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Americo Paredes

In His Own Words, an Authorized Biography

Manuel F. Medrano

Publication Year: 2010

Américo Paredes (1915-1999) was a folklorist, scholar, and professor at the University of Texas at Austin who is widely acknowledged as one of the founding scholars of Chicano Studies. Born in Brownsville, Texas, along the southern U.S.-Mexico Border, Paredes grew up between two worlds—one written about in books, the other sung about in ballads and narrated in folktales. After service in World War II, Paredes entered the University of Texas at Austin, where he completed his Ph.D. in 1956. With the publication of his dissertation, “With His Pistol in His Hand”: A Border Ballad and Its Hero in 1958, Paredes soon emerged as a challenger to the status quo. His book questioned the mythic nature of the Texas Rangers and provided an alternative counter-cultural narrative to the existing traditional narratives of Walter Prescott Webb and J. Frank Dobie. For the next forty years Paredes was a brilliant teacher and prolific writer who championed the preservation of border culture and history. He was a soft-spoken, at times temperamental, yet fearless professor. In 1970 he co-founded the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and is credited with introducing the concept of Greater Mexico, decades before its wider acceptance today among transnationalist scholars. He received numerous awards, including La Orden del Aguila Azteca, Mexico’s most prestigious service award to a foreigner. Manuel F. Medrano interviewed Paredes over a five-year period before Paredes’ death in 1999, and also interviewed his family and colleagues. For many Mexican Americans, Paredes’ historical legacy is that he raised, carried, and defended their cultural flag with a dignity that both friends and foes respected.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Al Filo: Mexican American Studies Series


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Copyright/Title Page

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List of Illustrations

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p. iv

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p. v

The idea for this project was born in November 1998, after Américo Paredes had been honored with a tribute at the University of Texas at Brownsville. I had known of him since my high school days but I had not known him until I first interviewed him in September 1994. ...


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-3

His first name was Américo, like the explorer for which America was named. His last name was Paredes, which comes from the Latin word parietis meaning walls. His life spanned eight decades that included events that changed the world forever. ...

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1. The Formative Years

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pp. 5-14

Historically, the South Texas frontera has been inhabited by Coahuiltecanos, Spaniards, Mexicanos, Tejanos and Anglo Americans and many others. A century before the founding of Paredes’ hometown, haciendas, villas, and ranchos dotted the landscape on both sides of the Río Grande. ...

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2. The Depression Years

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pp. 15-34

When Américo was still attending junior high school, Blanca, one of his older sisters, died. He was both devastated and angry.
In 1931, Américo Paredes started high school at Brownsville High School. His experiences during those years were marked by both frustration and achievement. ...

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3. The War and Post-War Years

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pp. 35-41

Paredes commented about how he entered the military. His experience as a reporter was probably the deciding factor.
I could not volunteer because at that time this was in ’44 already. They did not want people in the Navy; they did not want people in the Air Force. ...

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4. Pursuing a Dream [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 42-74

During his time in Asia, Américo had taken correspondence courses in the Armed Forces through a program called USAFI (U. S. Armed Forces Institute) adding more to his college hours. He recalled, “I realized I didn’t want to go back to Brownsville with just a Junior College...

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5. A Professor of Legendary Status

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pp. 75-136

Throughout his professional life, Américo Paredes received numerous awards. He responded to the accolades with his usual dignity, but Vince remembered that his father never talked about the importance of an award. The Order of the Aztec Eagle was significant, but he saw it more...

Appendix One: Unedited Transcription of Favorite Interview with Dr. Am

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pp. 137-156

Appendix Two: Graduate Studies Syllabus Center for Intercultural Studies in Folklore and Ethnomusicology University of Texas at Austin

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pp. 157-159


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pp. 160-170


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pp. 171-175


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pp. 176-180

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413328
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412871

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 25 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Al Filo: Mexican American Studies Series
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OCLC Number: 671655045
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Americo Paredes

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Subject Headings

  • Paredes, Américo.
  • Mexican American authors -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • Folklorists -- Texas -- Biography.
  • Mexican Americans -- Texas -- Biography.
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