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Montalvo was born in Caderrayta Jimenez, Nuevo Leon (Mexico), on June 9, 1943, and immigrated to the U.S. at age nine. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1966 and from The University of Texas School of Law in 1981, after which he established a law practice in McAllen, Texas. Montalvo was elected McAllen city commissioner in 1983 and McAllen mayor in 1997. He is the first Mexican American mayor of McAllen.
Montalvo recalls his successful political campaign against incumbent McAllen mayor Othal Brand and the subsequent suit brought by Brand for a recount. He discusses McAllen voting patterns and statistics, his opinion of why Brand lost the race, the characteristics of Mexican American voters in McAllen, and the growth of Mexican American political power. Montalvo also describes the composition of the McAllen city commission, the structure of city government, and the city's electoral districts and voter distribution. After briefly relating his experience as a school math teacher and assistant principal he shares his introduction to politics; in describing his unsuccessful campaigns for political office in the 1970s Montalvo sheds light on the formation of La Raza Unida party in the area. He explains how he came to be elected to the city commission in 1983 and reveals attitudes toward La Raza Unida party. Montalvo provides details of his family history and information about his siblings, wife and children. He describes instances of discrimination against Mexican Americans and credits education and the rise of a Mexican American professional class with breaking barriers and increasing Mexican American political representation. Montalvo ends by talking of issues in the Rio Grande Valley.
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