by Elena Negron
San Antonio is famous for its unique mix of Texan and Mexican culture, and this is encapsulated no better than in the experiences of Rocío Guenther, a Trinity University alum who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Mexico.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting virtually with Guenther, who is pursuing graduate studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and learning about her life.
Her parents run a bilingual school in her hometown, Guadalajara, Mexico, and her father moved the family to San Antonio for two years when she was very young, to reinforce their language skills.
“That’s why my English is so good,” Guenther says. “I always spoke two languages my whole life.”
As she got older she developed a passion for writing, eventually serving as an editor for her high school’s literary magazine, Sin Fronteras which means “without borders.” She knew she wanted to be an English major and decided to study writing and literature at Trinity, explaining, “I’ve always had an emotional connection to this place.”
During college Guenther wrote articles for Edible San Antonio and served as an intern for Trinity University Press, the San Antonio Report, and Texas congressman Joaquin Castro. In this way, she was able to pursue her two passions, writing and political science.
One of her favorite experiences was meeting world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall at an event hosted by Trinity University Press. “She is just an amazing person when it comes to climate action. She has such an inspiring story,” she says. One of her first pieces to appear in the San Antonio Report was an article about Goodall’s visit.
“Rocío brought a great perspective and energy to everything she did,” says Tom Payon, director of Trinity University Press. “I remember speaking at the Guadalajara International Book Fair one year, and I looked up and there she was. She was home visiting family. We had a grand lunch that day, and she was a great guide to the city—which she clearly loves. We were looking to publish more books about Mexico, and her input on projects was invaluable.”
After graduation Guenther worked at the San Antonio Report for a year and a half, writing more than three hundred articles and editing countless others. She credits this as a time of immense growth in her work, which began to focus on immigration and U.S.-Mexico relations, exemplified in her 2016 article about women and children in the asylum process and a story she broke about ICE leaving immigrants at a San Antonio bus station as a hurricane was about to land. This article was picked up by national outlets like BuzzFeed and Democracy Now.
Around this time Guenther moved back to Mexico, but she soon realized she wanted to be where she had already made a name for herself and returned to San Antonio. This sort of encapsulates her feeling of push and pull—ni de aquí, ni de allá, neither here nor there.
“I call myself an amphibian, like I can do both,” she says. She is able to adapt and mesh to one culture or the other and calls herself a lifelong learner. She will often read about something and explore it more deeply through journalism.
When Guenther returned to San Antonio, she took a position helping to plan for the city’s tricentennial celebration, including inviting delegates from Mexico, Spain, and other countries that played critical roles in Texas history. She was instrumental in orchestrating the first visit from the Spanish royal family since the 1980s.
She then took a position in constituent services for the San Antonio mayor’s office. She is currently the director of constituent services and also acts as the mayor’s LGBTQ+ liaison.
“Rocío’s interactions with hundreds of neighbors each week require an exhaustive understanding of how city government functions, an unflinching compassion, and a tireless drive to help people in need,” says Ron Nirenberg, San Antonio’s mayor. “She is gifted with all of those skills.”
Guenther corresponds with citizens and helps with speaking events and other special projects for the mayor. She says that COVID has made her job much more important to the people of San Antonio. Before the pandemic, citizens were mainly concerned with issues like trash pickup or potholes or city safety. Now she speaks to people who are on the brink of homelessness, who have lost their jobs, or who are stuck at home with abusive family members. The job is a constant learning experience, she says.
While Guenther doesn’t know what the future holds, she is happy where she is and grateful for the opportunities she has received.
“I will always be a writer at heart. My passion really lies at the intersection of writing and politics,” she explains. “I want to keep being challenged in everything I do.”
The current political climate in the United States calls for the voices of more minority women to be heard, so she just might get her wish.