Elvira Munguía Cisneros, community leader and activist, daughter of Rómulo Munguía and Carolina (Malpica) Munguía, was born on July 11, 1924, in Puebla, Mexico. She was one of seven children. Her parents escaped violence in Mexico and immigrated to San Antonio, Texas, in 1926. Shortly after their arrival, her father worked for the Spanish-language newspaperLa Prensa before he opened Munguía Print Shop, a family-owned business that became a central place for political activism. Her mother was the first Mexican woman radio personality on San Antonio’s West Side and in 1932 created La Estrella, a radio program promoting Mexican culture through music, literature, and geography. Elvira attended Sacred Heart School, Washington Irving Junior High School, and graduated from Jefferson High School. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin. However, she returned to San Antonio to help her parents with the family business after her three oldest brothers enlisted for military service in World War II. She continued her schooling at Draughon’s Business College and learned bookkeeping skills while working at the family business. She later worked at Frost Bank in downtown San Antonio. On November 25, 1945, Elvira Munguía married George Cisneros, a World War II combat infantryman. whom she met through her brother. The couple had five children—Henry, Pauline, George Jr., Tim, and Christina.
Cisneros’s devotion to family led her to care for siblings, husband, and children throughout her life. She cared for her youngest brother, Henry, who passed away from Hodgkin’s disease in 1943, and her youngest sister, Stella, died of polio. Her husband suffered a stroke in 1976. She helped him establish the San Antonio Stroke Club and assisted when he became a national spokesperson for Easter Seals. He died in 2006. Cisneros was highly involved in her children’s lives and served as PTA president, Girl Scout leader, and Cub Scout den mother.
She emphasized community and public service to her children. Her eldest son, Henry Cisneros, served as mayor of San Antonio and secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration in the 1990s. George Cisneros, Jr., became an artist and community leader in San Antonio. Tim Cisneros worked as an architect in Houston and owned Cisneros Design Studies. Pauline Cisneros became a physician and worked at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Christine Cisneros earned a degree from Texas A&M University.
Cisneros served as board member and advisor for the Avenida Guadalupe Association, the AVANCE, the Project Learn to Read, and the Alamo Area Council of Governments. Due to her service in advocating for the elderly, the WellMed’s Elvira Cisneros Senior Community Center was named in her honor. Cisneros was a devout Catholic and attended the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower.
People admired Cisneros for having conservative poise while promoting progressive politics and civil discourse to get things done. According to memorials published at the time of her death, Cisneros emphasized cultural identity as a valuable asset for people of Mexican descent, and her family history illustrated the positive impact of Mexican immigrants on Texas. She died in San Antonio on November 22, 2014. A funeral Mass was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower, and she was buried in San Fernando Cemetery No. 2 in San Antonio.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, August 13, 2007. Rivard Report, November 25, 2014. San Antonio Express-News, November 22, 24, 30, 2014. Maurilio E. Vigil, Hispanics in American Politics: The Search for Political Power (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1987).
Activism and Social Reform
Texas Post World War II
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Tiffany Jasmin González,
“Cisneros, Elvira Munguía,”
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