Advancing Accountability, Climate, and Equity
Former Student Shares Impact of Lifetime Work
Family values and service guide civil rights work with the Peace Corps.
Through his work as a civil rights activist, Peace Corps National Diversity Liaison, educator, and scholar, Dr. Joseph J. García ‘93 has impacted lives internationally through grassroot efforts.
Peace Corps Leadership
2021 is the 60th anniversary of the Peace Corps, an organization characterized by a commitment to grassroots activism for civil rights and social justice. Dr. Joseph J. García was a Peace Corps Paraguay volunteer from 1997-1999. During his Peace Corps service, Dr. Garcia was National Diversity Liaison and Lead Regional Recruiter. Dr. García holds the belief that one’s life impacts our service. He is passionate about creating a more just society, where one can trust that small things will lead to significant outcomes.
In 1990, Dr. Joseph García joined his brother Dr. Michael D. García ’94 at Texas A&M University in College Station. Dr. Joseph García transferred from Del Mar College in Corpus Christi to attend Texas A&M as a sophomore geography/environmental studies major. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend this prestigious school,” said Dr. García. “Back then, I had an amazing education that was very inexpensive.” Dr. García earned his bachelor's of science degree from Texas A&M - College Station in 1993. In 1996, he earned a second bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M in Corpus Christi.
After his Peace Corps service, Dr. García earned a dual-degree masters in community and regional planning and Latin American studies in 2006. In 2015, Dr. García earned his PhD in Latin American studies. He has served as a professor at the University of New Mexico, Union College, and Texas A&M International University. At Texas A&M International University, Dr. García developed expertise in Chicanx/Latinx studies, Latin American/Caribbean studies, sociology, and U.S. history. García has published about his parents' work for Texas voting rights, his Peace Corps Paraguay international development projects, and environmental justice history of the Americas.
What is the inspiration for your Peace Corps and research?
Born and raised in a small farming and ranching community near Corpus Christi, Dr. García was inspired by his parents’ work in the community. Civil rights activism was a large part of his household. “I grew up with a strong commitment to service, spirituality, and community,” Dr. García said. He witnessed his parents collaborate with an African American and Mexican American coalition. They organized to win a federal court decision implementing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He watched as his parents organized with veterans, professors, lawyers, leaders from Corpus Christi and members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), American GI Forum, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). He sought to learn more about civil and voting rights and felt challenged to make a global impact. “I began putting myself in uncomfortable positions,” Dr. García said. “I’m a firm believer that small things can lead to huge outcomes.”
What were you most surprised by in your service?
The most surprising aspect of his Peace Corps service in the Paraguayan village of small farmers was the parallel with the South Texas community he grew up in. Both groups had community activists that were grounded in faith. As a Peace Corps volunteer, he worked with Franciscan nuns in Paraguay. He drew on his Catholic background and the experience of his parents' involvement in the Catholic church to bond with the people, teach, and build the municipal water system. “The Peace Corps really opened my eyes to the world,” Dr. García said. “It challenged me to pursue higher education at the masters and doctorate levels.”
What do you do in your free time?
Dr. García continues to be inspired by his amazing South Texas culture. He enjoys singing and playing the guitar in a variety of music genres including Mexican/Tejano, country/Bluegrass, Argentine Tango/Folklorico, Afro Brazilian, Afro Cuban, rock, blues, and jazz. He is an intellectual who loves to read and write. “Music has enhanced my life,” Dr. García said. “Writing about Latin America and the Caribbean, the civil rights movement, and the Mexican American Civil Rights/Chicano movements is a labor of love.” He also enjoys spending time with family and friends. Because he is such a transformational leader in promoting equality and civil rights, no matter where he goes, Dr. García will continue to serve and leave a legacy for generations to come.
Crystal S. Carter