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Memories of a Hyphenated Man. By Ramón Eduardo Ruiz Urueta. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2003. Pp. xii, 242. $29.95 cloth.
Straddled between two worlds as American by birth and Mexican by culture and language, Ruiz Urueta blazed a trail in the halls of academia where few had gone before. He would earn a Ph.D. in a land deeply rooted in bigotry and with high barriers to people of Mexican ancestry. His parents strongly influenced his sense of ethnic and national identity, but Ruiz Urueta possessed a powerful intellect and he would go on to pursue a life in the world of books and ideas, bringing with him a unique perspective and character.
In his half century of academic pursuit, Ruiz Urueta taught in numerous U.S. and Mexican universities and trained literally hundred of Mexican Americans at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Still, his impact on Mexican and Latin American history and research would not be fully appreciated within the broader contours of U.S. society until recent years, and for this reason he was the 1998 recipient of the National Humanities Medal presented by President Clinton.
This book possesses numerous strengths, not least of which are the personal insights presented from someone who was both an insider and outsider to such historical dramas as military service in the World War II, the Red Scare of the 1950s, the tumultuous decade of the 1960s and the opening of academia to Mexican Americans through affirmative action. For the young and aspiring Chicano intellectual of the twenty-first century, this autobiography is an essential starting point. Spanning nearly eight decades, Memories of a Hyphenated Man provides a personal window into the life and thought of a true pioneer in American intellectual history and is a testimony to the triumph of the human spirit.
Mark Saad Saka