Growing up, Frances Gonzalez knew her grandfather as just her grandfather—a strong man fiercely dedicated to his family and capable of fixing just about anything. But the old pictures tucked away in her mother’s dresser drawer showed another part of his life, one that he would never talk about with his granddaughter. Now his story is finally being told, thanks to a new exhibition honoring Dallas County’s Mexican-American veterans. It was put together by the Dallas Mexican American Historical League; Gonzalez serves on its board.
Albert Valtierra, president of the DMAHL, says the organization has wanted to do a military exhibit since its founding in 2008, and has been collecting photographs and oral histories from the community since January. The result is a large collection of wartime images that spans more than 100 years, honoring the lives of more than 400 service members, including Gonzalez’s grandfather, who served in World War I. Many featured in the exhibition were not citizens at the time of their military service.
Gonzalez, who also had an uncle who was killed in World War II and another who fought in the Korean War, feels strongly about recognizing the Mexican-Americans who served their country, and about preserving their legacy. Though the exhibit is primarily pictorial, it will also show a number of recorded interviews that the DMAHL has conducted with veterans or their family members.
“Being born and raised here,” Gonzalez says, “you think, ‘Well, who were we? Did we contribute anything?’ We need our history.”
The Untold Story: A Tribute to Dallas’ Mexican-American Veterans and Families
SEPT. 11-OCT. 18 | Latino Cultural Center
A version of this story appears in the September issue of D Magazine.