Born in 1942 to Raúl Antonio Mora and Estella Mora, Patricia Estella Mora grew up in El Paso, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the United States. She has been married twice and has three children. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees are both from the University of Texas at El Paso, which originally was known as Texas Western College. She has worked extensively as an educator, first as a teacher with the El Paso School District and then as a college instructor and professor. After some years teaching and writing, Mora became a university administrator at the University of Texas at El Paso. Since 1989, she has worked full-time as a writer, serving fellowships and visiting professorships in addition to writing.
Mora’s first book of poetry for adults, Chants, was published in 1984, and her first book for children, A Birthday Basket for Tía, was published in 1992. In interviews, Mora has spoken of the difficulty Latino writers face getting published and recognized; however, even Mora’s first published works were widely reviewed and recognized for their style and poignancy. Often, her works for children have focused on bringing more Latin American characters, role models, themes, and history into the shared cultural understanding. Her writings often include Spanish vocabulary, and many of them, particularly her works of children’s literature, are presented in a bilingual format, with English and Spanish alongside each other.
One of Mora’s most significant legacies will be the creation and promotion of El día de los niños/El día de los libros, which is also promoted as Children’s Day/Book Day. Celebrated on April 30, the special day stems from Children’s Day, which began in 1925 during the World Conference for the Well-Being of Children in Geneva. Mora worked to link Children’s Day with literacy and the joy and excitement of reading. Starting in 1997 with an endorsement from REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, the first El día de los niños/El día de los libros was celebrated. This event continues to thrive and grow, with help from grants, partnerships, and support from the Kellogg Foundation, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, and many publishers and presses.