Latino Vets of WWII Share Stories

The Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ), March 11, 2006


Ralph Chavarria sat next to his teenage grandson. The 91-year-old leaned on a cane and talked about his experiences as a World War II firefighter and crash-crew worker in the Twentieth Air Force in the Pacific.

Ralph and 17-year-old Sean are close in large part through the sharing of stories. Ralph is a good storyteller, but this evening as he spoke, his voice broke and his eyes filled with tears. He was sharing memories of how he left his new wife and child to serve in the war and how proud he was to be a Hispanic fighting for his country. It was the first time Sean saw him cry during storytelling.

“There’s a lot more (to it) than I knew,” Sean said quietly, with his grandfather’s arm wrapped around his skinny shoulders.

Sean will come face to face with experiences like Ralph’s at the premiere of Voices of Valor at 7 tonight in Tempe. The two-hour play at Arizona State University’s Gammage Auditorium recounts how American Latinos fought in WWII and returned home to build their lives in the face of life’s challenges and ethnic discrimination.

The production is based on the U.S. Latinos & Latinas and World War II Oral History Project, a compilation of stories from hundreds of Hispanics who were touched by the war, including Ralph and 23 other Arizona veterans.

Voices of Valor also will take the stage in Austin, where University of Texas Professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez led the project.

Subjects Covered: diversity training, education, personal storytelling

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