Olga Muñoz Rodriquez is a born storyteller. After publishing an unprecedented bilingual newspaper out of Uvalde, Texas, she is taking her readers on a brand new journey, through her book, Texas Town Legends: Small town heroes survive a distant war and break the bonds of local economic, educational, racial and social oppression. The Montclair Dispatch had the pleasure of speaking with Olga about the inspiration behind her newest work.
Despite seeking to tell other people’s tales, Olga has quite the life story herself. Born in Mexico, Olga and her family immigrated to Uvalde, Texas, in 1955, when she was nine years old. She continued her schooling in Uvalde through high school and junior college and soon began working at a phone company in town.
Things began to change for Olga in the late 1970s, during the aftermath of a school walkout. Olga explained that “the kids who participated in the walkout lost a full year of school as punishment. And during that time, it was the civil rights movement and the war, and we became aware of everything that was wrong for us.”
Olga was also disheartened by the way in which Mexican Americans were being unequally and unfairly represented in the media, “if the news about us was bad, it made the front page. And if it was good, it was not published.” This prompted Olga to begin publishing a bilingual newspaper based in Uvalde in 1977, to properly tell the stories of those in her community. The paper survived until 1980, when Olga and her family moved to San Antonio, Texas. Olga then went back to college and learned about new technology which enabled her to bring back her newspaper as a monthly publication. Olga then began commuting from San Antonio to Uvalde, about 83 miles, in order to keep the paper going.
It was at this time, in 1991, when Olga received a request from a Mexican American World War II veteran named Guillermo “Willie” De Leon, from Uvalde. Willie and his friend Rogelio Luévano, another Uvalde resident, wanted Olga to publish Willie’s unique stories in the newspaper. At the time, due to Olga’s tedious schedule, she could not sit down for a proper interview with Willie. Instead, she had him recount his story on a tape recorder, to ensure that every detail was captured. Olga had made a promise to Willie that she would share his story. And she has kept her promise.
The Montclair Dispatch spoke to Olga Rodriquez about more of Willie’s story and the importance of representing Uvalde and the Mexican American Community.
“Our stories have not been written. The literature always [portrays] a dominance of Texas. There was always a glorification of the Texas Rangers committing atrocities against the Mejicanos. White society vilified the Mexicans, and we grew up with a feeling of unworthiness.” For Olga, this is her “simple effort to help give the stories of our people, how our people suffered and worked and succeeded and changed Uvalde.”
Through the story of Texas Town Legends, Olga Rodriquez is able to showcase Uvalde, as a “gift to future generations.” According to Olga, after all of these years, the story has evolved. It is no longer just about Willie, or the war, but about how Uvalde has changed. “It has changed from a racist town to one of more inclusivity. It is still not perfect, but it is getting there. This book is telling the stories of the men and women who changed it.”
Nearing the end of our interview, Olga emphasized the importance of people looking to do their own research, to interview the older generations to tell their stories.
“We need to record our stories and write more stories.”
Olga Muñoz Rodriquez is the mother and grandmother of Montclair residents. Her daughter, Masiel Rodriquez-Vars, is the Executive Director of the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE)
Texas Town Legends is expected to hit the shelves in the early fall. Be sure to pick up a copy and experience history unfold.
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