Saturday, November 22, 2014

Elvira Cisneros, 90 year old mother of Henry passes away

 Elvira Cisneros, a longtime San Antonio community leader who raised a family on the West Side that included future mayor Henry Cisneros, died early Saturday after a long illness. She was 90.

Elvira Cisneros' life story reflected a generation of Mexican immigrants who fled a country caught up in revolution, chaos and violence. She was 2 when her parents, Romulo Munguia and Carolina Malpica Munguia, moved to San Antonio and planted deep roots in the Prospect Hill neighborhood.

They became business and community leaders, planting seeds of political activism and civic duty that would bloom for generations.

Henry Cisneros said his mother never lost the high standards she learned from her parents, including personal courtesy and a deep sense of obligation to her community.

"She expected dignity in discourse and fairness from community institutions," he said. "She was big on fairness and hated discrimination, hated prejudice. She thought the white-only fountains (downtown) were an abomination. She thought they were sinful."

"She set an example for many young women of the old-school ways. She never baked a cake out of a box and made my sisters' dresses and said that they were better than the ones at Frost Bros," he added, referring to a local high-end department store.


Elvira had graduated from Jefferson High School and had attended the University of Texas at Austin — pioneering for a Mexican-American woman at the time — but left school to work in the family business while her three brothers served during the war.

She met her future husband George Cisneros at Randolph Field during World War II when her brother was serving there. Family lore has it that her father, a printer and founder of Munguia Printers, gave his blessing for her to marry only if George Cisneros agreed to never take her away from San Antonio.

The couple had five children — Henry, Pauline, George Jr., Tim and Christina. Elvira Cisneros devoted her life to them, serving as a PTA president and scout den mother and leader. She shuttled them to sports activities and their service as altar boys, band members, choral singers, ROTC cadets and class officers.

Henry Cisneros was Mayor of San Antonio from 1981 to 1989 and later served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Clinton administration.

Elvira Cisneros' community leadership included roles in the Alamo Area Council of Governments, the Avenida Guadalupe Association, AVANCE and Project Learn to Read. WellMed's Elvira Cisneros Senior Community Center on the South Side was named for her.

Ultimately, her role as a family caretaker would mark her life. Early on, she helped care for her youngest brother, Henry, who died of Hodgkin's disease in 1943, and her youngest sister, Stella, who had polio. And she cared for her husband, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, after he suffered a stroke in 1976. He died in 2006.

The family never expected him to live that long but credited his longevity to her devotion, even after he lived in a nursing home.

A devout Catholic, she was a lifelong parishioner at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower, where she was married and her children were baptized.

In July 2014, she celebrated her 90th birthday atop the Tower of the Americas.
Funeral arrangements are pending.


eayala@express-news.net
Twitter: @ElaineAyala

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