In high school in El Paso, TX, Mario Lewis was told to forget college, that he “could not compete with Anglos,” recalled Lewis, a Mexican American. But others saw promise in Lewis as he became active in the Junior League of United Latin American Citizens, which put him on a path to law school and a career of service to equal justice. Lewis was born Feb. 15, 1947, in El Paso, Texas. He graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1970. Three years later, he graduated from the University of Southern California Law School.
By Brandon Fields, St. Bonaventure University
Emiliano E. Gimeno remembers that when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, he initially did not realize how the event would change his life.
Born in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 24, 1921, and raised in Denver, Colorado, Gimeno was the eldest of 10 children. His mother, Marcelina Fuentes Espinosa de Gimeno, was the main provider for the family. His father, he said, drank and gambled.
The late 1940s and 1950s were tense times in America. Fear of Communism was spreading, and Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union were growing. In 1950, communist North Korea sent troops into South Korea, and the U.S. came to South Korea’s aid, in accordance with its treaty obligation. President Harry S. Truman declared a national emergency: From 1950 through 1953, 1.5 million men were drafted and another 1.3 million volunteered for military service.
By Alex Cannon
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Juan Provencio knew what he had to do. As the war overseas had worsened, his father, Manuel, an immigrant from Mexico, had told his sons: "All of you men must be ready to go and help your country. You were born here, and you have been given many privileges that many don’t get. It is up to you now."
By Victoria Brown
Cal State, Fullerton
Rafael Flores put his life on hold when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II at the age of 22. His experiences in the Army not only matured him, but also changed his outlook on life as a Mexican American, he said.
By Amanda Stair
John Chavez grew up as an orphan, moving from house to house, and later survived the bloodiest Pacific battle of World War II. After the war, he settled in Tucson, Ariz. So when he looked back, he realized: "My life turned out good."
By Sonia Alvarez and Joe Muller
Due to his father's career as a casting agent and magazine entertainment writer, Severo Lopez always held a special place in his heart for the arts and cinematography.
After watching Frank Sinatra perform at the Palladium in Los Angeles in the early 1940s, Lopez arrived home after midnight and was shocked to see an FBI car waiting at his front door. He was informed that he had failed to report for duty when his World War II draft notice arrived.
By Jordan Haeger
It's 3 a.m., and Oscar C. Muñoz wakes up to make sure his doors and windows are locked in his Chula Vista, Calif., home. It's been this way every day for more than 40 years.
Muñoz enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on April 15, 1968, without telling his parents. One of twelve children born to Manual and Abigail Muñoz, farm laborers in Arizona, he knew the military was his only way to access education and success.
"We used to pick cotton, and it was three cents a pound," Muñoz said. "Can you imagine how much cotton you have to pick to make one pound?"
By Anna Kavich
By Bernice Chuang
About 14 months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Jesus “Joe” Soto, 20 years old, enlisted in the Marines as a private. His ship, the USS New Orleans, deployed for Pearl Harbor in October, just a few months before the attack.
Soto served proudly in the Marine Corps and said he found brotherhood and unity aboard his ship. While the war provided many frightening memories for Soto, he also found pride in his achievements as a Marine.