Edmundo Eduardo Mireles, one of the founders of bilingual education in Texas, was born in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico, on November 20, 1905, the son of Sostenes Mireles, a merchant. His mother died eight months after his birth, and his paternal grandmother raised him in Sacramento, Coahuila, Mexico, until 1913, when his father remarried and moved to San Antonio. There Edmundo learned English. Mireles accompanied his father to Mexico to fight in the Mexican Revolution and was wounded. He attended the San Fernando Parochial School, Sam Houston School, Navarro School, John D. Hood School, and Main Avenue High, where he graduated in 1926. Mireles went to the University of Texas and was one of about 250 Mexican-descent college students in Texas in 1930. He belonged to the Club Latino Americano, and in 1929–30 he served as an editor and business manager of El Universitario, the club's official organ and the first Latino newspaper at the University of Texas. He majored in linguistics and graduated from UT in 1931. After graduation he moved to San Antonio, where he taught night school at Main Avenue and where he initiated a night school at Sidney Lanier School. His wife, whom he married in 1935, was Jovita González de Mireles, a folklorist and teacher. They had met at the University of Texas. The couple had no children. Edmundo Mireles joined Council 16 of the League of United Latin American Citizens in San Antonio and later joined Council 18 in Del Rio. From 1933 to 1939 he worked at the San Felipe Independent School District in Del Rio as high school principal and helped organize Club Politico Latino, a political organization. In 1939 he moved to Corpus Christi, where he taught fifth grade at Southgate School. Mireles returned to the University of Texas in 1940 for graduate work. In Corpus Christi he became active with LULAC, serving as editor of the LULAC News from 1944 through January 1945. As president of LULAC in 1945 he supported an antidiscrimination bill introduced by state legislator J. Franklin Spears. From 1943 to 1946 he was also active with the Pan American Council, a group composed of Anglos and Latinos that sponsored Columbus Day and Pan-American activities, and for which he served as president in 1944. He also ran unsuccessfully for state representative.
On March 4, 1941, the Texas legislature passed a bill legalizing the teaching of Spanish in public schools, which ended the state's English-only policy adopted in 1917. From 1940 to 1965 Mireles coordinated and supervised instruction for the Corpus Christi Spanish Program for the third through ninth grades. In 1940 he oversaw seventy-one teachers and 5,183 children, and by 1950, 180 teachers and 9,903 children. The program stressed conversation and education in Spanish, Mexican, and Latin-American culture, literature, and history. In a climate of Pan-Americanism the Spanish program spread across at least thirty-nine school districts in Texas and influenced the teaching of foreign languages in the United States. Mireles's article "? Habla Ud. Inglés?" (Do You Speak English?) appeared in Time magazine on February 14, 1944. His program garnered national attention, and he received letters of support from Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Rockefeller. Mireles believed that monolingualism was "the greatest barrier to international understanding." He thought learning Spanish was necessary to avoid "linguistic isolation," to promote "good neighborliness," and to promote "bilingual competence." He also believed his program fostered pride among Spanish-speaking children. Mireles wrote or cowrote several textbooks and books, including Mi Libro Español, Libro Uno (cowritten with R. B. Fisher and Jovita in 1941) and Libro Dos and Libro Tres (cowritten with Jovita in 1943). These texts contained lessons on Spanish missions in Texas and on Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Martín De León, Lorenzo de Zavala, and Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. In 1945 he cowrote Manual and Classroom Guide for Hablemos Español. He and Jovita cowrote six books for six levels, called El Español Elemental (1949), which included folksongs like "Las Mañanitas" and "Allá en el Rancho Grande." Magazines in which he published included Texas Outlook (now the Texas State Teachers Association Advocate) and the American School Board Journal; newspapers for which he wrote included Las Noticias (in Del Rio), the Brownsville Herald, and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. In the 1940s he edited El Progresso and the Texas Mexican Gazette, both Corpus Christi newspapers. Over a period of twenty-five years he also gave radio talks in Corpus Christi. In 1952 Mireles obtained a masters degree from the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey. After 1959 he worked with adult education classes, the Little School of the 400, and Head Start. Mireles knew eight languages. He died on March 18, 1987, of natural causes.
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Corpus Christi Caller-Times, March 19, 1987. María G. Flores, comp., and Laura Gutiérrez-Witt, ed., Mexican American Archives at the Benson Collection: A Guide for Users (General Libraries, University of Texas at Austin, 1981). E. E. Mireles, "Corpus Christi Kids Are Bilingual," Texas Outlook, May 1951.
Activism and Social Reform
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Cynthia E. Orozco,
“Mireles, Edmundo Eduardo,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 27, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
May 28, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: