Mirabal, Dora Cervera (1914–1979)

By: Thomas H. Kreneck

Type: Biography

Published: August 3, 2004

Dora Cervera Mirabal, Corpus Christi businesswoman, author, poet, newspaperwoman, and civic leader, was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, on July 7, 1914, the eldest of eleven children of merchant Matías Cervera and Aracelia González. Because all four of her grandparents had immigrated to Mexico from Spain, Dora always took special pride in her Spanish ancestry.

In 1916 Dora's family moved to Eagle Pass, thence to San Antonio, Robstown, and finally to Corpus Christi. She learned the art of salesmanship at a young age from her father. He also sent her to school in Monterrey for a time where she studied under family friends who were university professors. By 1931 she worked in sales in a Corpus Christi dry goods store. In 1930 she wrote and published her first collection of calaveras, a traditional Mexican form of satirical verse written each year for the Day of the Dead (All Souls' Day). Dora continued to produce such annual publications, which targeted Corpus Christi and the surrounding area, for most of her life.

In 1932 Dora Cervera married Rodolfo Zepeda Mirabal, Sr. (1910–1968), a printer in Corpus Christi. Well known in his own right, Rodolfo published a local Spanish-language newspaper called El Demócrata during the 1920s and had been among the founders of the League of United Latin American Citizens. The Mirabals had three children: Rodolfo, Jr.; Rosie; and Robert, all of whom learned the printing trade from their parents.

Together, Rodolfo and Dora operated Mirabal Printing Company, located first at 715 Sam Rankin Street in the heart of Corpus Christi's Mexican American community. In mid 1940, they moved the operation to a new, more spacious building at 1700 Kennedy, where it became a notable firm. The Mirabals produced printed circulars, leaflets, posters, programs, catalogs, books, and an array of other publications for businesses, organizations, and individuals.

Dora and her husband also founded and published El Progreso, a full-size Corpus Christi Spanish-language newspaper that ran from 1938 to 1979. According to the newspaper's masthead, Rodolfo was the editor and Dora was the administradora (administrator). Dora sold the advertisements as well as did the writing and editorial work, while Rodolfo did the layout, typesetting, and printing. By all accounts, El Progreso was Dora's brainchild. For all intents and purposes, she served as its de facto editor. At the time, she was the only Hispanic woman in Corpus Christi to serve in such a capacity. Dora's energy and dynamic personality ensured that El Progreso remained viable.

While El Progreso was a business venture, the Mirabals also wanted it to provide the Mexican-American populace with information, inspiration, and a voice. On the side of its new building at 1700 Kennedy, the sign for Mirabal Printing Company proclaimed: "Publishers of El Progreso Weekly Latin American Newspaper." Through Dora's efforts, the newspaper carried articles on international, national, state, and local subjects. Its editorials, which Dora wrote, were on a variety of subjects, including women's issues. Dora and her son Rodolfo, Jr., continued to publish El Progreso after her husband's death.

Always civic-minded, Dora founded a bilingual school called El Círculo Nuestros Amigos Para Los Estudiantes Bilingües, which operated at the Mirabal printing business and helped Spanish speakers learn English. She influenced the president of the Corpus Christi Mexican Chamber of Commerce to allow women into that organization and became its first female member. In addition, she was an officer in the Corpus Christi Ladies LULAC chapter.

Dora continued to work on El Progreso until she died of cancer on December 4, 1979. She was buried at Seaside Memorial Cemetery in Corpus Christi. All three of her children carried on the family's printing business.

Corpus Christi Caller, May 1, 1928. Corpus Christi Caller-Times, October 24, 31, 1999; March 27, 2000. Corpus Christi City Directory, 1929, 1931. El Progreso (Corpus Christi), 1939–40.

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

Thomas H. Kreneck, “Mirabal, Dora Cervera,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/mirabal-dora-cervera.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 3, 2004