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."

Nicanor Aguilar

By Claudia Farias

Nicanor Aguilar is something of a renaissance man, both as a musician and, at an age when most people would be slowing down, an athlete.

But Aguilar’s proudest accomplishment involves his efforts to end discrimination in his West Texas hometown after returning from the war.

Born Jan. 10, 1917, in Grand Falls in rural Texas, he spent most of his time helping his father, a tenant cotton farmer. The family of three brothers and two sisters helped pick cotton on 100 acres of land.

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.

Hector De Peña

By Anita Rice

Hector De Peña never saw any action on the battlefield during World War II. He never stormed the beach at Normandy, never liberated the prisoners of Europe's concentration camps and never fired upon the Japanese or Germans. The war he fought was against the entrenched discriminatory practices used against Latinos during the time of the war.

Pedro Tijerina

By Raquel C. Garza

Growing up in Laredo, Texas, Pedro "Pete" Tijerina said he "never knew what discrimination was," mainly because the city's population was mostly Mexican. School children spoke Spanish freely, never fearing reproach from teachers.

His father, Pedro Martinez Tijerina, provided for his family in a humble way; he worked as a self-employed truck driver, moving furniture from house to house. The elder Tijerina made a modest sum for his services, "75 cents, a dollar and a quarter would be too much," recalled Tijerina, smiling.

Narciso Gil

By Andy Valdez

The Gil family story is one of overcoming the Great Depression, discrimination and one of service: four of the Gil brothers would answer their country's call to arms.

Paul, Simón, Narciso and Otis would bear arms and defend their country, leaving their home, their mother and their sisters - Ruth, Julia and Sally.

Theresa Herrera Casarez

By Joanne R. Sanchez

As a child, growing up in Austin, Theresa Herrera Casarez loved to sing, dance and recite poetry. Later, during WWII, she was able to put her talents to work entertaining soldiers at USO clubs and at nearby Camp Swift.

"[For] Cinco de Mayo and Dieciseis de Septiembre fiestas my mother...helped me to learn [Mexican] poesias (poetry)," she said, referring to celebrations in honor of Mexican holidays. "She . . . made sure that I would have a new one for every year. People had no other type of entertainment. We looked forward to putting on the big show."

Albert Armendariz

By Shannon Owens

Albert Armendariz has practiced law in Texas for over 50 years. The 81-year-old WWII veteran spends many weekends driving to represent his immigrant clients in West Texas who are trapped in the legal system.

"It's like Mohammed and the mountain," he said. "If the mountain can't come to Mohammed, Mohammed has to go to the mountain and we go and see the people."

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