White House Dream Team: Américo Paredes

Drawing of Américo Paredes Américo Paredes

Born in Brownsville, Texas, Américo Paredes grew up in an area still impacted by the 1910 Mexican Revolution. As a boy, he often listened to corridos, folk tales, and stories told by Tejanos around the campfire. Inspired to receive an education, he studied diligently in his community's public schools while working to help support his seven brothers and sisters. After receiving his high school diploma and winning first place in a statewide poetry contest, Américo attended Brownsville Junior College, where his love of the written word grew and flourished. He worked for the local paper as a proofreader, translator, and writer. Within a few years, his first book of poetry, Cantos de adolescencia, was published.

Américo sacrificed his career to help the country's efforts in World War II. At the conclusion of the war, this U.S. Army infantryman was asked to use his many skills to become a writer and editor for the publication "Stars and Stripes." Following his military service, Américo once again focused on his writing and received a master's degree in English and folklore studies and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. A professor at the University of Texas for much of his professional life, Américo taught countless students about the Mexican-American way of life.

Américo greatly contributed to the Mexican-American community by sharing his experiences along the Rio Grande River through his writings and teachings. His vast array of work gained recognition among scholars, and he worked tirelessly to place Mexican-American studies among the curricula offered at colleges and universities.

Active in the community, Américo was widely praised for his work. He also served as president of the Texas Folklore Society and became the first Mexican American to receive the prestigious Charles Frankel Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1989. He also earned a lifetime achievement award at the 1998 Texas Book Festival, hosted by Laura Bush when she was First Lady of Texas. A father of four, he was proud of having Américo Paredes Middle School in Austin, Texas named in his honor. He died May 5, 1999.

Brain Challenge:

  1. Where was Américo born?
  2. What entertained Américo when he was a child?
  3. Name the publication Américo wrote for after World War II.
  4. What was the focus of Américo's teachings and writings?
  5. What honor did Américo receive in 1998?
Share your answers with a parent, teacher or other adult.

Want to learn more?
Visit your school or public library to learn more about these fascinating Americans.

September 3, 1915

May 5, 1999

To make others aware experiences and culture of Mexican-Americans

Brownsville Junior College, 1934-35; University of Texas at Austin, 1953-56

Enhanced understanding of the Mexican-American way of life

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