Fortino Treviño, World War I veteran, barber, and civil rights activist, was born in Rancho de los Sáenz, Starr County, Texas, on October 8, 1891, to Crecensio Treviño and Eugenia Naranjo. He grew up in Alice, Texas, where his father worked as a barber. At the time of the 1910 census, Fortino lived with his parents and three siblings, and he worked as a servant. He eventually learned the barber trade from his father.
During World War I Treviño volunteered for military service and enlisted in the United States Army, according to the records of the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, on February 22, 1918. Throughout his stint in the U. S. Army, Treviño also earned extra money as a barber to his fellow soldiers—while serving at Camp Travis, traveling by train across the United States, en route to Europe aboard the transport Olympic, training in France, and even in the trenches.
Fortino Treviño served with the American Expeditionary Forces in France as a member of the 360th Infantry Regiment of the Ninetieth Division. José de la Luz Sáenz, a fellow Mexican doughboy from Alice, co-founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the author of a World War I diary, described him as a “true representative of the good name, worth, and honor of our brave and self-respecting Mexican people.” During the war, Treviño saw action at Saint-Mihiel and other areas of France. He was discharged as a private first class on June 19, 1919.
Upon his return to Alice in 1919, Treviño established a barbershop with the money that he sent his father while fighting in France. On January 12, 1920, he married Lilia Garza in Jim Wells County. During the 1920s Treviño took an active role in the fight for the civil rights of Mexican Americans. He joined the Order of Sons of America and represented that group in Corpus Christi at the historic May 1929 meeting that resulted in the founding of the League of United Latin American Citizens. From that time on he dedicated his time primarily to LULAC and became a major driving force in South Texas.
The 1930 census listed Treviño as a barber in Alice, Texas. His family included two sons. Treviño’s continuous leadership in LULAC earned him public accolades as a major political figure from the civil rights organization in his later years. LULAC acknowledged his contributions by presenting him with the Pioneer Award in 1968. Fortino Treviño was eighty-nine years old at the time of his death from heart disease in Alice on March 5, 1981. He was buried in Old Collins Cemetery in Alice.