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Fronteras: Adela Sloss-Vento Both Abided By And Shattered Gender Norms As Mexican American Civil Rights Activist

One of the Mexican American civil rights movement’s most important voices didn’t attend protests or join organizations. Instead, she wielded a mighty pen.

For more than 60 years, Adela Sloss-Vento used her writings to challenge racial discrimination and exploitation of laborers, all the while championing the civil rights of Mexican Americans.

Sloss-Vento was born in Karnes City, Texas in 1901 and strongly identified with her Mexican roots while growing up in South Texas. Her mother was born in Mexico and her father was of mixed Mexican and German descent. Sloss-Vento’s paternal grandfather was a Confederate colonel who settled in Mexico after the Civil War.

"Agent of Change" is a comprehensive biography that revives the legacy of activist and champion of the Mexican American Civil Rights movement, Adela Sloss-Vento.
"Agent of Change" is a comprehensive biography that revives the legacy of activist and champion of the Mexican American Civil Rights movement, Adela Sloss-Vento.

As an educated Mexican American woman, Sloss-Vento was somewhat of a rarity for the time, according to Cynthia Orozco, professor of history and humanities at Eastern New Mexico University.

“She transcends from one movement into the next across the decades, and that’s another reason that she’s unusual,” Orozco said.

Orozco is the author of “Agent of Change: Adela Sloss-Vento, Mexican American Civil Rights Activist and Texas Feminist.” The comprehensive biography revives Sloss-Vento’s legacy by chronicling her activism throughout two periods: the Mexican American civil rights movement that emerged in the early 20th century, and the Chicano movement that followed in the late 1960s.

Sloss-Vento corresponded with local political leaders, including Alonso S. Perales and J. T. Canales, and her writings made their way to local newspapers as well as the desks of both U.S. and Mexican elected officials.

Sloss-Vento left her writings intact in a chest when she died in 1998, ensuring her contributions to critical movements of the 20th century wouldn’t be completely lost in history. Her son, Dr. Arnoldo Carlos Vento, guarded the papers over the years. Dr. Vento revisited the letters when Orozco was a graduate student in the 1970s at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught Spanish and Chicano studies at the time.

Orozco and Dr. Vento initially planned to co-author a book on Sloss-Vento’s essays. They ultimately produced separate publications, but each memorialized the trailblazer as a self-respecting, self-confident and self-actualized woman whose written words transcended across different political ideologies and cultures.

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren