Spanish-Speaking PTA

By: Cynthia E. Orozco

Type: General Entry

Published: December 1, 1995

Updated: July 27, 2020

The Spanish-Speaking PTA comprised local parent-teacher chapters that addressed the needs of Spanish-speaking parents, especially women, from the 1920s through the 1950s in Texas. Its chapters met separately from others. They began as local groups around 1923, and were recognized in 1927 by the Texas Congress of Parents and Teachers. In the Spanish-speaking chapters, women expressed their support of education and improved health for their children. The chapters were one of the first voluntary organizations in the state through which Mexican and Mexican-American women interacted with mainstream society. The Spanish-Speaking PTA developed as a response to the increased number of Mexican-American students in the public schools after school attendance became compulsory in 1915. Mexican-origin women started the first chapters, enlisting the support of Hispanic men and a few Anglo women teachers as members. In time, parents, community organizations, and even city councils organized chapters. Women who had attended schools in Mexico or private Mexican schools in Texas played a key role in launching the organization.

In the early 1920s the Texas PTA organized districts in various geographical regions. After the recognition of the Spanish-Speaking PTA, Elvira Rodríguez de Gonzales chaired the chapters in District No. 10, which included nineteen South Texas counties, from 1927 to 1936. By 1936 she had published a Year Book for Spanish Speaking Parent Teacher Associations. Spanish-Speaking PTA chapters did not always succeed. In the 1920s a group at Corpus Christi, for instance, tried to start one, only to see it fold from lack of support. Around 1927 Elvira Rodríguez organized one at San Diego. J. Luz Saenz, a teacher, may have been a PTA organizer. In 1929 a group in Robstown organized under the name Sociedad de Madres and Teachers. Between 1931 and 1933 in San Antonio, Men's Council No. 2 of the League of United Latin American Citizens organized eight PTAs; they urged women to support these groups instead of LULAC or Ladies LULAC. Spanish-Speaking PTAs functioned in Dilley, San Antonio, San Diego, Corpus Christi, Robstown, Houston, Kingsville, and Austin. In 1933 the Stephen F. Austin PTA in Kingsville had thirty members. Mrs. A. G. Treviño was president, Mrs. J. Scarborough secretary, and Mrs. E. Hernández treasurer. The Spanish-Speaking PTA at David Crockett School in San Antonio had seventy-six members in the late 1930s. The Zavala Elementary PTA in Houston included both women and men, with Sra. Zapopán de Solar as president.

Activities of the chapters varied. The Kingsville chapter bought trees, planted gardens, purchased a piano, a Victrola, and an encyclopedia set, and opened a cafeteria for poor children. The Robstown chapter helped the local LULAC men's council put up a Christmas tree for Mexican-origin children. In San Antonio, Mrs. Paul Jones or Carolina Munguía was the first Mexican American president of the Spanish-Speaking PTA at the Crockett School. Under the leadership of Munguía, the PTA tackled depression-era poverty by establishing a soup kitchen and providing free lunches for children, built shower and bath facilities, organized a sewing circle to provide clothing for needy children, held suppers in the school cafeteria to raise funds, and annually prepared Christmas baskets.

By 1939 the Texas PTA formed a department to coordinate the Spanish-speaking PTAs, with Mrs. T. J. Martin, an Anglo from Brackettville, as chairman. She stressed the need to provide equal educational opportunities for all the children in Texas, had PTA materials translated into Spanish for distribution, and in the early 1940s engaged Consuelo E. Herrera, a teacher at Zavala School in Austin, to translate articles for the state magazine, Texas Parent-Teacher. In March 1941 the Texas Parent-Teacher began a Spanish column called "El Hogar Creativo" ("The Creative Home"). From September 1941 through April 1942 the magazine also ran a column called "En Defensa de la Niñez y de la Juventud" ("In Defense of Childhood and Youth"). While producing materials in Spanish, Mrs. Martin encouraged assimilation among Spanish-speaking parents. She sought to impress upon the Mexican people of Texas that they must speak English, that parents must be naturalized, and that they must be good American citizens. The department published a pamphlet in Spanish on citizenship and generally encouraged it as well as education in the English language and American history and government.

Through the 1940s the Texas PTA stressed the need to be "good neighbors." The 1947–50 State Handbook noted that all but fourteen of the 254 counties in Texas had "citizens of Mexican extraction" and stated that local councils should organize "roving" Spanish-Speaking PTAs to serve schools where none existed, as the San Antonio Council of Parents and Teachers had done. Bilingual leaders were needed. The Texas PTA also produced a Manual for Spanish-Speaking Associations. The objectives for 1947–50 included the need to appoint or elect chairmen in Spanish-speaking associations in the PTA districts (sixteen at that time) and to enlist additional members. With the demise of segregation in Texas and the spread of bilingual education in the schools in the 1960s, Spanish-Speaking PTAs declined.

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Rómulo Munguía Papers, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Education
  • Organizations
  • Associations
  • Societies
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Advocates
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Corpus Christi
  • San Antonio
  • Central Texas
  • Gulf Coast Region
  • Southeast Texas

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

Cynthia E. Orozco, “Spanish-Speaking PTA,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1995
July 27, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: