Racism

Jose S. Sanchez


By Jeff Jurica

Jose Sanchez spent his life working hard in America's trenches. After serving in the Army during World War II, he returned home to start a plumbing business.

"All white people ... out of 500 soldiers I was the only Mexicano in that outfit," Sanchez said of his Army experience. "There were 10 Mexicanos when we were here at basic training. When we went across I was the only one." Despite cultural differences, Sanchez got along very well with fellow soldiers. "I remained good friends with several for life," he 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.

Luis Alfonso Diaz de León


By Julia Bulhon

“War is horrible, but it helps you grow,” said Navy veteran Luis Diaz de León, of witnessing conflict’s brutality first hand.

As if that weren’t enough, Diaz de León has also withstood racism, earned a master’s degree, raised a family and campaigned for a United States Senate seat within his lifetime.

Still a teenager, he entered the Navy on March 2, 1944. His rank: Quartermaster.

Ramiro G. Cortez


By Camri Hinkie

On August 6, 1944, United States Air Force gunner Ramiro Cortez was about to board a plane bound for Berlin, Germany, which would have been his sixth mission, had he gone through with it.

Cortez wasn’t originally assigned to this mission, but he agreed to go in place of his friend, another gunner named Kenneth Law. At the last minute, however, Kenneth changed his mind and took on the assignment instead of Cortez.

Gerard Roland Vela


By Araceli Jaime and Jasmin Sun

G. Roland Vela was an 11-year-old delivering newspapers when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Suddenly, everyone wanted to learn more about the bombing, and they swarmed Vela as he rode along his regular route.

“I sold all the papers I had[,] leaving me with none for my route customers,” he wrote later. “I was in serious trouble! But! Normally I sold 2 or 3 papers at 3 cents each; today people were paying a nickel -- I collected a pocketful of nickels.”

Natividad Campos


By Erika Jaramillo

World War II veteran Natividad Campos says he felt like an old man by the age of 9.

Kidnapped by his father at age 3 and raised by his Spanish-speaking grandmother, Campos, the oldest son of four, had no formal education when in 1930 he entered St. Valentine Elementary School in Valentine, Texas.

“It was hard for me. I wasn’t use to being around so many kids at one time,” said the 87-year-old, born on Christmas, 1921.

Isidro Ramos


By Rachel Vallejo

As his unit hit the beaches of Guadalcanal, a small island in the South Pacific, 18-year-old Isidro Ramos witnessed for the first time the bloody price of war: dump trucks full of Marines’ bodies “stacked up like wood,” Japanese soldiers littering the ground.

A moment of insight washed over the private first class that day in 1942 as he said to himself: “There really is a war.”

More than sixty years later, Ramos says he was glad to serve, but has mixed feelings about the experience. He notes differences between then and now in the tools of combat.

Leno Flores Díaz


By Kathy Adams

As an immigrant from Juarez, Mexico, living in East Los Angeles in the ’20s and ’30s, Leno Flores Díaz remembers going to school in hand-me-downs and feeling ostracized when the teachers anglicized his name.

“They had all kinds of names. They never could pronounce my name. … It was discrimination, racism,” said Díaz, adding later in writing that whenever there was trouble at school, he was always called to the office as a suspect.

Hermenejildo Salas


By Shaun L. Swegman

Hermi Salas was an 18-year-old private in the Marine Corps when he boarded the ship that took him from his homeland and into the war. It was Dec. 6, 1943, almost two years to the day from the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought America into World War II.

Private Salas; who was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion of the 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Corps Division; waited on a ship for three weeks as backup for men fighting on Saipan. Then, three days after D-Day, July 21, 1944, the military sent him to his first campaign on Guam.

Raymond Muñiz


By Amanda Roberson

When Raymond Muñiz came home to Corpus Christi, Texas, after serving his country in World War II, he expected to see greater equality for Mexican Americans: more Latinos in city positions such as mayor, for example.

Unfortunately, Muñiz says he didn’t find this to be the case: Anglos were still in charge and Mexican Americans were virtually powerless.