AUSTIN, Texas — Dr. Américo Paredes, professor emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin, is one of two Texans who will be honored with the “Compañero/a de las Americas” award from the American Folklore Society, which will hold its annual meeting in Austin next week.
The society’s award is typically given every two years to two people in recognition of outstanding contributions to the further understanding of folk traditions in the Americas and the Caribbean that relate to the theme of the annual meeting. This year’s theme is “Folklore and Memory.” The other recipient, the late Dr. J. Mason Brewer, also was an Austinite and longtime friend of Paredes. Both Texas folklorists made significant contributions to the knowledge of Mexican, Chicano and Borderlands folklore.
The Compañero/a de las Americas award of the American Folklore Society’s Section on Latino, Latin American and Caribbean Folklore awards will be presented to Paredes at a reception hosted by the American Folklore Society Fellows at 8 p.m. on Wednesday (Oct. 29) at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Austin. Brewer’s award also will be presented at the Hyatt Regency that day at a 6 p.m. reception hosted by the American Folklore Society’s Minority Task Force.
Paredes said he remembers Brewer as a member of the Texas Folklore Society back in the 1950s and recalls how Brewer, an African American, declined to attend the annual banquets in a downtown Austin hotel because he would not have been served food due to his color during that period of racial segregation. Paredes said that as times changed in the early ’60s and some restaurants became desegregated, the meeting site was changed to a restaurant that allowed Brewer to join the other society members at the banquet table.
“I am very proud to be linked with J. Mason Brewer, he was a good man and, under the circumstances in which he had to work, he did a lot of good scholarship,” said Paredes.
Ross Peterson-Veatch, convenor of the American Folklore Society’s Section on Latino, Latin American and Caribbean Folklore, said Paredes is the most important and influential American folklorist in the field of Mexican-American and Borderlands Folklore.
“Ballad and traditional narrative scholars, as well as regional scholars, consider his two major works on the ballads of the Texas-Mexican border (With His Pistol in His Hand, and A Texas Mexican Cancionero: Folk Songs of the Lower Border) to be enduring classics,” said Peterson-Veatch.Paredes also has written dozens of articles on Spanish-speaking people in the United States, and was co-editor in 1972 of one of the most influential theoretical texts on folklore of its time: Toward New Perspectives in Folklore.Brewer earned a master’s degree from Indiana University and later became chair of the department of English and literature at Huston-Tillotson College in Austin. In 1954 he was chosen as one of the 25 best authors in Texas by Theta Sigma Phi, national journalistic society. He was a fluent speaker of Spanish and in 1973-74 he produced a manuscript on the Mexican influences on African-American Folklore in Texas. Brewer died before he could publish the manuscript and he was selected to receive the award to highlight this little-known aspect of his renowned career.
The award plaques to be presented to Paredes and Brewer are made of Texas granite by local stone and glass artist Reji Thomas. They are etched with the logo of the American Folklore Society’s Section on Latino, Latin American and Caribbean Folklore — the smiling sun.
For conference registration or other information, contact Dr. Deborah A. Kapchan, director of the Center for Intercultural Studies in Folklore and Ethnomusicology at The University of Texas at Austin, 512-471-5689.