Joe M. Riojas

Joe Riojas was stationed in the Pacific during World War II with the Army Air Corps, but his letters home never told the dangers he faced.

Riojas was assigned to the 58th Fighter Group, 69th Fighter Squadron. Later, he was transferred to the 338th Fighter Group. His unit was part of the Allied Forces' "island-hopping" strategy in the Pacific -- taking territory back from the Japanese.

He was born in Lockhart, Texas, 27 miles south of Austin, on Sept. 19, 1924. He was one of 13 children born to Gregorio Riojas and Macedonia Martines.

Velia Erlinda Sanchez-Ruiz

By Rachel Hill

Voter participation was always a priority for former gym teacher Velia Sanchez-Ruiz, who grew up under segregation in Texas. Sanchez-Ruiz, who was 71 at the time of her interview, recalled what life was like as she grew up in of Lockhart, Texas, 30 miles southeast of Austin, during that period. She was born in 1942, one of seven children born to Cruz Garcia-Sanchez and Adela Mayo-Sanchez, a civil servant that worked at Bergstrom Air Force Base and a homemaker. They lived on the Mexican and African-American side of the city.

Ignacio Guerrero

By Melanie Kudzia

"Go to school, and not only that, pay attention!"

This is one bit of advice Ignacio and Antonia Guerrero passed on to their children and grandchildren. They insist on their family attending school, working hard and succeeding.

Mexican Americans didn’t always have the opportunity to be equally educated. In fact, this was the pre-World War II reality for most Latinos in the United States.

Manuela Maymie Garcia Ontiveros

By Carrie Nelson

Manuela Ontiveros dedicated her life to her family and community and to preserving her treasured Mexican heritage and traditions.

"You instill in your children and grandchildren pride [in their heritage]," Ontiveros said. "Even though my grandchildren are half white, they know how to cook enchiladas and tamales.

"I try to pass on the traditions of the Mexican people, traditions that they have nothing to be ashamed of," she said.

"I'm 81 years old, so I've seen a lot," Ontiveros said. "I'm glad I grew up in this community."

Gregoria Acosta Esquivel

By Lori Slaughenhoupt

Gregoria Esquivel was strongly influenced by her uncles who served in the military during World War II. Their patriotism and involvement in the war effort helped shape her perspective on life when she was only a child.

One of her uncles was wounded in a battle in Luxembourg and sent to a hospital in Texas. The visits to his bedside, seeing the numerous men wounded in the hospital, would have a lifelong impact on her, leading her to pursue a career in nursing.

Ernest Eguia

By Stephen Stetson

Ernest Eguia spent a lifetime on the cutting edge. Rising above the crippling poverty of the Great Depression, Eguia was at the forefront of the Allied Invasion of Normandy during World War II and was also on the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement, pioneering the movement for Latino integration in the Houston area after the war.

Carlos Guzman Guerrero

By Antonio Gilb

Over half a century after it happened, Carlos Guerrero remembers the incident in May 1945 clearly - because of what it symbolized about America's racial tensions, as well as because of what it said about how communication can solve problems.

The incident happened like this: Guerrero's 65th Infantry Division was liberating a Nazi concentration camp in Germany. But the platoon sergeant had too much to drink that day and was acting like it. He was acting rowdy, and provoked an African-American major, calling him a "nigger."

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