Racism

Eugenia González Alemán


By Joshua Barajas

As a spouse whose husband was stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War, Eugenia “Jennie” González Alemán couldn't just sit at home waiting for him to come back: She wrote letters for mortally wounded American servicemen.

"They would cry and would be hurting -- [men] of all ages,” Alemán recalled. “But I really got touched by the young ones, I guess, because I would think of my [younger] brother,” she said, referring to Domitilo A. Gonzales, an Air Force mechanic.

Paul Cedillo


By Vinicio Sinta

One evening during the early 1970s, a crowd much larger than the usual Latino activists who periodically met in Rosenberg, Texas, poured into the local A.W. Jackson Elementary School to listen to a speech by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

Paul Cedillo, an attorney and activist who first contacted Jordan about the disenfranchisement going on in his community, recalled the moment as a milestone for minority communities in the then-segregated Texas town.

Jordan's oratory was electrifying, as she talked to local Hispanics about changing the system.

Benny C. Martinez


By Jackie Rapp

 

Benny Martinez was born a helper.

 

He served as a medic in the Korean War. He taught unruly 6th graders. He once delivered a baby in the back seat of a car. He encourages kids to stay in school and pursue higher education.

 

“The best thing we can do here is to educate the children,” he said. “There’s nothing better.”

 

But when Martinez started the first grade in Goliad, Texas, in 1940, he hated school.

 

Alex J. Hernandez


By Tarrah Miller

“Baby killer!” were the words Alex Hernandez heard when he returned to the United States after 19 months in Vietnam, and he remembered it was a small boy, about 4 or 5 years old, who yelled them.

The Army veteran recalled that the child, at an airport in San Francisco, pointed his finger at him as his parents lingered in the background, laughing and egging him on.

“[Until] this day I think they were waiting for me to do something to that child. All I did was stared down the boy’s parents, and they grabbed him and left in a hurry,” Hernandez said.

Vidal Rubio


By Emily Macrander

As his personnel carrier (PC) drove along a rice field in 1966, Vidal Rubio snapped a photo of the convoy. It was a rare moment of quiet for him in the hectic early years of the Vietnam War.

Suddenly, the tenth vehicle in the line hit a landmine.

Rubio and the other men in his truck were thrown from their seats. The men wondered: Who was hit? How badly damaged were the PCs?

Medical personnel were in the armored personnel carrier that hit the landmine. The explosion was so powerful that it threw the PC onto the PC behind it.

Uriel Robles Bañuelos


By Stephanie De Luna

At around 1 a.m. on Jan. 10, 1969, gunner Uriel “Ben” Bañuelos and other soldiers were roused from their sleep at Fire Support Base Pershing, 40-50 miles northwest of Saigon.

Bañuelos and the other men were in an underground bunker. He remembered it was a hot night. Bañuelos got up and put on his helmet and his jacket. He later said they probably saved his life.

Joe Villa


By Ashley Hord

As an Army veteran, Joe Villa has experienced his ups and down throughout life. From coming close to death as a baby to venturing through Nazi territory, the 83-year old has seen more than what his small Texas town ever expected.

Albino Pineda


By Claire Carroll

“Pinda!” a corporal yelled.

The young Mexican American soldier stood quietly in line. He did not address the corporal or any of his peers.

“Pinda!” the corporal bellowed out once more.

The young soldier felt nervous. It was his first day, and he couldn’t speak English proficiently.

“P-I-N-E-D-A!” the corporal spelled out impatiently.

The young Latino finally stepped forward. Before he could correct the pronunciation, the corporal screamed at him, “Wake up, soldier!”

Ben Santillan


By Nicole Chisum

The turmoil of World War II was difficult for everyone who endured it, but perhaps even more so for people who felt left out of mainstream society.

People like Ben Santillan.

Santillan was born on Feb. 13, 1925, near Kansas City, Kan. When he was about 7 years old, his family moved to Argentine, a suburb of Kansas City, and lived in the Mexican part of the town known as el campo. It was far from luxurious, and it was segregated -- Mexicans and non-Mexicans.

Ricardo Leon Martinez


By Mosettee Lorenz

By the time he was 22, Kansas native Ricardo León Martinez had dropped out of high school, gotten married and had four children, and he was at risk of going to prison for fighting and drinking.

But when he headed for Vietnam in the mid-1960s, he found a new perspective. In the years after the war, Martinez returned to school, got a college education and worked for the federal government for 34 years.