Racism

Francisco Xavier Jacques


By Hiram Jacques

When he attempted to join the military after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Francisco “Frank” Xavier Jacques of the West Texas town of Sweetwater was turned away because of his lack of education; he’d only been to the third grade. But on August 18, 1942, Jacques was drafted and inducted into the Army Air Corps, where he would serve as a side areal ILO gunner.

Gonzalo Villanueva


By Doralís Perez-Soto

The only time Gonzalo Villanueva has been away for any extended period from his neighborhood in Arecibo, Puerto, Rico, was during World War II, when he served in North Africa, France, Italy and Germany. He even jokes he’ll live in his hometown until he goes to the grave.

Before going off to war, he went to school in his neighborhood, Dominguito, until the seventh grade. He couldn’t get into the eighth grade because of his father’s politics.

Juana Mani Sierra


By Lindsay Fitzpatrick

Almost 100 years after her parents immigrated from Zacatecas, Juana Maria Mani Moreno Sierra considers her Mexican heritage a gift.

“God gave me my mom and my dad and their Spanish. It is so beautiful to talk real Spanish,” Sierra said. “And I give thanks to God that my children know both languages.”

Growing up in the New Mexican mining town of Fierro, in the southwest corner of the state, being the child of immigrants wasn’t always easy: discrimination and poverty were prevalent.

Noé Sandoval


By Amy K. Williams

Down in a foxhole in the midst of World War II Germany, Noé Sandoval, Jr. looked up to see a soldier standing at 6 feet 4 inches staring down at him saying, “Get the hell out of there. This is my foxhole. Go dig your own.”

Alfonso L. Matta


By Christina Tran

When he became vice chairman of Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority in 1990, Alfonso Matta would recall his closest experience with a railcar, when he was a 14-year-old on a bike.

“The railcar – we had rail then – it turned on Houston Avenue, and I came and bumped up into it, and I fell onto there and hit something, and it stopped the streetcar, and the streetcar driver was like what are you doing there, and get off,” Matta said. “It was electric. I thought the wheels were gonna get me.”

George S. Vasquez


By Krystal De los Santos

When George S. Vasquez was separated from his unit during the Battle of the Bulge in Germany, he lived by his wits behind enemy lines for a month

“The whole company had just vanished in the dark,” Vasquez said.

Company K of the 424th Infantry Regiment, 106th Army Infantry Division, had been defending its positions, trying to keep the Germans from marching on to Belgium, when its members were surrounded.

“One night the company commander says we couldn’t hold anymore ... so we infiltrated out,” he said.

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.

Xavier Pelaez


By Gina Ross

World War II gave Xavier Pelaez many gruesome experiences -- from witnessing the horror of a concentration camp to the pain of being wounded in battle.

Pelaez was born in Los Angeles in 1925, his parents having moved from Nogales, Mexico, before he was born. His mother, Graciela Preciado, was a homemaker and his namesake father did various jobs wherever he could find work.

Pelaez graduated from Fremont High School in 1943, but knew his immediate future was with the service.

Peter Salcedo


By Diana Lee

As a child in southern California, Pete Salcedo hid in embarrassment during lunch to eat homemade tacos.

"At that time you didn't have all these Mexican restaurants," Salcedo said. He thinks their growing popularity in mainstream America caused him to stop hiding his Mexican food.

Porfirio Escamilla Martinez


By Yazmin Lazcano

The experience of stepping over hundreds of bodies -- the sounds of mine blasts, surf pelting the coast and bullets whizzing overhead filling his ears -- is as vivid to Porfirio Martinez today as it was 55 years ago.

For Martinez, WWII isn’t over. He fought in major battles, and continues fighting today through nightmares of the D-Day landings.

Martinez recalled the 'tiradero' (the mess) of thousands of bodies on the beach during the second wave of D-Day landings.

"Dead. All dead," he said.