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Américo Paredes: 1915-1999: Folklorist, Educator Biography

Heard Songs And Folktales From Workers, Investigated Background And Development Of Corrido, Honored In Corrido By Folk Songstress

Américo Paredes: 1915-1999: Folklorist, educator.

Surely the only scholar to have had a corrido—a Mexican-American border ballad —composed in his honor, Américo Paredes was a pioneer in the academic study of the Mexican-American experience in the United States and of the culture of the U.S.-Mexico border. His 1958 study With His Pistol in His Hand: A Border Ballad and Its Hero was one of those rare works that overturned historical orthodoxy and opened up whole new areas of inquiry. Paredes fought to expand the Mexican-American presence at the University of Texas over his long career there and inspired countless students who went on to create the discipline of Chicano Studies. His own work, folklorist Richard Bauman was quoted as saying in the New York Times, showed "that a deep, detailed, nuanced understanding of the local will illuminate and inspire a more global vision."

Paredes was born in Brownsville, Texas, on September 3, 1915, into a family that had deep roots in the Lower Rio Grande valley; his father's side of the family had been in the New World for several centuries, first as part of a Sephardic Jewish settlement in the state of Nuevo León and then, since the mid-1700s, becoming active as ranchers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. He was named after Amerigo Vespucci, the 16th-century Italian mapmaker who lent his first name to the lands of the Western Hemisphere—because, family legend had it, of a promise his mother had made to a sister who had married an Italian sailor.

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