A Legacy Greater Than Words
Since 1999, the U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin has captured the untold stories of this WWII generation. Altogether, the project videotaped more than five hundred interviews throughout the country and in Puerto Rico and Mexico.
This volume features summaries of the interviews and photographs of the individuals. Among the people included are Mexican American civil rights leaders such as Pete Tijerina and Albert Armendariz of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Virgilio Roel of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Others are community leaders such as Pete and Elena Gallego of Alpine, Texas, and military leaders such as Colonel Hank Cervantes and flying ace Richard Candelaria. Women who served in the military are also included. There are academic trailblazers, too, such as Frank Bonilla, who became a major figure in Puerto Rican studies. And there are a few Latinos who describe serving in segregated "colored" units during the war, as their physical features placed them in African American communities.
Overall, the vast majority of the men and women interviewed in A Legacy Greater Than Words
led private lives, and their stories chronicle the everyday existence of Latinos in the 1930s and 1940s-stories that generally have been omitted from historical accounts of either the Great Depression or World War II.
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Mexican Americans and World War II
Up to 750,000 Mexican American men served in World War II, earning more Medals of Honor and other decorations in proportion to their numbers than any other ethnic group. Mexican American women entered the workforce on the home front, supporting the war effort and earning good wages for themselves and their families. But the contributions of these men and women have been largely overlooked as American society celebrates the sacrifices and achievements of the "Greatest Generation." To bring their stories out of the shadows, this book gathers eleven essays that explore the Mexican American experience in World War II from a variety of personal and scholarly perspectives.
The book opens with accounts of the war's impact on individuals and families. It goes on to look at how the war affected school experiences; how Mexican American patriotism helped to soften racist attitudes; how Mexican Americans in the Midwest, unlike their counterparts in other regions of the country, did not experience greater opportunities as a result of the war; how the media exposed racist practices in Texas; and how Mexican nationals played a role in the war effort through the Bracero program and through the Mexican government's championing of Mexican Americans' rights. As a whole, the collection reveals that World War II was the turning point that gave most Mexican Americans their first experience of being truly included in American society, and it confirms that Mexican Americans of the "Greatest Generation" took full advantage of their new opportunities as the walls of segregation fell.
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Beyond the Latino WWII Hero
Working title for the next book coming in 2009 through UT Press.