The Heritage Month Advisory Council, comprised of faculty members from academic departments across campus, has chosen to recognize Hispanic Heritage Month by honoring and celebrating historical figures for their positive impact on American History.
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa
Internationally recognized cultural theorist, creative writer, and independent scholar Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa was born on September 26, 1942 in Raymondville, Texas, to Urbano and Amalia Anzaldúa. She worked in a wide variety of genres, including poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, anthologies, and children's books. Her theories of mestizaje, the borderlands, and the new mestiza, as well as her code-switching, have had an impact far beyond the field of Chicano/a studies.
Throughout her successful career as a writer, theorist, and activist, Anzaldúa continued to teach, which she loved to do. She taught formally through Vermont College's Adult Degree Program in the 1980s, several writer-in-residence and visiting professor appointments, and through Women's Voices, a creative writing workshop at UC Santa Cruz. She also taught and collaborated more informally, organizing writing groups for women of color. Her book on the writing process was one of many projects she was working on when she passed away.
Gloria Anzaldúa died on 15 May 2004 at her home in Santa Cruz, California, due to diabetes-related complications.
As a Mexican-American journalist, activist, and suffragist, Jovita Idár often faced dangerous situations. However, she never backed down from a challenge. She single-handedly protected her newspaper headquarters when the Texas Rangers came to shut it down, and crossed the border to serve as a nurse during the Mexican Revolution. Idár bravely fought the injustices in her time.
During this time, the Mexican-American community in Texas also frequently faced violence and lynching. Idár started working for her father’s newspaper La Crónica, where two of her brothers were already working. The paper was a source of news and activism for Mexican-American rights. she often wrote articles speaking about racism and supporting the revolution in Mexico. In 1911, Idár and her family organized the First Mexican Congress to unify Mexicans across the border to fight injustice. The congress discussed many issues including education and lack of economic resources.
Marcelino Serna (April 26, 1896 to February 29, 1992) - was a Mexican immigrant who lived in El Paso, Texas. “He became one of the most decorated soldiers from Texas in World War I. Serna was the first Hispanic to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. In 1916, when he was 20 years old, Serna decided to enter the United States, by crossing the Rio Grande and going to El Paso, Texas in search of a job and better way of life. Serna did not know how to speak English and he was only able to find low-paying jobs. He soon found himself working as a farm hand in a sugar beet field in Denver, Colorado. The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Serna was with a group of men in Denver, when he was picked up by federal officials. He faced the possibility of being deported, but before that could happen, he volunteered to serve in the Army. When the Army realized that he was a Mexican national, he was offered a discharge. Serna, however, chose to stay. Serna was sent overseas and assigned to Company B, 355th Infantry Regiment 89th Division. Serna returned to the U.S. as the most decorated soldier from Texas and was discharged at Camp Bowie, Texas in May 1919. In 1924, Serna became a United States citizen and soon after he married and settled down in El Paso, Texas.”
Born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1859, Octaviano Larrazola immigrated to the United States as a boy and was raised in New Mexico. A Republican from New Mexico, Larrazola was a champion of Civil Rights and equal treatment for Hispanic Americans. This made him popular with New Mexican voters, who would elect him to be the fourth governor of New Mexico in 1918. Ten years later, he was elected to the United States Senate, making him the first Hispanic American to serve as a U.S. Senator.
Texan and Mexican-American Richard E. Cavazos was the first Hispanic person to become a four-star general in the United States Army. He graduated from Texas Tech University and went on to serve in the Korean war as the commander of the 65th Infantry Regiment. He then served in Vietnam as commander of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Division. He became the first Hispanic four-star general of the United States Army in 1982, and received a number of military honors, including the distinguished service cross, the silver star, the bronze star, and the purple heart. Cavazos died in San Antonio in 2017.
Ruben Salazar was just an infant when his family immigrated to the United States from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He would go on to become one of the first Mexican American journalist in mainstream Media. His work was particularly significant because it highlighted the lives of Chicanos. Salazar was raised in El Paso and served in the army before becoming a journalist for the Los Angeles Times. In his career, he focused on injustices being done to those in the Chicano community. In Who is A Chicano, Salazar explained the plight of Mexican-Americans struggling to find identity and equality: “Chicanos feel cheated. They want to effect change. Now.” While covering a protest of the Vietnam War, the Chicano Moratorium in 1970, his life was cut short by a tear gas projectile thrown by the police.
Not many know that seven years before 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling integrated America’s schools, a young California girl’s family fought for her to attend an “all-white” school. Sylvia Mendez was a small girl when she tried to register to attend school in Westminster, California. The school’s superintendent testified that those of Mexican descent were “Intellectually, culturally, and morally inferior to European Americans.” Sylvia Mendez’ parents, Gonzalo and Felicitas, would have none of it. They united with other local Chicano families and hired a lawyer. They won their case, and in 1946 California schools became integrated by law. The success of their action, of which Sylvia was the principal catalyst, would eventurally bring to an end the era of segregated education. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States highest civilian honor, on February 15, 2011.
In 2009, Bronx-born Latina Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice of the United States. She was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in a vote of 68 to 31. Sotomayor holds a B.A. from Princeton and a Law degree from Yale University. Her long career includes time spent as assistant district attorney for New York County, being a judge to the U.S. District Court (appointed by George H.W. Bush), and serving as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Sotomayor has been outspoken about how her unique experience as a Latina has contributed to her work as a judge. “The Latina in me is an ember that blazes forever.”