From court cases to lunchtime observations, Roberto Perezdiaz finds the subjects of his short stories in everyday life.
Perezdiaz is the author of “Mas Sabe El Diablo,” a collection of short stories that take on themes of innocence and maturity.
During a visit on Tuesday to the University of Houston-Victoria, Perezdiaz will read from his collection and talk about how the book came together. He will speak at 11:30 a.m. in the Alcorn Auditorium of UHV University West, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. The public is invited to attend the free event.
The lecture ties in with UHV’s new Bachelor of Arts in Spanish.
“The program, which began this fall, includes classes in literature, cinema and culture as part of the curriculum,” said Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. “This is the type of event that enhances student learning. It will be a great opportunity for our students to learn about literature from someone who has mastered the Spanish language.”
The book contains 11 short stories written in Spanish, though most of Tuesday’s presentation will be in English. It was published in Mexico City by Ediciones Eón.
“As a Mexican American, it was a special achievement to publish in Spanish,” Perezdiaz said.
“I was proud to reach the point in my Spanish that I could get published in Mexico City. Now I’m rewriting all of those stories in English, and I intend to get it published in English.”
Perezdiaz said the theme of “Mas Sabe El Diablo” is reflected by the title.
“There was actually a telenovela series on TV by the same name,” he said. “It translates to ‘the devil knows more.’ The stories in the book describe going from the innocence of a young child to being a suspicious old man.”
Growing up in the agricultural community of Gonzales, Calif., Perezdiaz saw the ability to master Spanish as an important way to honor his parents and heritage. Perezdiaz earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of California at Berkley and a master’s degree in education administration from Antioch University in Los Angeles.
Beginning with a simple request to act as translator for a California arson case, Perezdiaz would spend 27 years as the official court interpreter for the El Paso Federal Court. The profession opened up many opportunities for him including being a speech interpreter for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the 25th Anniversary of La Mujer Obrera (The Working Woman) in El Paso.
Perezdiaz said his job as an interpreter gave him enough subject matter to last the rest of his life.
“There were a lot of serious cases dealing with drugs and kidnapping,” he said. “I’ve written a novel on the drug war and a couple of short stories dealing with drug violence.”
Perezdiaz also worked as a lecturer at the University of Texas at El Paso. He retired in 2010 and still lives in El Paso.
Perezdiaz raised three daughters. One of his short stories is about a father protecting the honor of his daughters. The father catches a young man sneaking into the window of one of his daughter’s bedrooms.
“Of course, the father blows a fuse,” Perezdiaz said. “He captures him at gunpoint and marches him into the living room. He verbally and psychologically lets him have it all night long but never shoots him. While he’s holding the young man, he’s conflicted because he wants to trust his daughter, and he also remembers when he was their age.”
Perezdiaz describes another one of his works as a Steven King-type story that takes place outside his favorite restaurant in El Paso. Two ladies in a BMW park outside the restaurant on a summer day. One lady stays in the car while the other goes inside.
“As the heat comes steaming through the windshield, the lady opens up an umbrella inside the car,” he said, noting that this part is a true story. “A little while later, she can’t close the umbrella and she can’t get out of the car because it’s open. The umbrella suddenly becomes animated. It ends up getting angry because of mistreatment.”
Macarena Hernández, the Victoria Advocate Endowed Professor of the Humanities at UHV, said Perezdiaz is a master of the Spanish language.
“We are thrilled he will be sharing his work and stories with our students and the community,” she said. “There is a perception in Mexico that some Mexican Americans living in the U.S. can’t speak proper Spanish much less write it, so that a Mexican publishing house published Roberto’s work speaks volumes of the caliber of his writing.”