Michelle Vallejo is a small business owner, community leader, and advocate for women's economic empowerment. She comes from a big family of farm workers, immigrants, and entrepreneurs. Her parents, Maribel and Daniel, grew up in northern Mexico, from where they would eventually make their way to the Rio Grande Valley in search of their dreams to build a better life for themselves.
For almost 25 years, her family has managed Los Portales, which serves thousands of people weekly and helps dozens of working-class entrepreneurs start and run their businesses. At the pulga, they like to say, “No somos pulgueros. Somos vecinos.” It is this proud sense of community and work ethic that Michelle carries in all of her work.
Running Pulga Los Portales and serving the larger community is what has profoundly defined their family values and work ethic to this day.
Michelle is proud to have attended public school at Mission CISD. She attended Veterans Memorial High School where she participated in student council, drama, debate, and with National Hispanic Institute (NHI). Eventually, Michelle made it to Columbia University in New York City where she studied political science and history. While in New York, one of the many challenges she faced was defending her roots. Like many times while growing up, she dealt with questions about why she spoke pocha, or why she mixed English and Spanish. She dealt with comments about her curly hair and whether it was too frizzy or not professional enough. But instead of letting that change her, Michelle chose to proudly represent her roots through her education and work.
In 2010, after 15 years of fighting multiple sclerosis, Michelle’s mother took her last breath at just 46 years old. It was this moment that would mark a new chapter in her life, one in which she realized that the best way to honor her mother’s legacy was to fight for a better future for her family and all people in South Texas. Even when our world didn’t give her mother the care she needed, Michelle has never stopped believing that a better world is possible when people come together across differences and work for it together.
Since then, Michelle has stepped up to help her dad run Pulga Los Portales where she led efforts during the pandemic to keep the business going as a drive-thru market.
Michelle also co-founded the New Leaders Council STX Frontera chapter which helps progressive community leaders across sectors advance equity in South Texas. She also co-founded Hustle + Socialize, an annual women’s entrepreneurship conference providing resources and support for minority women in business in San Antonio and throughout South Texas. Most recently, in 2021, Michelle helped immigrant rights’ organizations as an oral historian transcribe interviews conducted of parents and children separated at the border due to the Trump administration’s cruel “zero tolerance” policy. These transcribed narratives were used to inform the Biden administration Task Force on reuniting separated families.
Michelle was recruited to run for Congress by LUPE Votes, a community organization that uses grassroots organizing to push for the interests of underrepresented and neglected people. Michelle is a passionate advocate for uplifting working-class Americans and not corporate interests. Her run for Congress is to help build stronger and healthier communities so that people of all backgrounds can thrive in South Texas.