EDINBURG, RGV – The misrepresentation of Spanish-speakers in literature and by the media has driven a former educator from the Rio Grande Valley to author a number of books.

Marco Portales has thus far penned five books, one of which was co-authored with his wife, Rita.

“I was born in Edinburg and spent my first 20 years in the Valley,” Portales told the Rio Grande Guardian. “I attended Pan American University between 1966 and 1968, and, until two years ago, taught for 26 years in the English Department of Texas A&M in College Station. This followed other teaching positions in Buffalo, New York and Berkeley, California.”

Portales has also taught at the University of Houston in Clear Lake for about 11 years. For 18 months of that time, he served as dean of arts and sciences at Texas Southmost College in Brownsville. As an assistant professor of English at UC-Berkeley from 1974 to 1979 he was the first Mexican American hired by the English department.

Portales explained his passion for writing about the Latino experience.

“My interest in Latinos/as arises from my 20-year upbringing in the Rio Grande Valley, and in seeing how literature and the media have misrepresented Spanish-speakers,” Portales said.

“When I studied American literature, history, and culture in the 1970s, I found a pervasive absence everywhere, in all the disciplines. In three to five-year spurts of energy, I wrote each one of my books to remedy that gap. I am hoping that each of these books will become a treasured family heirloom as time goes by.”

Of Portales’ five books – four nonfiction and one a novel – all were written and published between 2000 and 2017. 

“I wrote them, including the one with my wife Rita, while I carried a full teaching load at Texas A&M and engaged in other regular faculty duties. Rita also taught over 40 years. Yearners, my most recent novel, imagines the challenges that a Mexican American running for Texas governor will likely face. Actual cases will differ, of course, but the issues, I am pretty sure, will not.”

Portales said Latino Sun, Rising, published by Texas A&M University Press in 2005 is the more autobiographical although he is working on a memoir. “I have just finished a play based on a short story, too,” he said.

Louis Mendoza, associate professor of English at the University of Texas-San Antonio, said of Latino Sun, Rising:

Latino Sun Rising: Our Spanish-Speaking U.S. World will make a contribution to the emerging field of autobiographical/memoir essays and testimonio in U.S. Latina/o literature. I believe that this collection of essays will be a welcome contribution to the growing body of book-length collections of essays about Latino cultural and public life that are both autobiographical as well as social and political in nature. The book will also advance discussion of the way in which early Mexican American autobiography, like much ethnic literature, contains a social critique that sheds light on the longstanding relationship between autobiography and the Latin American testimonio tradition: well-conceived, clearly organized, and lucidly written.” 

Rita and Marco Portales

Of his book Crowding Out Latinos, Portales said: “The subtitle, ‘Mexican Americans in the Public Consciousness, is the real subject of the book. Crowding Out is the title the pressed liked more. Being elbowed out is what I found when we look at how American society and culture has treated Mexicans and Mexican Americans in film, education, and everywhere. That is why people like Trump can say anything and why most Americans don’t do anything other than be orally outraged. Again, this is my take, or my interpretation, but that is what we writers do.”

Portales added: “Quality Education, written with Rita, is especially timely. We want to promote this UT paperback more to parents, teachers, and administrators interested in the school experiences of our young Latino and Latina students.”

Here is a list of Portales’ books:

A Mexican Revolution Photo History: Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, and U.S. Interests, Second Edition, (Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing, 2015)

Crowding Out Latinos: Mexican Americans in the Public Consciousness (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000, cloth and paperback)

Quality Education for Latinos & Latinas: Print & Oral Skills for ALL Students, K-College, with Rita Portales (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005; paperback 2007)

Latino Sun, Rising: Our Spanish-Speaking U.S. World (College Station, Texas A&MUniversity, 2005; paperback 2007)

Yearners, a novel (Moorpark, CA: Floricanto Press, Berkeley Press, 2017) 

All five books can be found on Amazon.