Tomorrow is voting day for San Antonio’s Mayoral runoff election, and I’ve already cast my (early) ballot. I was hesitant to even skim the surface of publishing content related to government and civic engagement on this platform–for fear of attracting any negativity and criticism whatsoever–but the further I grow into adulthood the more passionate I become about issues that I used to shy away from, and this one is important. Only 15% of voters turn out in municipal elections. And until this year, I used to be one of the 85% who didn’t show. After reconnecting with some family history, however, I’ve become inspired to stop being complacent and take responsibility for my civil liberties that so many people have fought to create and keep.
I’m so passionate about the city of San Antonio because I come from an ancestry that spans five generations of hard working, entrepreneurial, civically engaged citizens. My great-great grandfather Francisco Pizzini emigrated from Italy to Veracruz, Mexico in the early 1880’s. By the late 1880’s he had made his way to San Antonio where he chose to settle. The rest of the family joined him and he opened Pizzini’s spice store on “produce row” (in Market Square) and began to establish the roots of our Pizzini–Guerra–Leeper lineage. His daughter, Elvira Pizzini Guerra, was the famous matriarch of our family. I wish I could have met Nona. She was also an entrepreneur, who founded and managed The Angelus funeral home with my great-grandfather, Henry A. Guerra Sr., “Nono”. I’ve been told story after story about her strength, her servant leadership, and how every man that crossed her path listened to her at a time when gender equality wasn’t in vogue.
What is so important about Nona is that she led by doing. She did her part to fight injustice through action and leadership. She fought for racial equality and for immigrant rights through serving organizations that worked on these issues. And on a personal level, when she saw injustice, she went to city officials and corrected it herself. There was a man running for a school board position who she knew was a member of the KKK. What did she do? She ran against him and won, and served the school board herself, just to make sure he never had any power. She found out women were being assaulted in the park across the street from her funeral home, because the banana trees were large enough to hide behind. What did she do? She went to the city and had every single tree removed. There were so many additional heroic stories of civic duty and civil service on a municipal level that I have been told about Nona and Nono. After reflecting on the current state of affairs in our country and in our city….we’re still trying to find solutions to the same issues they were facing in the early 1900’s. How can I just not vote?
Looking up early voting locations, I saw the Henry A. Guerra Jr. library on the list. The next line of Guerra’s after Nono and Nona was my grandmother Elvira Lucia Guerra, “Lulu” and her brother Henry A Guerra Jr., “Tio Hank.” That library was named after my Uncle Henry because he was the first Mexican-American broadcaster to use his real Hispanic surname on an English-speaking news station, WOAI. He broke racial barriers in broadcasting by being the best in the business, being proud of his heritage, and serving the San Antonio community as its greatest ambassador and historian until the day he died. This was a wake-up-call reminder for me that, even though voting for Mayor may seem like a small action, I needed to show up and perform my duty to honor the precedent of civic engagement my ancestors dedicated their lives to establishing.
Real change, whether at the municipal or federal level, begins with action. And voting for Mayor in tomorrow’s runoff election is a great place to start. Get to the polls, and use your voice somewhere other than social media to be heard. If you need to read up on the election details, the candidates who are in the runoff, learn about where / how to vote, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce has a great blog post that will give you all of the information you need. San Antonio has always been a beautiful multicultural melting pot of passionate citizens. If I found a deeply personal connection to civic engagement that inspired me to finally act, I am confident you can too, and you probably won’t need to search very far. I hope you’ll join me in my commitment to lead through action, because our generation has the power to do so much good.
And remember…history has its eyes on you. #hamilref
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