Cigarroa, Leonides González (1922–1973)

By: Megan Seaholm

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: August 4, 2020

Leonides González Cigarroa, physician and civic leader, son of Joaquín González Cigarroa, a physician, and Josefina González de la Vega, a pharmacist, was born in Tlalpam, Mexico, on December 19, 1922. His family moved to San Antonio when he was an infant, then to Laredo when he was fifteen. Cigarroa attended public schools in San Antonio and Laredo. He was trained as a concert pianist and eventually earned a degree from San Antonio College of Music, but at age ten he confided to his brother that he planned to become a surgeon. During his teenage years in Laredo he spent much of his free time at Mercy Hospital as an enthusiastic volunteer in the laboratories, emergency room, and X-ray department. He also observed surgery performed by his father and other physicians. Cigarroa received a B.S. degree from St. Edward's University in Austin in 1943 and graduated cum laude from Loyola University School of Medicine in Chicago in 1947. He completed an internship and a residency in general surgery at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. In 1946, when he was twenty-four years old, he became a United States citizen.

He returned to Laredo to begin an outstanding career in medicine and civic leadership. As a diplomate of the American Board of Surgery and a member of several professional organizations, he became chief of surgery at Mercy Hospital, civilian consultant in surgery at Laredo Air Force Base, and clinical professor of surgery at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio. He also served as surgical advisor to the vocational rehabilitation division of the Texas Education Agency and chairman of the Health Task Force of the Texas Urban Development Commission. He was especially concerned about education and child welfare. As a trustee of the joint Laredo Junior College and Laredo Independent School District Board, he and colleague Albert King headed a building committee for the college. The mathematics and science building that now bears Cigarroa's name, a library building, and four other buildings opened in 1968 and 1969. Cigarroa initiated a campaign for upper-level college instruction in Laredo that resulted in the establishment of a branch of Texas A&I University at Laredo Junior College. He also led a successful citizens' effort to have the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston organize an Area Health Educational Center in Laredo.

President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Cigarroa to serve on the National Commission on Health Facilities, and President Richard M. Nixon named him to the Health Manpower Development Program Advisory Board, a program of the Office of Economic Opportunity. In 1970 Cigarroa was a delegate to the White House Conference on Children and that same year was made chairman of the state commission on drug use and abuse. He served on the State Board of Mental Health and Mental Retardation for several years (see TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND MENTAL RETARDATION). In 1967 he was chosen "Man of the Year" in Laredo. A high school that opened in Laredo in 1984 was named for him. The Human Resources and Leadership Conference for Migrants, sponsored by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, honored Cigarroa for his outstanding work to improve health in South Texas. Cigarroa married Margaret Giller, M.D., of Chicago, and the couple had six children, four of whom became physicians. Cigarroa died in 1973 and was buried in Laredo.

Laredo Times, February 18, 1970. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Health and Medicine
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Surgeons
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders

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

Megan Seaholm, “Cigarroa, Leonides González,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
August 4, 2020

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