Groundbreaking Artists, Poets, & Writers
Known as "La Reina del Bolero," Consuelo "Chelo" Silva (1922–1988) was born and raised in Brownsville, TX. As a teenager, she gained local popularity, performing at the first Charro Days (1938) along with Vincent Crixell and on Américo Paredes radio show (1939).
She married and raised a family, while continuing to perform in South Texas. In 1952, she signed her first record deal with Discos Falcón (McAllen) who distributed her music in the U.S. and Mexico. When she signed with Columbia Records in 1955, Chelo gained fame beyond the borderlands—throughout the rest Latin America and the Caribbean.
The bolero genre allowed Chelo to interpret songs and explore women's issues of love, loss, gender, sex, and even abuse. Despite poor health and few royalties, she continued selling records and performing throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.
Delia Gutierrez Pineda was born in 1931 in Weslaco. She was born into a family of musicians and began singing at home and performing in local talent shows. Gutierrez officially joined the family business as an adolescent, publicly performing with her father's band, The Eugenio Gutierrez Orchestra by the age of 12.
True to her Tejana roots, Gutierrez performed and recorded in English and Spanish. Edelstein's Furniture Store regularly featured her and her father's orchestra during their live Sunday morning radio hour on Edinburg's AM-KURV.
As the group gained popularity they were signed to Discos Falcon (McAllen) in the 1940s, and later rival label Disco's Ideal based in San Benito. It was during that time that Moises "Moy" Pineda joined the group as a trumpet player. The couple married in 1954 and performed together with The Eugenio Gutierrez Orchestra until 1972 when her father died.
Gutierrez continued performing with the group as the The Moy Pineda Orchestra until her retirement in 1990. In 2002, Delia Gutierrez was inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame the same year as Freddy Fender.
Gloria Evangeline Anzaldúa (1942–2004) grew up en el Valle, living her early life on the ranchos of Jesus Maria and Los Verjeles before her family moved to Hargill, Texas.
She was the 1962 Valedictorian of Edinburg High School and a 1968 graduate of Pan American University. Anzaldúa was a teacher for PSJA (1969–1973) while working on master's degrees at UT-Austin.
Anzaldúa is best known for her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987) and for popularizing theories relating to the "in-betweeness" of borderlands and mestizaje, including culture, race, gender, language, and spirituality.
Her other works include This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981), Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative & Critical Perspectives by Feminists-of-Color (1990), and This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation (2002), among others. She also published two children’s books: Friends from the Other Side/Amigos del otro lado (1993) and Prietita and the Ghost Woman/Prietita y la Llorona (1995). Visit the research guide for links to resources.
Born on her grandparents' ranch in Roma, pioneering folklorist and educator Jovita González (1904–1983) was committed to the culture of South Texas. She earned her degree at University of Texas at Austin and later traveled and recorded the music and experiences of people throughout the Rio Grande Valley for John A. Lomax and the Works Progress Administration.
González became the first Mexican-American president of the Texas Folklore Society (1930-1932) and also served as president of the LULAC Council No. 1. She taught history and Spanish at W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi until her retirement.
As an author she gave realistic detail to historical fiction in books like Caballero, The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, Among My People, and Dew on the Thorn.
Although she was born in Kansas, Minnie Carpenter Gilbert (1900–1999) called the Rio Grande Valley home. She attended San Benito High School and began her journalism degree at UT-Austin in 1921. Gilbert was awarded a Texas Press Woman’s Association, scholarship in 1923. She returned home to the Valley to begin her career.
She worked for three major newspapers between 1924 and 1971, including The Monitor (McAllen), Valley Morning Star, and the Brownsville Herald. In addition to her regular duties as Society Editor, Minnie took on the role of City Editor at Valley Morning Star during WWII.
In 1943, Minnie Gilbert and Lucy Hobson Wallace established a women’s writers group called the Valley ByLiners. Gilbert served as the group's first president and contributed articles to its first three publications: Gift of the Rio (1975), Roots by the River (1978), and Rio Grande Round-Up (1980). She also published A History of First Presbyterian Church, San Benito, Texas 1910–1980 (1985) and the novel Sunrise Song (1984).
Jan Epton Seale is a Texas Poet Laureate (2012). She is the author of several volumes of poetry, short fiction and nonfiction books, and a number of children's books. Her latest book, A Lifetime of Words, was published in 2020. Seale's work has also been published in The Yale Review, Texas Monthly, and Newsday.
For 16 years she was the South Texas editor of Texas Books in Review. Seale has won countless accolades for poetry and fiction, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Creative Writing.
Seale's passion for writing was sparked in her junior year of college. She earned a BA from The University of Louisville and an MA from North Texas State University. She taught English and creative writing at The University of Texas-Pan American and was founding editor of RiverSedge literary journal. She continues to teach creative writing workshops throughout the country.