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Hispanic Heritage Month: Latinas in power

Posted at 5:57 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 18:57:16-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As KRIS 6 continues to celebrate Hispanic leaders in the community, we now turn to two women who head both Corpus Christi and Nueces County, Mayor Paulette Guajardo and County Judge Barbara Canales.

"We are over 60 percent of Hispanic heritage.” Guajardo said. “This community is predominately Hispanic and so that's why it's important."

Born and raised in Corpus Christi, Mayor Paulette Guajardo said she's deeply rooted in Hispanic culture. She learned much from her Mexicana mom.

“She made sacrifices,” Guajardo said. “She educated herself. She instilled hard work equals success in all of us."

Her mother also taught her the importance of being bi-lingual, embracing tradiciones y familia.

"Every culture should embrace who they are, where they came from, their history and their roots," Guajardo said.

She said those values helped her earn a business degree, become a city councilwoman and eventually mayor.

Ingredients for success also instilled in Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales, who comes from a long line of Hispanic leaders herself. Her office showcases her passion for her roots. Books, art, pictures of her family and heroes and all of their achievements.

"You don't have to look far to find role models,” Canales said. “I had so many growing up. I was very blessed."

Her grandmother, Dr. Clotilde "Cleo" Garcia was a historian and physician.

“She wrote books on Texas Mexican history,” Canales said. “She really also taught me at a very young age the importance of speaking Spanish."

Her great uncle is civil rights activist and American G.I. Forum founder Dr. Hector P. Garcia.

"My father is the first Hispanic United States Attorney," Canales said.

Learning from her heroes, Canales, a University of Texas at Austin engineering grad, went off to law school and became a successful businesswoman, port commissioner and then county judge in 2018.

"If I am the first Latin or Hispanic judge in 2021, that sure did take a long time,” Canales said.

Although overcoming many obstacles, Canales said Latinos and Hispanics still have a ways to go.

"We don't look at firsts anymore,” Canales said. “That's when you know you've made it, when you are looking at the hundredth and it just seems more common place."