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REYNA, MARIA TORRES

REYNA, MARÍA TORRES (1911–1987). María (Mary) T. Reyna, Houston entrepreneur and civic leader, was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, on January 13, 1911, one of seven children of Gerónimo and María J. de Torres, who owned a vaudeville theater in Piedras Negras. She completed her elementary and secondary education in her hometown and while still in her teens immigrated to the United States. On May 22, 1927, she married José Ángel (Joe) Reyna, an automobile mechanic, in San Antonio, and soon after their marriage the couple moved to Houston. They settled in Magnolia Park in the city's east end. They raised eight children, three of whom were adopted. Joe Reyna worked as a mechanic in various garages and eventually owned his own business, Reyna's Garage. Mary worked at various jobs and saved money to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning a flower shop. During the 1930s she sold clothes from door to door, and during the early 1940s she operated a fruit stand on Seventy-fifth street. She also volunteered at various florists' shops around the city in order to learn the trade. Finally, in 1947 she opened her own flower shop at 903 Seventy-fifth Street, where her fruit stand had once stood. The shop prospered over the next thirty years, a notable accomplishment considering that few women or members of minorities operated their own businesses during this period. Reyna's Florist became one of the most popular businesses in Magnolia Park, and over the years it provided the floral arrangements for thousands of banquets, weddings, and quinceañeras. Mary Reyna often donated her materials and services to families and charitable organizations that had limited funds. Because of her generosity, both she and her business acquired the nickname "la reina de las flores," "queen of the flowers."

She became a leading figure in civic, cultural, religious, and political affairs in Houston. She was one of the founding members of Ladies LULAC Council 22 and was elected its first secretary in 1935. She was also elected to various offices of the Comité Patriótico Mexicano, an organization dedicated to fostering better relations between Mexico and the United States. From 1980 to 1984 Mary Reyna served as president of this organization. In addition, she was one of the founding members of the Magnolia Park YWCA. She was also a member of the Hispanic Business and Professional Women's Club. She donated her time and services to several charities and civic organizations: the Christmas Seals, the American Cancer Society, the March of Dimes, the Boy Scouts, the Houston Junior Forum, Rusk Settlement House, and the Ciudad de Niños, an orphanage in Monterrey, Nuevo León. She did volunteer work for more than ten churches of various denominations, and she supported the cultural and charitable activities of numerous organizations, including the Club Cultural Recreativo México Bello. She organized numerous community celebrations. In November 1975 she organized a festival at Moody Park called the Day of Appreciation, to recognize all those who had contributed in some way to the Mexican-American community. More than 1,000 people attended the festival, and Mrs. Reyna presented awards to political and civic leaders, media personalities, and educators. Because of her kindness and good humor, she was often asked to serve as master of ceremonies at dinners and banquets, and on several occasions she was asked to speak about Mexican-American affairs on English and Spanish radio and television programs. During the 1970s she wrote a weekly newspaper column entitled "En Sociedad" for the Spanish-language newspaper El Presente, in which she chronicled social and community affairs.

She received numerous awards during her lifetime. In 1973, during a celebration of the Fiestas Patrias, Mayor Louie Welch presented her an award for the Most Distinguished Mexican American, and in 1975 Mayor Fred Hofheinz declared November 9 "Mary T. Reyna Day." In 1980 the Houston Mexican American Chamber of Commerce honored her as Business Woman of the Year. In 1984 the Comité Patriótico Mexicano named her Houston's "Ambassador of Good Faith" to Mexico. In 1985 Mayor Katherine J. Whitmire presented her a certificate of appreciation from the city of Houston for "meritorious service to the community." The College of Journalists of Mexico awarded her a diploma, presented by Mexican president José López Portillo, in recognition of her work in fostering better international relations. Mary Reyna died in 1987. She was preceded in death by her husband, who died of cancer in 1971, and by her oldest daughter Gloria, who died of cancer in 1978. Her surviving children continued to run Reyna's Florist.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Houston Chronicle, September 23, 1973. María T. Reyna Collection, Houston Metropolitan Research Collection, Houston Public Library.

María-Cristina García

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

María-Cristina García, "REYNA, MARIA TORRES," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fre59), accessed October 20, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.