González de Mireles, Jovita (1904–1983)

By: Cynthia E. Orozco and Teresa Palomo Acosta

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: August 2, 2020

Jovita González de Mireles, folklorist, historian, writer, and teacher, was born on her grandparents' rancho near Roma, Texas, on January 18, 1904. She was a fifth-generation descendant of a land-grant family. Her father was a teacher in Mier, Tamaulipas. She spoke only Spanish when she moved with her family to San Antonio in 1910, in part because her father prohibited use of the English language at home. Besides early schooling by her father, she attended schools in Roma and San Antonio. She obtained a B.A. degree in Spanish from Our Lady of the Lake College (now Our Lady of the Lake University) in San Antonio. In 1929 she was affiliated with the Junta del Club de Bellas Artes, probably a middle-class organization of Mexican-descent women. She was a pioneer in collecting Mexican folklore in the Rio Grande valley and one of the first Texas Mexicans to obtain a master's degree and work as a teacher.

González was one of about thirty students of Mexican descent from the Rio Grande valley to attend the University of Texas in 1930 and one of 250 from the state. She was a member of the Newman Club and the Latin American Club. Her master's thesis, written in 1930, "Social Life in Cameron, Starr, and Zapata Counties," was one of a few produced at the time that did not view Mexicans as a social problem. Eugene C. Barker directed her work, and González obtained a research grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to conduct her study. She also obtained a letter of introduction from the Catholic archbishop of San Antonio to introduce her to those she interviewed, and knitted during her interviews so that she would be considered "una persona decente" ("a down-to-earth person"). She met J. Frank Dobie, who interested her in collecting Mexican-American folklore, and became the first and only Mexican-American woman to serve as president of the Texas Folklore Society (1930–32).

Upon obtaining her M.A., González taught Spanish at St. Mary's Hall in San Antonio. In 1935 she married Edmundo E. Mireles, whom she met at the University of Texas and who also taught in San Antonio. After the wedding they taught in the San Felipe Independent School District, where she headed the English department. In 1939 El Progreso publisher Rodolfo Mirabal and others recruited Edmundo to teach in Corpus Christi, and the Mireleses moved there.

González de Mireles taught for twenty-one years at W. B. Ray High and Miller High in Corpus Christi. In 1941 she coauthored Mi Libro Español, Libro Uno with her husband and superintendent R. B. Fisher. In 1943 they published Libro Dos and Libro Tres. These texts included lessons on Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Martín De León, Lorenzo de Zavala, and Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. In 1949 Jovita and Edmundo coauthored six books for six levels called El Español Elemental, which included such folksongs as "Las Mañanitas" and "Allá en el Rancho Grande." Jovita participated in the Spanish Institute Edmundo set up and the Corpus Christi Spanish Program, which promoted Spanish in the public schools. She was also active as a club sponsor for Los Conquistadores, Los Colonizadores, and Los Pan Americanos. Her early published works include (in Texas and Southwestern Lore) "Folklore of the Texas-Mexican Vaquero" (1927), "America Invades the Border Towns" (1930), "Among My People" (1932), and "With the Coming of the Barbed Wire Came Hunger," as well as several pieces in Puro Mexicano, edited by Dobie. In 1937 she wrote "Latin Americans" for Our Racial and National Minorities: Their History, Contributions, and Present Problems, probably one of the first treatments of the topic by a person of Mexican descent. She mastered a variety of forms including narrative, proverbs, and songs.

An audiotape about her contribution to folklore study was produced by Aida Barrera and the Southwest Center for Educational TV in 1983; it is now distributed by National Public Radio as "Sabor del Pueblo." In 1983 González de Mireles died of natural causes in Corpus Christi, where she was recognized as a local historian. The Mexican Americans in Texas History Conference, organized by the Texas State Historical Association, honored her in 1991. Her papers are housed at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin and in the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University in San Marcos.

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Jovita González de Mireles Manuscripts, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin. Jovita González de Mireles Papers, 1921–1993, Southwestern Writers Collection, Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University.

  • Education
  • Educators
  • English and Journalism
  • Foreign Languages
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Folklorists
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Historians
  • Women

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Cynthia E. Orozco and Teresa Palomo Acosta, “González de Mireles, Jovita,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/gonzalez-de-mireles-jovita.

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January 1, 1995
August 2, 2020

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