The 1975 expansion of the federal Voting Rights Act impacted millions of Mexican Americans in the Southwest. But the idea began with just one man who wanted to help his community and make his parents proud.
At a young age, Rosie Castro was outspoken about racial, educational, housing and gender inequality. Despite facing pushback, she became a prominent political and civil rights activist.
Castro was born in San Antonio on March 7, 1947. Her mother, Victoria Castro, migrated from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and cleaned houses in affluent Anglo neighborhoods.
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.
A family man and skilled orator, Margarito Barrientes rarely spoke to his loved ones about his experience in World War II. For the longest time, he kept to himself his recollections of hiding in foxholes and interacting with civilians in the countries where he served.
According to his eldest child, Elia Gonzales, he would sometimes share small snippets of his time in the war, which, she recalled, were always out of context.
Roger Cisneros is a former state senator and one of Colorado's most dedicated civil rights advocates.
He was born Jan. 22, 1924, in Questa, New Mexico, to Donaciano Cisneros and Todosia Martinez.
He graduated from high school and joined the Army Air Corps in March 1943. He completed basic training at Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, Texas. He was selected to go to Chanute Field in Illinois for cryptographer training and was assigned to the 33rd Bomb Group.
After the war, he got a job as a typist at Montgomery Ward in Denver, Colorado, making 60 cents an hour.
Dora Flores Olivo became one of the few Latinas elected to the Texas Legislature in 1997 and remains a fierce advocate of Latino voting rights and education.
Olivo was born March 6, 1943, in Sinton, Texas, 129 miles southeast of San Antonio. She was the third of eight children born to Isidro Ramirez Flores and Luz Garcia Flores.
She attended Texas A&I University in Kingsville (now Texas A&M University-Kingsville) and earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1966. After finishing college, she taught at Zavala Elementary in Corpus Christi.
A lawyer for a landmark Texas desegregation case in the 1970s, Gabriel Gutierrez Jr. made contributions that brought important changes for Latinos’ access to public education.
Gutierrez was born Jan. 10, 1938, in Austin, Texas. His mother, “Sally” Perales Gutierrez, worked as a custodian for the Austin Independent School District while his father, Gabriel, worked multiple jobs.
During his service in the Korean War, William R. Medina fought his battles in the trenches with the U.S. Army.
Medina was born April 20, 1931, in Capulin, Colorado, about 250 miles southwest of Denver.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in February 1950 and was assigned to the 40th Infantry Division, 223rd Infantry Regiment. Basic training was challenging for Medina because he grew up speaking Spanish and could hardly speak English. He didn't always understand what he was being told when given orders.
1952 was a big year for young Francisco Rene Cortez. He turned 17, joined the U.S. Marine Corps and got married.
The decisions he made that year changed the course of his life. Cortez went from a teenager who dreamed of being a warrior to a married man and, eventually, the father of 12 children.
He began a 20-year journey that took him from the south Texas towns of his youth – Hebbronville and Corpus Christi – to Japan; Hawaii; the Arctic Circle; Europe; the Mediterranean; the South Pacific; Vietnam; and finally California, where he was discharged.
Samuel Echeveste never saw himself becoming a decorated war veteran serving the U.S. during a time when he was not accepted by his fellow Americans.
His grew up in Miami, Arizona, where he was born on Christmas Eve 1932 to Aristeo Echeveste and Ramona Padilla. He was one of the youngest among four sisters and three brothers.
Once he graduated from Phoenix Technical High School in June 1951, Echeveste immediately volunteered for the Army.
After basic training, he continued training at Army Field Forces Leaders Course and then was assigned to Korea’s front lines.