Cruz was born May 2, 1921, on the banks of San Pedro Creek at Casa Navarro in San Antonio, Texas. Cruz’s life is a true San Antonio love story, as she was born, raised and built a life on the storied streets of what is now referred to as Zona Cultural. While working at Blanca’s Café, located just two blocks from Market Square, she met the love of her life, Pedro Cortez, a young immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico. Pedro was delivering meat from his aunt and uncle’s grocery store, Villa del Carmen, which was located in what is now UTSA’s Downtown Campus when he met a charming local girl who worked at the café. He asked her out and reluctantly she accepted a date with the young delivery boy. On the night they were supposed to meet for the date, she sat by her window and waited. As the minutes passed, she had all but given up on Pedro when a well-dress gentleman started walking towards the house. She didn’t recognize her future husband, looking dapper in a suit instead of his typical khaki uniform. The rest is history as the couple soon married and began their journey towards the American Dream.
In 1941, with a $150 loan they purchased a small, 3-table café. With a handful of family recipes, they established what is now Mi Tierra Café y Panaderia. The small café expanded to the entire block and the Cortez’s restaurant family grew to include three other restaurants, La Margarita, Pico de Gallo and Viva Villa, with the opening of the newest restaurant, Mi Familia, set for this summer. Eventually, as their restaurants grew so did the family and Cruz’s attention turned to raising her children at their home on the westside of San Antonio. While the restaurant empire that she helped build became a strong pillar of San Antonio’s community, Cruz was the stronghold for her family. Cruz and Pedro were humble, but their dedication to San Antonio did not go unnoticed. They worked hard to preserve their community and in 1999 La Familia Cortez was named one of San Antonio’s five families of the century, along with household names of Frost, Zachry, Steves, and McAllister. This honor was just one of many bestowed on Cruz and the Cortez family including the Cesar E. Chavez Legacy & Educational Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, National Conference of Christians and Jews Humans Relations Award, Mexican American Unity Council Albert Peäa Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award, Westside Development Corporation’s Westside Honors, San Antonio Business Journal Legacy Leader and Family-Owned Business, Minority Enterprise Development Week Minority Legacy Firm, San Antonio Business Hall of Fame induction, San Antonio Mexican Friendship Council Amistad Award, among others. Cruz was a mother to more than just five children: she dedicated herself to the community which is why AVANCE named her their prestigious Mother of the Year in 1994. In 2003, even after her husband’s death, Cruz and Pedro were recognized as exemplary citizens by the Senate of the State of Texas. They also received the Henry Guerra Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists (SAAHJ). This award is normally given to individuals who are distinguished in the field of Journalism, but SAAHJ felt that Pedro and his family had met the other criteria to the fullest extent by serving as a “bridge of understanding” between all communities and implementing change for the betterment of the Hispanic community. Cruz’s servant leadership in the community came from her strong faith, one of her most defining characteristics.
She was fortunate to travel the world, but her most influential trip and cherished memory was her journey through Israel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Cruz’s faith in God, dedication to family and strength are pillars that La Familia Cortez carries on, both through their family and their business. Cruz knew people from all walks of life, from past presidents and senators to her west side neighbors and showed unconditional love to every person she met. The family’s mission statement reflects the strong virtues that Cruz and Pedro instilled in their children and grandchildren and ensures that their legacy lives on: “We will glorify God by honoring the vision of our founders, valuing family, preserving our culture and offering a world-class experience.” Cruz joins her husband Pedro and son Manuel in heaven, and is survived by her children Jorge, David, Rosalinda and Ruben, along with 22 grandchildren, 27 grandchildren and 2 great- grandchildren. A public viewing will be held this Saturday, June 1, 2019 from 1:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Porter Loring Mortuary on McCullough Ave. Cruz had a green thumb and enjoyed tending to her flowers in her greenhouse, but her faith in God and her love for children were first and foremost in her life. In lieu of flowers, donations to St. Jude’s or Christ Mission College are requested in her memory. 25 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.