flores, who has led an exceptional life, all the while using education as her key to success, knows this well.

María Elisa Reyes Rodríguez


By Cheryl Smith

Seventy-seven-year-old María Elisa Reyes Rodriguez isn’t shy about opening her mouth when something's not right. As a Mexican American woman and former employee of the United States Civil Service, she has developed strong opinions about her country, discrimination and the relationship between the two.

"We're in America, and everybody has to be treated equally," Reyes Rodriguez said. "But if you don't have the guts to speak out for yourself, nobody's gonna do it for you."

Josephine Kelly Ledesma Walker


By Monica Rivera

When she was being trained as an airplane mechanic in the 1940s, Josephine Ledesma was the only woman in her training group. Later, as an airplane mechanic at Bergstrom Air Field, she was one of three women out of her seven-person workgroup.

One typical scenario was having several people working on one plane.

"You had people working on the electric part, on the hydraulic part, on the engine," said Ledesma during an interview at her home. "I happened to work on the fuselage, the body of the plane."