Image from The Portal to Texas History, courtesy of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center of the Houston Public Library.

Born: 1925 (Nordheim, TX)

Died: 2002  (Crystal City, TX)

Noted For: Virginia Aguirre Múzquiz is noted as an influential Mexican-American political activist and champion for voting rights for Hispanic Texans, as well as the founder of Mujeres Por La Raza.

As the daughter of a South Texas migrant agricultural laborer, Virginia Aguirre had limited access to formal education. When she was 17, she fell ill with tuberculosis, a condition that would cause her chronic illness the rest of her life. During her convalescence, Virginia embarked upon a self-study course of English (which she didn’t speak fluently at the time) as well as other subjects. It was an early demonstration of the determination that would later fuel her foray into politics and activism.

In 1964 and 1965, Virginia became the first Mexican-American woman to run for the Texas House of Representatives as well as the city council of Crystal City, Texas, then a hotbed of activity in the fight for civil rights for Mexican Americans. Those campaigns didn’t result in her election—but she persisted, and later became the first Mexican-American woman elected as Zavala County Clerk, a post she won in 1974. In addition to support from her husband, a successful entrepreneur, Virginia was also endorsed by the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations (PASSO), an activist group that grew out of the Viva Kennedy Clubs that helped get JFK elected in 1960.

During this era, Virginia also worked on other political campaigns, and united with other politically active Mexican-American women to register voters, promote absentee voting, and monitor local elections for voter suppression and intimidation.

From 1972-1974, Virginia served as the national chair for the Raza Unida Party, a grassroots political party that supported Mexican-American interests. Perhaps the most noteworthy outcome of her chairmanship was the formation of Mujeres Por La Raza, the women’s caucus for Raza Unida, which helped establish stronger gender parity in the party. Virginia was regarded as a gifted public speaker and a key advisor for Raza Unida, providing valuable counsel in important areas of election law. She passed away in 2002.

Additional Learning:

Chicanas in Charge: Texas Women in the Public Arena” by José Angel Gutiérrez, Michelle Meléndez,  and Sonia Adriana Noyola.