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Hispanic Heritage Month: Ninfa Garza

KCPS Hispanic Heritage Month graphic with a colorful border & a black-and white photo of a woman with glasses and curly hair.

Ninfa Marie Garza was born on Jan. 22, 1933, in Brady, Texas, the fourth of Miguel and Maria Dejesus Contreras’ ten children. At the time, Miguel was working for a clothing store, but it closed due to the Depression. The Contreras family moved back to Monterrey, Mexico, where Miguel worked as a tourist guide sharing the city’s history. Their neighborhood was very close-knit, and her family attended church regularly.

Ninfa did three years of college in Mexico, where she studied business. She went to work for a printmaker and worked her way up to manager. Eventually, she needed a break, and her father sent her to spend time with an aunt in San Antonio. Restless, she opened the phonebook and began calling companies with Mexican names. She found a job at Mendez Produce, where she met her husband, Riley Garza. They married and moved to Kansas City, though neither had family here.

A devout Catholic, Ninfa became very involved with Guadalupe Center. She spent 20 years working in Bilingual Senior Services. With friends José Gonzalez and Rebecca Jaramillo, Ninfa founded the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Heritage Committee, which hosted the first Fiesta Hispana in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood in 1981.

In 1988, Ninfa and her husband started Ninfa's Tortillas and Taqueria, which is still family-owned today. Ninfa continued to bring tortillas out to tables herself until 2010. She died in 2012, but she is remembered through Kansas City’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.