Transcript of Américo Paredes

This is Texas Originals. From Humanities Texas, for the advancement of heritage, culture, and education.

The writer and folklorist Américo Paredes was born in Brownsville in 1915. Even as a youth, he saw that a distinct culture had emerged in the Rio Grande Valley—not just Mexican or American, but a blend of both.

After serving as an Army journalist during World War II, Paredes returned to his home state to train as a scholar. In 1956, he became the first Mexican American to receive a doctorate in English from The University of Texas.

Paredes made the border the focus of his forty-year career. He studied and celebrated the distinctive stories and humor of the lower Rio Grande, at the same time fighting to correct prejudice against Mexicans and Mexican Americans. 

Paredes described his most famous work of scholarship—titled With His Pistol in His Hand—as "two books in one." It tells the story of Gregorio Cortez, a Tejano ranchhand accused of murder who evaded capture by the Texas Rangers for more than a week. The book is also a pioneering study of the border ballads—or corridos—that later portrayed Cortez as a symbol of courage and resistance.

Paredes also wrote poetry and fiction and inspired writers of the Chicano literary movement in the sixties and seventies.

Paredes died in 1999. He is now regarded as one of the foremost Mexican American scholars of the twentieth century.

For more information about this Texas Original, visit Texas Originals is produced by Houston Public Media, News 88.7, and Humanities Texas, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.