American Literature Jovita González
Melina Vizcaíno-Alemán
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 March 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 March 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0006


Jovita González (b. 1904–d. 1983) was a South Texas Mexican American woman and descendant of Spanish colonizers of the Rio Grande Valley. The exact date of her birth is inconsistent, but most agree she was born in the same year as the arrival of the St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico Railway to the Rio Grande Valley in 1904. In 1910 her family moved to San Antonio, where she received an English education and completed her bachelor of arts degree with a teaching certificate in history and Spanish from Lady of the Lake College. González taught Spanish at Saint Mary’s Hall before attending the University of Texas at Austin, one of the first women of her ethnic class to do so, and she graduated with her master’s degree in history in 1930. In 1925 González met the Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie, who revived the Texas Folklore Society in 1922 and encouraged her research into Texas-Mexican folklore. González served as vice president of the Texas Folklore Society in 1928, and as president of the society for two terms, from 1930 to 1932, around the same time she was preparing her master’s thesis under the supervision of the Texas historian Eugene C. Barker. She received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in 1934–1935 to conduct research in South Texas, and she wrote during this year about the ranching customs that were fast declining with modernization. Her publications halted shortly after she married E. E. Mireles in 1935 in San Antonio; they lived in Del Rio for a short time and then settled in Corpus Christi, where they worked as bilingual schoolteachers, members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and Spanish-language activists. Although González’s publishing career virtually ended after her marriage, recovery efforts over the last two decades have shed light on her unpublished literary accomplishments. Archival evidence and the recovery of her work show that she continued her literary endeavors, and this body of work now forms the core of criticism on Mexican American women writers, southwestern ethnography, and 20th-century regional and ethnic American literature.

Biographies and General Overviews

The Chicana scholar and feminist María E. Cotera has published extensively on González and her contributions to Mexican American literature and South Texas history and folklore. With the launching of the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, published out of the University of Houston’s Arte Público Press, scholarly interest in González has grown. Kreneck 1998 provides an overview of the recovery of González’s Caballero: A Historical Novel (coauthored with Eve Raleigh—see González and Raleigh 1996, cited under Primary Works) and Dew on the Thorn (González 1997a, cited under Primary Works). Reyna 2000 is a collection of González’s folktales, brought together and published for the first time as a collection by Arte Público Press; the introduction to this collection provides a good overview of González’s life and literature. Rebolledo 1995 situates González within a larger tradition of Mexican American and Chicana literature, and Cotera 2005 and Cotera 2015 offer critical biographies that highlight González’s education and professional achievements. Chase 1992 and Purdy 2000 are literary biographies geared toward newcomers, students, or public intellectuals, while Jurado 2013 offers an intermediate discussion of González’s life and writings. The works by Rebolledo, Reyna, and Cotera will interest the more serious scholar of US Hispanic and Chicana/o literature.

  • Chase, Cida S. “Jovita González de Mireles (1899–1983).” In Dictionary of Literary Biography: Chicano Writers. 2d series. Edited by Franciso A. Lomelí and Carl R. Shirley, 122–126. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.

    Part of a two-part series on Chicano literature and a useful resource for beginning students and researchers; includes a list of original publications, a biographical sketch, and an overview of the social themes in the listed publications. See also Bibliographies.

  • Cotera, María Eugenia. “Jovita González Mireles: A Sense of History and Homeland.” In Latina Legacies: Identity, Biography, and Community. Edited by Vicki L. Ruiz and Virginia Sánchez Korrol, 158–174. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    Part of a collection of fifteen narrative biographies of Latinas in history; highlights González’s early life and education, her academic and scholarly achievements and writings as a member and two-time president of the Texas Folklore Society, and her work as a Spanish teacher and advocate of bilingual education.

  • Cotera, María Eugenia. “Jovita González Mireles: Texas Folklorist, Historian, Educator.” In Leaders of the Mexican American Generation: Biographical Essays. Edited by Anthony Quiroz, 119–140. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2015.

    Also part of a collection of biographical essays documenting the history of thirteen activists, educators, and leaders of the Mexican American generation (1920–1965). Provides a fuller discussion of González’s coauthorship with Margaret Eimer (pen name Eve Raleigh) of Caballero: A Historical Novel (González and Raleigh 1996, cited under Primary Works; see also Critical Approaches to Caballero).

  • Jurado, Kathy. “‘Have We Not a Mind Like They?’: Jovita González on Nation and Gender.” In Women and Rhetoric between the Wars. Edited by Ann George, M. Elizabeth Weiser, and Janet Zepernick, 209–222. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2013.

    Offers a biography and rhetorical analysis of González’s master’s thesis, “Social Life in Cameron, Starr, and Zapata Counties” (cited as González 2006, under Primary Works), and short story “Shades of the Tenth Muses,” with attention given to González’s participation in the League of United Latin American Citizens. Available online through subscription.

  • Kreneck, H. Thomas. “Recovering the ‘Lost’ Manuscripts of Jovita González: The Production of South Texas Mexican-American Literature.” Texas Library Journal 74.2 (1998): 76–79.

    Tells the story of preserving, recovering, and making accessible González’s unpublished manuscripts Caballero (González and Raleigh 1996, cited under Primary Works) and Dew on the Thorn (González 1997a, cited under Primary Works). Provides a brief biography of González and a publication history of these works.

  • Purdy, Andrea R. “Jovita González de Mireles (1904–1983).” In American Women Writers, 1900–1945: A Bio-Bibliographic Critical Sourcebook. Edited by Laurie Champion, 142–146. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000.

    Useful reference for beginning students and scholars, with a biography and bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and a discussion of both. See also Bibliographies.

  • Rebolledo, Tey Diana. Women Singing in the Snow: A Cultural Analysis of Chicana Literature. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1995.

    The first chapter (“Early Hispana/Mexicana Writers: The Chicana Literary Tradition,” pp. 11–27) identifies and includes González as an early Hispana/Mexicana “foremother” to Chicana literature. Though brief in its appraisal of González’s work, the chapter initiated more in-depth recovery and studies of González.

  • Reyna, Sergio. “Introduction.” In The Woman Who Lost Her Soul and Other Stories. By Jovita González. Edited by Sergio Reyna, x–xvii. Houston, TX: Arte Público, 2000.

    Provides a biography of González’s early life and an overview of her literary works and achievements. Part of the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, each piece in the collection contains a footnote citing the original publication venue or repository where it was recovered. See also Critical Introductions to Recovered Works.

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