Texas Tech University

Faculty Focus


Genaro Pérez, PhD
Professor, Spanish


Some of Dr. Pérez's earlier memories are of waking up Christmas Day and finding his bed surrounded by toys—most of which were copies of medical instruments: stethoscope, reflex hammer, tongue depressor, etc. There were many physicians on his mother's side of the family, and in their opinion, relatives who were not doctors were disappointments; they were, to quote Proust, a "trifle common."

Pérez was steered to the United States by his parents as a result of his participation in student demonstrations against the dictator in power. He was attending Saint Joseph, a Jesuit school, and during the start of the revolution class attendance was not taken—a tacit encouragement to participate in the protests. There was an incident during one in which students surrounded a newspaper that remained open (at this time all newspapers ceased publication as a protest), which continued publishing lies disseminated by the regime. The students hurled bricks and Molotov cocktails at the building, breaking windows, glass doors, and causing fires. The owner of the newspaper appeared at top of his building with a pistol and began shooting into the crowd. Pérez was wounded when one of the bullets grazed the left fleshy mound above the leg. The army eventually arrived and mercilessly killed many of the protestors. Pérez, along with numerous others, were taken to a detention camp: the city's soccer stadium. Fate managed to intervene that day because a high-ranking officer, who was a Pérez family friend, saw him. The officer took the young boy back to his mother and recommended that he leave the country immediately.

Considering his heritage, it was devastating for Pérez, while attending Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, to be told by his Professor of Comparative Anatomy that Mexicans and blacks did not make good physicians, and that he should find another profession. Such racist remarks plunged Pérez into the militancy of the sixties. However, it should be noted that this was not the first time Dr. Pérez faced racism. Before he could enter high school in New Orleans, he was obligated to go before an attorney and declare under oath, with several witnesses, that he was a white person. The law required that the school one could attend was entirely dependent on one's race. To this day, Dr. Pérez believes he committed perjury since it is a fact that most people with Caribbean heritage have Black genes.


He joined the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, and the Students for a Democratic Society, SDS, and travelled to Mississippi and Alabama to participate in voter registration drives.

Since becoming a doctor was no longer possible, Pérez decided to follow his love of reading and writing and elected to study languages and literatures. This modification of plan was not difficult for him given that from the time he could read his secret vice had been absorbing "illicit" books from his mother's library, most of which were listed in Index Librorum Prohibitorum He received a B.A. in English, Spanish, and Philosophy from L.S.U. and continued his graduate studies at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he received an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Spanish and Portuguese literatures. New Orleans and the French Quarter figure prominently in many of Pérez's works due to his long residency there: The Memoirs of John Conde, a novel; French Quarter Tales, a story collection; Prosapoemas, French Quarter Cantos, Spanish Quarter Notes, and Ten Lepers and Other Poems: Exorcising Academic Demons, books of poems.

Upon graduation from Tulane University, Dr. Pérez was offered a position at The University of New Orleans, where he taught until he accepted an offer from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, where he became a full professor within ten years of graduating from Tulane. He was also given an endowed chair, the Kathlyn Cosper Dunagan Professor in the Humanities, along with numerous awards, during his tenure at UTPB. He left UTPB in 1995 to be with his wife, the eminent Hispanist Janet Pérez, and to teach at Texas Tech.

Dr. Pérez's academic books, Formalist Elements in the Novels of Juan Goytisolo; La novelística de J. Leyva; La narrativa de Concha Alós; Ortodoxia y Heterodoxia de la novela policiaca: Variaciones sobre el género negro; and Rabelais, Bajtin y formalismo en la narrativa de Sergio Pitol, are analyzed employing the texts of the Russian Formalists, Bakhtin, Jung, and Erich Fromm, among others.

A small sampling of his various international, national and regional awards and distinctions are:

** A poem from Ten Lepers: Exorcising Academic Demons, read on BBC Radio 4 - Sunday Worship
** Reviews for Ortodoxia . . .and his book on Sergio Pitol appeared in the Mexican magazine Siempre!.
* *Elected to the Executive Committee of the Division of Ethnic Studies of the MLA; elected to the Delegate Assembly of the MLA; elected to the Executive Council of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.
** Elected Representative at Large of the South Central Language Association; elected Co-President of the Southwest Council of Latin American Studies; nominated for the Minnie Stevens Piper Award.
** Texas Tech University: Barnie E. Rushing, Jr., Faculty Distinguished Research Award; President's Faculty Book Award (Book on Sergio Pitol); appointed to the State of Texas Textbook Review Panel for Proclamation 2010.

With Janet Pérez he co-edited and published the very distinguished journal Monographic Review/Revista Monográfica from 1985-2012—twenty-eight volumes in all. The primary consideration in the genesis of the review was to remedy some important areas of critical neglect. The philosophy of the journal states that "Traditional scholarly journals tend conservatively to deal primarily with 'established' topics, while those not yet admitted to the canon receive inadequate scrutiny or are often treated in predictable aloof fashion."
Because of the journal, areas such as detective fiction and science fiction (Volume III); the new historical novel (Volume XIX); and neglected female poets of the 1980's (Volume VI); received vital critical attention.

Dr. Pérez and his wife travelled a great deal throughout the world in their free time. During the 1980s they toured Europe extensively, interviewing many writers in Spain, and visiting many countries behind the "Iron Curtain," such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Poland. It should be known that in the '80s it was possible to rent a car in Spain and just drive across Europe. There was very little traffic back then, and a U.S. passport could open doors to many countries. In the 1990s they went to Egypt, Morocco, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan. In the first decade of the 2000s, they visited Brazil and various Caribbean islands. After Dr. Pérez's wife became incapacitated, he has visited China, Macao, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Viet Nam, and Tibet. He is planning to travel to Laos and Burma during the summer of 2016.

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Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures

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