Carmen Longoria: Hispanic Community Leader, Civil Rights Advocate
January 22, 2021
Carmen Longoria was born in California in 1930 to Mexican immigrants displaced by the Mexican Revolution. From a young age, she was interested in community and civic engagement. After graduating from high school, Carmen and her sister established the Young Catholic Girls, a group that organized dances, holiday parties, and other social occasions during and after WWII.
In 1961, Carmen’s husband was transferred to Elmendorf Air Force Base, and the couple moved North. In Alaska, Carmen and her husband established themselves as advocates for the Hispanic community, forming close relationships with other Spanish-speaking families in the Government Hill neighborhood. In 1968, they founded the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council. Their advocacy grew the numbers of Hispanics leading and serving within local institutions, including the Alaska Housing and Finance Corporation, the Anchorage Women’s Commission, and the Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services.
Carmen and her husband also founded Hispanic Alaskans, an organization that supported scholarships and job opportunities in local government for Hispanics. The group advocated for the confirmation of the first Hispanic judge to serve in Alaska, Rene Gonzalez.
Carmen was also passionate about sharing the legacy of Hispanics in the military—people like Master Sergeant Roy B. Benavidez, who was featured as a Medal of Honor Visitor to Elmendorf Air Force Base.
After her husband passed in 1992, Carmen turned her attention supporting the Anchorage Senior Center, Mabel T. Caverly, and Retired & Senior Volunteer Program Anchorage. She contributed countless hours of volunteer work from her mid-60s until her passing at the age of 90.
Did you know Carmen Longoria, and do you have a story you’d like to share about her? We’d love to know more about her and about the powerful women in your life. Share your images and stories with us on Instagram and Facebook by tagging @anchoragemuseum and #ExtraToughWomenAK and we’ll add them to our ongoing digital curation project. Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming exhibition and be sure to check back for new posts.
Special thanks to Carrie Longoria for taking the time to speak to us and share her mother’s story and photographs.