AUSTIN, Texas—Professor Emeritus Américo Paredes of The University of Texas at Austin, noted author and one of the founders of the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Center for Intercultural Studies of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at UT Austin, died Wednesday afternoon (May 5) in Specialty Hospital of Austin following a recent illness. He was 83.
Private funeral services for the immediate family are pending with Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home. A public memorial service will be held at a later date. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, friends donate to the charity of their choice or to a student assistance program in care of the Center for Mexican-American Studies at UT Austin.
With a pen in his hand, Paredes challenged the writings of legendary and contemporary historians and their versions of life along the Texas-Mexico border. His scholarly work about valiant peasants along the Rio Grande borderlands set in motion a revolutionary approach to writing about the way things and people had been in early Texas. In so doing, he helped to shape a positive cultural identity among Mexican-Americans and influenced a whole new generation of Texas scholars.
Paredes was a founder of Mexican American studies, border studies and the post-modern movement in anthropology. To recognize his lifelong contributions to literature and folklore, Paredes was awarded the Charles Frankel Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Orden del Aguila Azteca (Order of the Aztec Eagle), Mexico’s highest honor given to scholars from other countries.
As an anthropology and English professor, Paredes had taught literature, folklore and creative writing to thousands of undergraduate and graduate students. His appointment to the Raymond Dickson, Alton C. Allen and Dillon Anderson Centennial Professorship spoke to his eminence as a scholar and teacher.
UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner said, “Américo Paredes was a great part of the soul of The University of Texas and the Austin commuity for many decades. He will be sorely missed. And on this occasion, the entire University community reaches out with fond regards to the members of his family.”
Dr. Ricardo Romo, vice provost at UT Austin who is to begin serving as president of UT San Antonio later this month, has been a friend of the Paredes family for many years.
“Américo Paredes was an eminent scholar in the field of Southwest and borderland studies and a distinguished teacher at UT-Austin,” said Romo. “America has lost a great leader in the field of folklore and literature. The Hispanic community is especially saddened to lose such an important leader in academia. He contributed to our understanding and appreciation of Hispanic folklore history and literature.
“I had the privilege of having a close friendship with Américo, and I know that all of us, students, faculty and the larger community, will always be grateful,” Romo said.
Paredes received numerous awards in recent years in recognition for his work. In 1997, when he received The University of Texas Presidential Citation, it was noted that his seminal folklore studies in the 1940s and 1950s lay the foundation for understanding the people and culture of the Lower Rio Grande Border, inspiring an entire generation of Mexican American scholars to pursue a more intercultural interpretation of the American Southwest.
In the fall of 1997, Paredes received an award from the American Folklore Society’s Section on Latino, Latin American and Caribbean Folklore, recognizing him as “the most important and influential American folklorist in the field of Mexican-American and borderlands folklore.”
In April, 1998, the Austin Independent School District named a new middle school, to be built on David Moore Drive, south of Slaughter Lane near Mary Moore-Searight Park, in his honor. In November 1998 he received a lifetime achievement award at the state Capitol during opening ceremonies for the Texas Book Festival. Also in November, Paredes was honored in his hometown of Brownsville for his lifetime accomplishments. The ceremony was followed by a concert featuring singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa to raise funds toward a scholarship to be established in his name.
Paredes’ novels include With His Pistol in His Hand, and A Texas Mexican Cancionero: Folk Songs of the Lower Border. His most recently published novel is The Shadow.