Spanish Americans in Early San Benito

The Story of Berta Cabaza by Minnie Gilbert with a preface by Sandra Tumberlinson


Miss Berta Cabaza lived in the Fred Booth School area in the 400 block of Hidalgo Street. Many people native to San Benito remember her as a neighbor, or as a teacher, or both. She spent her entire life in San Benito where she was born May 20, 1913.

Her last teaching assignment was as Spanish teacher at San Benito Junior High where Mr. Miller Jordan was principal.

Miss Berta Cabaza

May 20, 1913--Sept. 1, 1974

The fourth daughter of Juan Baustista Cabaza, a native of Spain, and Francisca Somohano, she had three sisters and three brothers. They are: Rosario Cabaza, San Benito; Consuelo C. Garcia, Weslaco; Maria de los Angeles C. Bolado, Mexico City; Raul A. Cabaza, San Antonio. After the others had left the family nest, Berta and Rosario assumed responsibilities for rearing and educating two nephews, Arnold Bolado, Mission and Amado Cabaza Garcia, Chicago, Illinois.

Berta began her teaching career of forty years at La Encantada Elementary School. After two years in the little school on the Old Military Highway, she joined the San Benito school faculty.

She obtained her B.A. degree from the University of Texas. After 1953, when she received her M.A. degree in linguistics, she served as resource person and consultant for the school's Spanish department.

Her thesis Vocabulario Espanol de Texas, written in collaboration with Gilberto Cerda and Julieta Farias Staggs, was published by the University of Texas Press in 1954. Widely known for her successful teaching methods, she was invited to conduct workshops to train foreigh-language teachers throughout the state. She also served as a consultant for the Texas Education Agency.

As she pioneered her innovative concepts in teaching Spanish, she generously shared her material and methods at a time when techinques in this new field were unavailable or in the testing stage.

Miss Cabaza was the recipient of the Cervantes Award in 1964. The honor was based upon her selection by the Alamo-Valley Chapter of the American Association of outstanding teacher of foreign languages.

Berta was a charter member of the San Benito Pan American Round Table, active in the American Association of University Women and member of St. Benedict's Parish.

Berta Cabaza dedicated her life to helping others---her family, her pupils, and fellow teachers all over Texas. Since her death on Sept. 1, 1974, San Benito's Junior High School has been dedicated to her memory, a tribute not only to a much-loved teacher but one of the foremost authorities on the audio-lingual method of teaching foreign languages.