Chicana por mi Raza

Juana Gonzales

Born: Mercedes, Texas

Education: Attended University of Michigan, graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Family and Child Science.
"Chicana feminism is to be yourself."

Juana Maria Gonzales’s involvement with the Chicana movement started in her hometown of Mercedes, Texas. Born in 1948, Gonzales was the second oldest of eleven children raised in a strict Catholic family in south Texas. From an early age, her family dynamics made her aware of gender disparities and how her identity as a woman changed the way she moved in the world. This realization propelled Gonzales to become interested in women’s issues such as the concept of autonomy and rape culture.

Gonzales moved to Michigan in her twenties to help look after two of her siblings who were attending college at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Prior to moving to Michigan permanently, Juana and a few of her siblings lived in different parts of Michigan and Wisconsin working as migrant workers. In Kalamazoo, Juana became involved with many groups, serving as a member of a Chicano Advisory Board to Kalamazoo Public Schools and working at Kalamazoo Planned Parenthood and Kalamazoo Daycare Center. She also recalls organizing an informal group of Chicanas who met frequently to discuss the gendered contradictions they faced within the Chicano movement. It was in Western Michigan that she met her husband, Jesse Gonzales, who was part of a rising student leadership movement.

After her husband was admitted to a Master's Program at the University of Texas, they moved to Ann Arbor, where they joined a growing group of Latino activists (among them Julio Perazza and Ana Cardona) participating in a number of cultural and political organizations and activities, including the production of a recruitment film aimed at Latina/os. Gonzales attended the University of Michigan briefly and then finished her degree at Michigan State University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Family and Child Science. Gonzales participated in several student groups during her time at both universities, including the Chicano Student Movement Group, the Women’s Advisory Committee, Chicano Students for Progressive Action, Trabajadores Por La Raza, and Mujeres Unidas de Michigan. She was also active in the Chicano student movement at MSU, and served on several campus-wide committees including the MSU Presidential Search Committee in 1978 (M. Cecil Mackey).

In 1979, Gonzales began teaching early elementary students at Red Cedar School in East Lansing, Michigan. While teaching, Gonzales provided educational opportunities to migrant children, served as a migrant daycare teacher, and taught in the migrant program at Lansing Community College. She was awarded a Crystal Apple Award in 2003 from the College of Education at Michigan State University honoring her service to education and her commitment to teaching. Currently, Gonzales is retired and living in East Lansing, Michigan with her husband, Jesse Gonzales.