Maria R. Garcia

By the time her husband began pushing the idea of greater participation by Mexican Americans in her small South Texas town, Maria Ramirez Garcia had developed a strong and broad network of contacts who could support the effort.

Garcia was born July 2, 1940, in Taft, Texas, 136 miles southeast of San Antonio. She and her sisters worked in a segregated movie theater while her mother, father and five older brothers were migrant workers in the cotton fields.

Jose M. Salas

By Cheryl Smith Kemp

On July 25, 1944, with 160 hours of B-24 Liberator tail-gunner training under his belt, but no combat-flying experience, Jose M. Salas was picked to fill in with a crew for a flight from a United States base near Torretta, Italy, to Linz Austria.

“It was a very rough mission. We had a lot of enemy planes hit us,” recalled Salas, who was still a teenager at the time. “There was about 50 or so airplanes shot down that day. … I had six fighters shooting at my tail.”

Adolfo Borrego

By Mariel Davis

While fighting in Europe during World War II between 1943 and 1945, Adolfo Borrego said he felt no fear because he believed he was under God's protection.

As he laid out a world map on a kitchen table, Borrego pointed out locations and recalled his experiences in Europe -- even though he didn't know the names of all the places where he was stationed. Borrego said that, before the war, he had never expected to travel to Europe.

Gilbert Paul Sanchez

By Cara Henis

Gilbert Sanchez not only survived the Pacific typhoon of 1944 that capsized three U.S. Navy destroyers and killed 790 people, he also witnessed the largest aircraft carrier skirmish in the Pacific during the Battle of the Philippines Sea that same year.

Serving as a Navy radioman aboard the USS Macdonough, Sanchez took part in nine military offensives across the Pacific. He also witnessed the sinking of a Japanese submarine near New Guinea in April 1944 and the shelling of enemy troops in January of that year on Parry Island, in the Marshall Islands.

William Raymond Wood

By Rosa Imelda Flores

William Wood was "born in space," his reference to the little mining town of Santa Rita, which was in the hilly terrain of southwestern New Mexico.

Santa Rita was excavated for the valuable copper ore lying under it until it was completely destroyed, Wood explains. And today, only "space" remains; the open-pit mine dominates.

"The mine gobbled down the town," Wood said.

Carmen B. Salaiz Esqueda Abalos

By Kenneth Cantu

Back when Rosie the Riveter was proclaiming to women all across the U.S., “We Can Do It!” Carmen (Salaiz) Esqueda Abalos proved it.

Her husband, Mike, having enlisted in the Navy, Abalos joined the war effort by working in the Kennecott mine in Santa Rita, N.M., taking a job that once belonged to a man.

“They were doing a job over there, and so they had to have a replacement over here,” said Abalos, who at the time was only 21 years old and had a young baby named Mike Jr. “[We were] just looking forward to them coming home.”

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.

Josephine Trujillo Aguilera

By Emily Berman

Josephine Aguilera sits and contemplates her life during the Second World War.

She explained how her experience growing up was different from her two daughters’ because she never got the chance to finish school. She had to start working after the 8th grade and never went back, while her daughters had the opportunity to finish school and go to college.

“They knew more than I did,” Aguilera said.

Elena Escobar Tafoya

By Katie Woody

On the side of a mountainous bluff in Grant County, N.M., a nun kneels in prayer every day, wholly vigilant and never wavering. From dawn until dusk, she can be seen with her head bowed, hands clasped in silent meditation. The Kneeling Nun, however, isn’t a faithful woman, but a large rock formation that casts its gaze across the Santa Rita pit mine.

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