Mexican immigrant and Afro-Latina Aurora Estrada Orozco was a community leader, orator, writer, and bilingual advocate. She was born on May 8, 1918, in Cerralvo, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1924. She was the daughter of Gertrudis Gonzales Toscano and Lorenzo Estrada Phillips. Her father, who was half Afro-Cuban and half English, came from Jamaica and spoke fluent English and Spanish; he was a supervisor in the mines near Cerralvo and a bookkeeper in Mercedes, Texas. Her mother Gertrudis Toscano was middle class. As a child, Aurora worked in the fields and attended public schools and a private Mexican school in Mercedes. She had seven siblings and another “brother” taken in by the family. She graduated from Mercedes High School in 1937 and took extension classes in business from the University of Texas at Austin from 1947 to 1949.
As a store clerk the early 1950s, Aurora married Mexican immigrant bootmaker Primitivo Orozco on January 29, 1951, and they moved to Cuero, Texas, where Aurora raised six children and worked as a saleswoman at Lieberman’s Department Store from 1967 to 1985. All of their children later graduated from college.
Orozco began her community activism with the local Parent Teacher Association in 1959. In 1972 she organized the first dance in Cuero to honor Mexican American high school graduates, of which her six children participated. Influenced by her children in college, she was inspired by the Chicano movement and Chicano studies. In the 1970s she was involved with Texans for the Educational Advancement of Mexican Americans (TEAM), LULAC, Raza Unida, and Familias Unidas. She was a write-in candidate for the school board in 1973. In 1988 she was active with the Cuero Voter Registration and Education Project, a Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. She served as treasurer for the Mario Garza campaign. She also served on a Cuero city advisory committee from 1985 to 1990. She was a Democrat.
Aurora was active in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and served on the parish council from 1972 to 1981 and in the Guadalupanas from 1971 to 1981. She presided over both. She helped organize the annual jamaica and was responsible for revenue increases due to business donations. Along with Irma Gonzalez, she worked at bingo fundraisers weekly for twenty years. She was a Spanish lector from 1976 to 1999.
Orozco penned a few poems while she raised her children but began her career as a writer in 1977 after all of her children had left for college but especially after daughter Irma conducted an oral history with her for a Chicana class at UT Austin. Influenced by the Chicano movement, Aurora Orozco developed as a writer in her sixties and espoused Mexican and Chicano nationalist and feminist themes, unusual for her generation. Her autobiography, biography of Primitivo, short stories, children’s book, poetry, political essays, calaveras, and travel logs awaited publication in the 2010s as did her report of the first Tejano student conference in 1979 and a report of the MALCS (Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio) conference in Laredo in 1991. An autobiographical piece, “Mexican Blood Runs Through My Veins,” was published in Speaking Chicana (1999).
Orozco’s writings have inspired others. Author and historian Teresa Palomo Acosta conceived of “Cantos y Cuentos: Tejanas Y Tejanos,” a theatrical production at Zachary Scott Theatre in Austin, by using Orozco’s writings “El dia de dar Gracias” and “El Raspero.” Angela Alston of Austin interviewed Orozco for her film The Weeping Woman: Tales of La Llorona (1993). Orozco also wrote about jacales for Dennis Medina (a former chairman of Gay and Lesbian Hispanics Unidos).
Orozco gave speeches in Cuero and at Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, which her daughter Sylvia co-founded and directed. She conducted readings of her writings at the National Association for Chicano Studies in 1984, MALCS in 1990, the Women and Texas History Conference in Austin in 1990, “Hispanic Voices in Theatre” at UT Austin in 1992, and La Pena in Austin in 1992. She spoke at the Hispanas Unidas conference in San Antonio and to the Pan American Club in Austin. In 1992 she spoke at Allan Elementary School in Austin where she addressed education. In 2000 she presented at the US Latinos and Latinas and World War II Conference at UT Austin.
In 1992 she was featured in an exhibit on Tejanas at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and in 2011 she was featured in a Latina exhibit by the Austin History Center. In 2001 she accompanied daughter Sylvia to President George W. Bush’s State Dinner for Mexican President Vicente Fox. Orozco’s husband died in 1990. She survived a heart attack, but after a stroke left her with aphasia, she moved in with daughter Sylvia in Austin. She volunteered at Mexic-Arte Museum for several years.
Her children included Maria Teresa, the second Mexican American to attend the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin; Sylvia Orozco, founder of Mexic-Arte Museum; Irma Orozco, television newscaster, professor, and teacher in Austin; Edmundo, a businessman; Cynthia E. Orozco, historian; and Robert, an engineer in computer science.
Orozco learned to drive when she was sixty-five and attended the gym at age ninety-one. She died from complications of a second stroke on February 9, 2011, in Austin. She was buried in Hillside Cemetery in Cuero. The National Mexican Museum invited daughter Sylvia to create an altar honoring her in 2012, and she was included in the 2013 Texas women’s exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.