Cultural representation: Valley children’s book author gaining notoriety for Hispanic relevance

Dr. María Alma González Pérez holds up her award winning children’s book, ¡Todos al rodeo! A Vaquero Alphabet Book, the third in Pérez’s series of culturally relevant bilingual alphabet books. (Courtesy: Dr. María Alma González Pérez)

South Texas author Dr. María Alma González Pérez, fulfills her duty one children’s book at a time, to ensure the next generation of Hispanic children is accurately represented in the literature taught in schools.

“For too long our Hispanic children have not seen themselves in the literature that they read in school, nor have they read about the important contributions of our Hispanic ancestors to the American way of life and the history that they study in school,” Pérez said. “So, that moved me to do something about it.”

In 2008, Pérez and her daughters started Del Alma Publications, a Latina-owned publishing company to tell the stories they knew needed to be told. 

“We started a Latina-owned company to produce culturally relevant books that expressed the bilingual, bicultural experience here in the United States,” Pérez said.

She said she and her daughters were willing to invest in the company because they felt they had something to say that not too many people were saying as far as representation for Latinos in literature.

When Pérez first began the company she was asked why now, to which she replied that there are times when something needs to be done and nobody is doing it.

Born and raised in Zapata, the English major began her career with literature by teaching English, Spanish and creative writing at the local schools. 

Pérez, of Zapata, later went on to teach writing at the UTRGV legacy institution, the University of Texas-Pan American, and decided she would put her skills to practice with these books.

This October, Pérez won the Alma Flor Ada Best Latino Focused Children’s Picture Book of 2020 for her book, “¡Todos al rodeo! A Vaquero Alphabet Book.” This award is among four others won for the picture book. 

That book is the third in Pérez’s series of culturally relevant bilingual alphabet books. 

This picturesque ABC book features the life and the history of the vaquero.

Pérez said her goal was to accurately represent the history and culture of Hispanics in her books and wanted to emphasize on the vocabulary.

“The vocabulary was adopted into English and English pronunciation and that’s what we highlighted in that book, for Hispanic children to know that this is an important contribution of our Hispanic ancestors to the American way of life,” she said.

The second book in the series is called, “¡Todos a Celebrar! A Hispanic Customs and Traditions Alphabet Book” and the first is called “¡Todos a Comer! A Mexican Food Alphabet Book.”

“¡Todos a Comer!” is Pérez’s best-selling book and has been purchased in every state in the country.

The authentic dive into what is served at local Mexican restaurants made the Latino-focused picture book successful in 2017.

The series’ success has proven that the demand is there nationwide, and that children do need these books in their classrooms. 

With the momentum of winning regional, national and international awards for these publications, Pérez plans to strike the iron while it’s hot with three to four more publications in 2022 including a folktale anthology from the Texas-Mexico border for a middle school audience and two more children’s books by Laredo authors.

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