Ever since I was a kid my mom, Patricia [Guerrero] Puente, has told me about being a young adult in the late 1960s and early 1970s in Houston. She was a member of several youth groups at Our Lady of St John Church in La Bonita. Father Peguero, the parish priest, prodded and cajoled kids like my mom into being active politically and academically. Fr. Peguero, as my mom tells it, was single-handedly responsible for getting an entire generation of neighborhood kids to believe they could change their world through education and political activism. My mom even says that Fr. Peguero organized a Huelga School at St John’s in the 70s where she taught students during the desegregation struggles with HISD.
My mom, Patricia, has a long history of activism, and I like to think that, while I have taken a round-about way to get where I am, I am following her lead by pursuing a life of academic activism. Today we were hanging out at her house and she brought out some old letters my dad sent to her from Vietnam (that’s another story that hopefully she will tell), and she gave me a set of stamps from the UFW. They appear to be campaign ephemera used to promote the efforts of the Farmworkers movement — of which my mom was an active supporter.
The stamps have images of the people who benefited from the UFW’s organizing and unionization with statements such as “Farm Worker Victories: Better Healthcare,” and “Collective Bargaining on Farms: Control of Dangerous Pesticides.” These stamps, 6 in total, are an important part of our family history, our state history, and our national history. These stamps, and that my mom saved them, reveal just one of the ways ordinary Mexican Americans living in urban areas supported the struggles of farmworkers across Texas and the United States.
Social activism and being politically engaged runs in my family. It’s no wonder why I am constantly looking for ways to help change the world.