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Funded in part by a grant from TexTreasures and by the UT Arlington Library.

Leticia Van de Putte


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(117 pages)

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Biography:

Leticia Van de Putte was born Leticia Rosa Magdalena Aguilar San Miguel in 1954 in Ft. Lewis, Washington where her father was stationed during his military service. Raised in San Antonio, Texas, she was president of the Horace Mann Junior High student council, and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1973 where she was the first Mexican American on the 'Lassos' pep squad. She married Peter Van de Putte in 1977 and received her Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Texas College of Pharmacy in 1979. She served on the Airport Advisory Board, Centro 21, the Mayor's Commission on the Status of Women, the Bexar County Parks Board, and was a precinct chair for the Democratic Party. She was president of the Bexar County Pharmacy Association and served as chairperson for the National Hispanic State Legislators. She was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1990 and to the Texas Senate in 1998. At the time of the interview, she was one of several Democratic Party affiliates in absentia from the Texas Special Legislative Session over redisricting. She co-chaired the 2008 Democratic National Convention and was still a member of the Texas Senate in 2009.

Interview Summary:

Leticia Van de Putte begins with her family's long history in the Eagle Pass area of Maverick County, Texas, and describes her family's businesses on Produce Row (now the historic Market Square in San Antonio). She attributes the prolifieration of the Ballet Folklórico and Mariachi to her mother, María Isabel 'Belle' Aguilar San Miguel Ortíz, a cultural and creative arts director for the San Antonio Independent School District. Senator Van de Putte discusses her family's struggle with race discrimination in San Antonio and gives her perspective as a pharmacist on modern pharmaceuticals and natural remedies (naturopathy). She recalls her junior high and high school years and the challenges she took to achieve school leadership roles, battling race and sex discrimination to do so. She explains her family's input in her college plans and recounts her quinceanera. She comments on her husband, Peter Van de Putte, and his family's Hispanic background, and addresses the challenges of rearing their six children while running two businesses. She contrasts her experiences as a student at the University of Houston to those at the University of Texas and shares details of the campaign to elect Paul Elizondo to the Texas House of Representatives. She explains her appointment to the San Antonio Airport Advisory Board by mayor Henry Cisneros, which stemmed from a personal experience for the need to provide access for people with disabilities. She details the creation of the Edgewood Business Advisory Group, her placement on the Bexar County Parks Board, and the process for her election to the Texas House of Representatives in 1990 after the resignation of Orlando García. She describes the process of conducting politics in Austin, including a discussion on handling homophobia, and covers her campaign finances. She expresses her concern for the problem of school dropouts, contrasts her work in the House with that of the Senate, and notes her efforts to promote the Texas Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). She talks at length on the bipartisan redistricting battle in the 2003 Special Session of the Texas Legislature, her active role in aiding Democratic Party affiliates to flee the state, and mentions Senator John Whitmire's role in the fight against redistricting. She notes the involvement of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in the redistricting battle in 2001, cites the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and discusses the personal sacrifices made by the Democratic legislators. She mentions such prominent Mexican Americans as Joe Bernal, Gregory Luna, and Willie Velásquez, and comments on former Texas Speaker of the House Gibson Donald 'Gib' Lewis, gay legislator Glen Maxey, and former Texas governor and United States president George W. Bush.

Locations of residence or activity:

San Antonio

Interview Date:

9/6/2003