From the Ashes: Family stays positive despite losing everything to fire

Rogelio Hernandez and his wife, Zulema, began building their life together when they were teenagers in high school. For nearly a decade, Rogelio, 29, who...

Illnesses mounting and finances dwindling, Starr County family makes most of modest home

Jorge Espinoza and his family of six live in a small, downtrodden trailer home owned by his mother in the outskirts of a Starr County community. Parts of the walls are missing insulation and drywall. Next to the entrance is a child-sized mattress embedded in the wall, acting as a replacement for the missing insulation. The interior is dark with few small streaks of light pouring from the makeshift curtains draped over the windows. The only source of light was a bulb in the kitchen that is connected to the living room. Both areas take up about two thirds of the entire home. The only bedroom in the house is on the far end left, opposite of the living room. When asked where her kids sleep, Dinorah, Jorge’s wife, simply pointed to the couch she was sitting on. Read the full story at

Family tries to cope after teen dies of cancer

He should have been preparing to enjoy his last Christmas break as a high school student. He should have been planning for graduation in May, and anxiously awaiting a letter from the University of Texas – San Antonio to arrive in the mail letting him know that he’d been accepted to college. He should have been pursuing his dream of becoming a police detective. But, he’s not. Instead of celebrating his 18th birthday this week, his family is mourning his death from a rapid-growing, unrelentingly aggressive brain cancer that left a hole in their hearts as surely as it stole his life. His name was Daniel Rodriguez. Read the full story at

Single dad cares for three, including special needs daughter

If you ask Gonzalo De La Cruz what his children need for Christmas, he’ll tell you they have everything — a roof over their heads, a lit bit of food in their modest kitchen and clothes to wear. But a quick look around the house will tell you otherwise. The spry 74-year-old is the sole provider for his three children. His eldest daughter Jasmine, 20, is nonverbal and has a number of health issues that require round-the-clock care, including cerebral palsy and Rett’s Syndrome. Juan, 18, struggled with school and now cuts yards to help out, and his youngest, Jessica, is a sharp 10-year-old who thrives in fifth grade. Read the full story at

Starr County woman with disability lacks heat, wheelchair access

Last month, like many months before, Hortencia Hernandez had to contend with flooding inside her modest single bedroom home. The Starr County resident, who is about to celebrate her 70th birthday next month, described how the one bathroom home, which sits downstream in the outskirts of her community, is susceptible to the water anytime it rains for more than a few hours. A quick glance inside the home and a visitor’s eyes are drawn to some out of place surroundings, as the home’s interior appears to be in dire need of repair. Read the full story at

Mid-Valley family torn apart as 11-year-old fights cancer in Corpus Christi

While 15-year-old Renae Rodriguez is in varsity cheerleading, her younger sister, 11-year-old Laurissa Rodriguez, outranks her in karate. The two siblings are both in karate, with Renae having earned her brown belt and Laurissa receiving a black belt. For Laurissa, the occasion was especially unique, considering she received the ranking while in a hospital bed at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, where she was getting treatment for cancer miles away from their Mid-Valley home. Since June, Lauraine Rodriguez, 50, had been taking her daughter to the doctor’s office because Laurissa had various pains throughout her body. Read the full story at

Starting from scratch: Burden of rebuilding home puts strain on Mid-Valley family

The front lawn of Fatima Vento’s Mid-Valley home is strewn with bits of debris. Chunks of plywood, scraps of linoleum tile and shards of glass mingled with sun-beaten VHS tapes and the metal poles of a derelict TV antenna are scattered about the lawn. The detritus surrounds the footings of a trailer home that was, until recently, part of her family’s living space. The trailer had begun to tilt over; due to that and its dilapidated state, Fatima made the decision to tear down the trailer and open up the space with the help of her children, of which she has five. Read the full story at

A hand up: Single mother looking for work struggles to make ends meet

Sitting outside her family’s modest RV, 15-year-old Cassandra San Juan contemplated a question that gets asked of children on a regular basis around Christmastime: Have you thought about what you would like for Christmas? Hunched over in her chair, San Juan stays quiet for a moment. Then she shrugs her shoulders. “Not anymore,” she said, fighting back tears as her mother, Maria Hinojosa, embraced her in a tight hug. “It’s alright, mama, we’ll be OK,” Maria said as she, too, begins to hold back tears. Read the full story at

Scars, needs run deep for Mission family of mother, son who died in fire

It has been more than a year since Leticia Lopez took in her niece and two nephews after they lost their mother and youngest brother in a house fire. On July 22, 2018, Maria Izabel Maldonado, her 5-year-old son, Gustavo Maldonado, and Johnathan Palomarez, a 15-year-old family friend, died in the Mission fire. Johnathan was the boyfriend of Leticia’s 16-year-old niece, and Gustavo was one of two twin brothers, and would be 7 years old today. Read the full story at