Changing times, support raise aspirations for youth in The Barrio in Amarillo


El Barrio was developed in Amarillo to house railroad workers brought to the U.S. from Mexico. Photo by Nancy Garcia.

On the glass coffee table, with her favorite issues of the Golf Magazine, she finally finds the book. 

“It focuses more on the now.  Some people I recognize, some people I don’t”, said Maria Guerrero, whose dad immigrated from Mexico. “It gives you a start on the historical aspect of El Barrio.”

The Barrio, which in Spanish means neighborhood, was developed in Amarillo, Texas, to house railroad workers brought to the U.S. from Mexico. It is full of history, culture, and family stories. 

“The focus was always the thought that we were going to grow up, finish school and get married and raise families,” Guerrero said. “So that kind of cut my education, higher education short”. 

The pressure to marry came from her mother. The high school counselors didn’t help. 

“I lacked that initial push,” she said. “And I think anymore now that, and for many years, that there is a focus for high school counselors or teachers to encourage all students and especially Hispanic students, because I have seen that growth.” 

After working for programs such as Upward Bound and the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), Guerrero says she has had the “start to her second career.”

“Growing up, our goal was to get married and have kids,” she said. “But not these ladies. They have accomplished more than I ever dreamed I would ever accomplish. And that is phenomenal.”

Today, Guerrero is the operations director for the Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education (TACHE) where she coordinates all major activities. She is also the first paid staff member. 

“I look at all of these people I have met, just a huge amount of successful people and they are younger than I am,” she said. “I just can’t get enough of that. I feel very fortunate to be in this position in this job and to help encourage students.”

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