Guerra, Fermina (1897–1988)

By: Cynthia E. Orozco

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: December 8, 2019

Fermina Guerra, folklorist and teacher, was born on July 7, 1897, to Florencio Guerra and Josefa Flores at Buena Vista Ranch, fifty miles northeast of Laredo. She grew up on the 3,000-acre brush-country ranch. Her grandfather Justo Guerra had settled the area to raise sheep and goats in 1860. Two schools, Buena Vista elementary and Las Blancas junior high, were built near the ranchhouse. The ranch was considered a social headquarters of the area. The family also owned two lots on the edge of Laredo. Fermina Guerra graduated from Ursuline Academy, a Catholic school in Laredo, and taught in Webb County and Laredo public schools. At the University of Texas she obtained her B.A. in 1938 and her M.A. in 1941. She was a student of J. Frank Dobie. She published "Rancho Buena Vista: Its Ways of Life and Traditions," in Texian Stomping Grounds, a publication of the Texas Folklore Society, in 1941. In the study described visits by missionaries, the Texas Rangers, water use, folk remedies, and the work of sheep-shearers. The essay was reprinted in Mexican-American Authors in 1972. Guerra's masters thesis, "Mexican and Spanish Folklore and Incidents in Southwest Texas," documented border-country folklore and followed the work of Jovita González de Mireles. The thesis included information on early history of the region, ranches on the arroyos, family life, and the ranch year. Guerra conducted interviews for her study, many with Mexican women and her mother. Like the work of Emilia Schunior Ramírez, the thesis addressed the domestic activities of women. The music and words of folksongs, some of which are religious, were added in an appendix. Guerra published "Mexican Animal Tales" in Backwoods to Border (1943), another Folklore Society book. This collection dealt with ranch and brush-country animals. Guerra taught more than fifty years. She taught reading, writing, English, and Spanish at Texas A&I University in Kingsville and in Laredo at Central Elementary School, St. Augustine High School, and Ursuline Academy. At Central Elementary she served as assistant principal. She also tutored at Buena Vista elementary school, a one-room adobe structure, and at Las Blancas junior high school. At the elementary school she taught her mother to read. During summers from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s she tutored border-patrol and other law enforcement agents in Spanish. She continued tutoring after retirement, often free of charge. Guerra was an avid newspaper reader and an independent voter. She was also member and benefactor of St. Augustine Church. She donated her arrowhead collection to the Texas Memorial Museum at the University of Texas at Austin. She died of natural causes on June 5, 1988.

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

Cynthia E. Orozco, “Guerra, Fermina,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995
December 8, 2019

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