By Jazmin Sanchez, California State University, Fullerton
By the Voces staff
Margaret J. Gómez credits her early political awareness to her father. He was a Mexican immigrant with little education, but he closely followed political and world events.
“He read the newspaper from cover to cover every day,” she said. “A lot of times, he knew a lot more about what was going on in the world than I did, so when I got home from work, he would talk to me about what was going on."
By Rebecca Chavoya
An old Hispanic man pushed a tamale cart down the streets of Rosenberg, Texas, in 1974. Iris Galvan, 18-year-old high school student and member of Juventud Unida, approached him with a warm, welcoming demeanor.
“Have you ever thought about voting?” she said. “You have a right to vote. You are a citizen of this country.”
The man shrugged off her suggestion, saying that he knew his voice didn’t matter. “I don’t speak very good English,” he said.
By Hope Teel
In 1959, Felicita Munguia Arriaga was a 12-year-old accompanying her mother to the polls, where the older woman planned to cast her vote for a man named Joe Hubenak.
Very few Hispanics were voting during that time for various reasons, including fear and illiteracy, but because she worked for Hubenak and his wife, Jesusa Munguia and her husband had agreed to go vote for him.
By Haley Dawson
Ernestine Mojica Kidder vividly recalls one of her earliest memories as a young child in Taylor, Texas. Her father lifted her into his arms and pointed to a schoolhouse in the distance. “That’s where you’re going to school as soon as you’re old enough,” she remembers him saying. “When you’re 6, you’re gonna go to school.”
A child of the World War II era and a woman of the Civil Rights era, Mojica Kidder was among the first Hispanic women for whom a higher education became both a possibility and a reality.
By Estefanía de León
Alma Salinas, a lifelong Democrat, switched to the nascent Raza Unida Party in the 1970s. A native of Pearsall, Texas, Salinas used to take Mexican Americans to the polls on election days. But it seemed the Democratic Party, which the community supported, was doing little to improve their lives.
"We thought going to vote would make a difference, but then we found out that the ones sitting in the Democratic chair have the say so you can't go further," said Salinas, who is now 82.
By Megan Breckenridge
Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza became the first minority district clerk of Travis County in 1991 and only the second minority woman to hold that position in the whole country. She went on to serve for 24 years, championing the causes of Latina women, women's health and the arts.
She launched her career in politics as a 24-year-old in 1970, when she ran for president of the Mexican American Youth Organization. She finished second behind Paul Velez, but that was enough to make her vice president.
By Joan Vinson
Politics in small-town Texas were very different when Frances Luna was young. Back in the days of the poll tax, politicians would offer to cover the fee to encourage local residents to vote for them.
Luna said that when she was 15 years old, Johnny Phillips, a county commissioner in Fort Bend County, paid the poll tax for her father, Elias Rodriguez. But it took more than that to earn the support of the Mexican-born cotton farmer.
By Shelby Custer
In December of 1975, Guadalupe Arredondo Uresti, a 31-year-old homemaker, spoke at a kick-off rally for the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project in the old Civic Center of Rosenberg, southwest of Houston.
Uresti, who also devoted time to working in her father's furniture business, remembered exhorting her Mexican American neighbors to register and to vote - to make their voices and needs heard. Even though she trembled with nervousness, she made an impression.
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.