Rachel Ayala

For 45 years, Rachel Medina Ayala was an educator in Brownsville, Texas, working her way up from elementary school teacher to assistant superintendent.

Ayala was born May 13, 1947, in Brownsville to Francisco Medina and Maria Torres Medina.

She credits her educational success mainly to her parents.

“When we graduated from high school, it wasn’t a matter [of] ‘Are you going to go to college?’ It was a matter [of] ‘Where are you going to go to college?’” Ayala said.

Dr. Juliet Villareal Garcia

Juliet Garcia forged her own way into the all-male “club” of Texas community college presidents to become president of Brownsville’s Texas Southmost College in 1986.

Eventually, she would become the president of the University of Texas at Brownsville, a merged institution that grew out of a lawsuit by communities along the Texas-Mexico border and South Texas.

Garcia was born in 1949 in Brownsville, Texas. Her mother, Paulita Lozano Villareal, worked as a housekeeper and died when Garcia was only 9 years old.

Genaro V Lopez

By Simon Wagner, St. Bonaventure University

World War II "actually made a man out of me," Genaro V. Lopez told his son, Genaro, during their father-to-son interview for the Voces Oral History Project.

Born April 8, 1925, in Brownsville, Texas, to Manuel and Angela Velazco Lopez, Lopez was the middle child among four brothers and two sisters. His father drove a truck for a greengrocer and was known as "El Gallo" for his sideline as a cockfighter.

Lopez's father expected him to clean the roosters' cages.

Richard Brito

By Priscilla Pelli

Missing the birth of his two daughters was one of the many sacrifices Richard Brito had to make when he saw that a war threatened the national security of the United States in 1965.

While Vietnam spurred controversy among many Americans throughout the 1960s, Brito said he saw it as a calling to help protect the security of the nation during a time of distress and turmoil.

“I loved the military,” Brito said. “That's what I wanted to do all my life.”

Raul Cantu Villarreal

By Robert Inks

When Raul Cantú Villarreal came home to Brownsville, Texas, in 1949 after serving in World War II, he had adjustments to make.

For one thing, Villarreal lost his right leg after stepping on a land mine.

"I thanked God I made it back," he said. "Not in one piece, but I'm still ticking."

Born Nov. 16, 1919, Villarreal, had left South Texas only one other time. Before fighting in the war from 1936 to 1939, he lived in the Pacific Northwest as a part of a Civilian Conservation Corps labor crew.

Virginia G. Nunez

By Jennifer Lindgren

These are some things Virgina Gallardo Nuñez remembers about growing up in South Texas during World War II: curling her hair with the string ties from coffee bags instead of bobby pins because metal was rationed; huddling close to the family radio, listening to war-news updates and Glenn Miller, her favorite singer; and attending midnight Mass on Christmas Eve to pray for her three brothers at war, before having her mother's delicious homemade tamales for Christmas dinner.

Henry A Bebon

By Marisa Galvan

Not everyone in World War II worked on the front lines or manned the battleships. There were those who served behind the lines, who provided basic services and support and who were often taken for granted.

Henry A. Bebon never felt his contributions during the war were any less than any other soldier. He did what he was ordered to do and carried out his assignments accordingly.

Bebon was stationed in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, assigned to work in the officer's club. He performed any number of jobs needing to be done while there.

Jose Ruben Moreno

By Celina Moreno

Jose Ruben Moreno attributes his success in life to a journey on the "line of least resistance." But enduring economic hardship and performing dangerous wartime duties as a counterintelligence spy in Panama proved anything but effortless.

Moreno was born in 1917 to Melchor Moreno and Lydia Saldivar in Brownsville, Texas. He attended a Catholic school to avoid the Protestant-run public schools, to which his parents had an aversion. At the school, courses were conducted in Spanish the first three years and thereafter primarily in English.

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