The best way to start this piece is with a caveat that we’re all writers. Just as we’re all speakers (of whatever language), we’re all writers (of whatever language)—with the exception of those who (for whatever reasons) are illiterate (in whatever language). Sounds like linguistification, but it isn’t. As a professor of English for more than half a century now, I’ve encountered (and continue to encounter) people who lament the fact that they don’t know how to write. I assuage them by assuring them that they really know how to write—that success as a writer takes practice and a helping hand. I qvell when I see students in my freshman Composition and Rhetoric classes turning out good writing, especially after they’ve lamented on the first day that they didn’t know how to write. They won’t turn out Shakespearean-polished prose at the end of the first semester in English 101, but with lots of dopamine from me they turn out essays that communicate sufficiently well their thoughts, sentiments, and opinions on a variety of topics. So far in my nine years at Western New Mexico University, a dozen students of mine have been published: several undergraduate students from my English 102 classes, a number of graduate students from my graduate classes, and three faculty Ph.D.’s from my Faculty Development Class.
About 80 years ago, A.P. Herbert encouraged writers to “cultivate an ear for words; listen to your words and sentences as you write them, and test them ‘for sound’ as well as for sense.” This is good advice. Perhaps more germane for me because of my long experience with theater as a student and critic of theater, as actor (stage and film), as director, and as playwright. In these endeavors the sound and sense of words were palpable requisites (A.P. Herbert, What a Word! Methuen, 1935). As for me, not too long ago, I penned a piece on the “Power of the Word” for This I Believe—the Edward R. Murrow National Public Radio Commemorative Project.
I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF THE WORD
I believe in the power of the word. There is, indeed, no power greater than the power of language, the medium that binds speakers of distinct languages together. So powerful and, perhaps, so fearful was the way of the word that in biblical times, we are told, God scattered humankind over the face of the earth and separated them by a diversity of languages so they could no longer work together as one people to build a tower by which to ascend to heaven and the domain of God. In other words, humankind speaking one language threatened the eminence of God. Or was it that God saw in the one language that humans spoke a narcissistic threat to the human race in their zeal to become like God?
We have come far from that world of one language. Today we are no closer to a universal language or that language that so distressed God. We are still separated by language, even though historically there have been periods of linguistic dominance by one language or other. The English language seems to be trump at the moment. So trump, in fact, that in many English-language speaking countries there are efforts to establish English as the (official) language of those countries. In the United States there have been zealous attempts by English Only proponents to legislate English as the (official) language of states and the country.
Efforts to create artificial languages, like Esperanto, that incorporated elements of existing languages have not been successful. Efforts to overcome linguistic differences between people have met with varying results, more often than not exacerbating enmity between linguistic groups. Lexocentrism (linguistic chauvinism) and linguistic hegemony keeps us fearful of those who speak other languages. In the United States that fear fans the fires of lexocentrism, insisting that one language (English) will unite Americans in common cause.
Despite biblical accounts of a unitary language, we note that a specific language is not the glue that binds a people. Everywhere there is internecine conflict within groups that speak the same language. Like gnomons, there are Americans who insist that American Hispanics would be ameliorated faster if they gave up Spanish for English. In a multilingual world, far too many lexocentric Americans have become deaf to the polyglot sounds of linguistic diversity.
Despite these lexical misgivings, I believe in the power of the word. The bible opens with the expression: In the beginning was the word and the word was made flesh. God did not for one minute think that when He said (Let there be light) there would not be light. Such was the power of language. Language was at the heart of human creation. It has become central to the human condition. As the anthropologists Whorf and Sapir postulated: The language one speaks shapes one’s view of the world. We have yet to understand that. Via the language that shapes us, we have come to believe that the language we speak is the only language of reason and understanding, failing to realize that every language creates its own structure of reality and reason.
Unfortunately, all of us, caught in the web of our proper language, are aurally challenged by the languages of the others. We have come to believe that transliterations of linguistic codes enable us to understand the minds of those who do not speak our language. That assumption has led humans along perilous paths. That assumption is why we can win wars but not the hearts and minds of people we vanquish. But I believe that in the long run the more we learn about the words of others the closer we will come to the unity of global understanding. It will take an alchemy of the word to save us from ourselves. Perhaps that’s what God had in mind when He destroyed the Tower of Babel.
These requisites have become part and parcel of my writing in all the genres I’ve engaged in. Before there was American literature in my life there was Mexican literature then a host of books from foreign countries in Spanish translation, most of them by Communist writers for my socialist father who fled north from Mexico to the United States in 1921 because he believed the wrong party had hijacked the principles of the Mexican Civil War (1910-1921)—often identified as “the Mexican Revolution.” In principal my father was a Magónista, follower of the political philosophy of Francisco and Ricardo Magón, both of whom met inglorious ends in American prisons.
There were always books in our house. At first, there were always little books—little blue books—simple for beginning readers in Spanish. Assiduously my mother took me under her wing and taught me to read in Spanish. She also taught me to write in Spanish. My earliest efforts in writing in Spanish were stories about my dog Chata. Intrigued by the books my father read I began to read them also with my father’s help.
My first encounter with American literature occurred when I was 10 when I could read English well enough. The book was Huckleberry Finn. Years later, Leslie Fielder’s notorious essay “When you Comin’ Back to the Raft Ag’in, Huck, honey?” awoke in me a perspective of literature that came into maturity with my study of Backgrounds of Mexican American Literature (University of New Mexico, 1971). That perspective was about “the other” in American life and literature and the counter-culture to bring “the other” into the public field of vision.
An intervening book that awoke even further that perspective of literature was Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck, a book I consider the worst novel in American literature. I first read the novel in 1948 during my first semester at the University of Pittsburgh where I had been admitted on the G.I. Bill despite the fact that I had only one year of high school behind me. I thought then that Tortilla Flat was an extraordinary book. Twenty years later in 1968 I realized how bad a book it really was. Why the difference? By 1968 in the midst of doctoral studies in English I had become a Chicano and realized that the characterization of the Paisanos of Tortilla Flat by Steinbeck were stereotypic stick-figures of the Mexicans of the Monterrey Peninsula in California.
My first efforts at writing began at my mother’s knees, sitting there as she read story after story (in Spanish) to me, pausing to comment on the illustrations and the letters. Afterwards she would sit me at the kitchen table and instruct me on how to make the letters in the book as I copied the stories (in Spanish) on blank paper. It seems to me that before long I was writing well enough to make up my own stories with my dog Chata as the main character.
Chata was a waif, the runt of her litter, fuzzy-haired with many colors. She would lay beside me on the floor when I wrote about her. When I finished a story, I would read it aloud to Chata. Ever watchful, my mother would hear my stories as I read them to Chata, and sometimes my mother would poke her head toward me asking me to repeat some part of the story. That encouragement drove me all the more to write. I was literate in Spanish by the time I started first grade in the segregated schools of San Antonio, Texas, in 1932.
Despite the fact that I struggled with the English language and repeated the first grade, I kept on writing in Spanish. Our teachers did not seem to grasp the connection between literacy in Spanish and second language acquisition. For some time now I’ve characterized that inability to grasp that connection to the teachers’ belief in the acoustic theory of language—they believed that the sounds of the English language wafting through the classroom would reveal their meanings to the students as soon they reached the students’ ears. By the 4th grade I still had not gotten the hang of the English language so I was held back another year. By the time I got to the 9th grade I was already 2 years older than my cohort, so I quit school after completing the 9th grade, and when I turned 17 joined the Marines that August during the dark days of 1943 when victory in World War II was far from certain.
In high school I tried my hand at writing poetry in English. In the Spring of 1943 my poem “The Gift” was published in Twinings, the literary magazine of Scott High School in North Braddock, Pennsylvania, where I was living at the time. In 1948, after my wartime service in the Marines, I was accepted as a provisional student at the University of Pittsburgh where I took up the study of writing seriously with the help of Abraham Lauf who got me through Freshman English.
I was accepted as a provisional student at Pitt because at War’s end, Pitt Chancellor Rufus Fitzgerald had decreed that any honorably discharged military member would be welcome at Pitt regardless of academic background. In the Fall of 1948, the Veterans Administration placed me at Pitt with only one year of high school. I signed up for courses in Chemistry, History, Freshman English, and 2 courses in Spanish.
At the end of the semester I wound up with A’s in the Spanish courses but F’s in Chemistry, History, and English. My GPA was in the cellar (1.5). I was advised that in order to enroll in the Spring 1949 semester one of those F’s would have to be a D at least—the lowest passing grade. The Chemistry and History profs turned me down. But Abraham Lauf, my Freshman English prof heard me out. Sympathetically because I was an ex-GI, professor Lauf agreed to look at my work again, explaining that he wasn’t promising anything—that if my work merited it he would change the F to a D. A couple of days later, Abraham Lauf notified me that he could in good conscience give me a D for the course. In the Spring semester of 1949 I signed up for professor Lauf’s second semester English course. I earned a D for the course (let me stress the word “earned”). I’ve often wondered if this act of kindness on Professor Lauf’s part influenced my pursuit of the Ph.D. in English.
Well into the start of Professor Lauf’s sophomore course on description and narration, I was despairing of earning anything better than a “D” on the assignments I was turning in. My papers fairly dripped of red ink that covered them with his critical remarks and comments. “He expects us to write like pros,” I thought. “That’s not fair! He thinks he’s still editor of Redbook or whatever magazine he worked at before the war. I’ll confront him.” After all, I had been a Marine Corps sergeant.
He listened to my complaint, nodded sympathetically (I thought), then, when I was through, he said matter-of-factly, unintimidated by my presentation, “Perhaps you should drop the course, Mr. Ortego.” That was it! He dismissed me with a challenge that not only got my dander up but also got my “Mexican” determination up.
Needless to say, I didn’t drop the course. I worked harder. And the harder I worked, the more red ink poured from Professor Lauf’s pen. About midway through the course I got the hang of the craft. But that didn’t stop the red ink. I learned that the better I wrote, the more he had to say. The more potential he thought you had, the more he expected from you. And he made us work to the full potential he thought each of us had.
I got a “B” from him that semester, and learned the “art of red ink,” which has characterized my own teaching of writing. I took three more creative writing courses with Professor Lauf. In the meantime I did well on the Pitt newspaper and had my first short story published in the student literary magazine.
More importantly, however, I learned from Abraham Lauf that when things get tough one stays the course; and that what is not fair is not working to the full measure of one’s potential. I’ve often wondered if Abraham Lauf had not been a Marine Corps sergeant himself. Perhaps a drill sergeant.
There were other teachers, of course, who influenced my intellectual and cognitive development, but “Abe” Lauf is the teacher I remember best and the one who had the most impact on my life as a writer. I’m sorry now I didn’t stay in touch with him—and even sorrier I never told him while he lived how important he was in my life. I did, however, have an opportunity to honor him with a memorial essay in A Celebration of Teachers published by the National Council of Teachers of English in 1986.
The University of Pittsburgh nurtured me. It gave me confidence in my intellectual development and in my skills as a writer. Upon completion of Advanced ROTC in 1952, at graduation exercises I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve. That summer I worked as an intern at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In the Fall, the New World Society of Pittsburgh published a chapbook of my poetry entitled The Wide Well of Hours, an honor which I have come to consider a success d’estime which would carry me far as a poet until I found my voice as an essayist.
After Pitt I pursued a career as a teacher and writer, the latter with astonishing cumulative success, publishing poetry, fiction, and critical studies as well as placing pieces in national and international magazines and journals like The Nation, Saturday Review, The Center Magazine, the Chaucer Review, The American Scholar, and a host of others. But there is not one piece I’ve written over the years where Abraham Lauf has not been looking over my shoulder, nodding, pushing me to do better.
It seemed my launch as a writer was a success. But in the following years I would amass hundreds of rejections, all of which I saved and contributed in 1986 as part of my archives to the Mexican American Archives at the Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin.
In the years from 1952 to 1966 I wrote extensively—mostly poetry. During my active duty years in the Air Force from 1952 to 1962, scores of my poems were published in The Stars and Stripes—the military newspaper, some of them pseudonymously as Marion Van Ives. One particular success of writing during my years in the Air Force was winning First Place in the USAFE (U.S. Air Forces Europe) short story competition with the story “Chicago Blues” judged by Richard Wright and published in Trend magazine in 1958. The story would be reprinted a number of times in the ensuing years. Throughout the rest of the 60’s I wrote poetry furiously, reading it in whatever venues cropped up—mostly coffee houses of the time—much of it published here and there in various magazines.
In the meantime, between 1962 and 1964 I taught French at Jefferson High School in El Paso, Texas. and in 1964 joined the English Department at New Mexico State University where I remained until 1970. While at Jefferson High School I received an award for poetry from the Trans-Pecos Teachers Association and a poem of mine was included in Odes of March edited by Bernard Goldberg for the Trans-Pecos Teachers Association. In 1964 Paso del Norte Press at El Paso, Texas, brought out my second chapbook of poetry Sangre y Cenizas—this one in Spanish. At New Mexico State University from 1964-1970 as Instructor of English I was the first Mexican American to teach in the English Department.
I throve at New Mexico State University and in Las Cruces. From 1965 to 1970 I was the Entertainment and Literary Editor of the Las Cruces Sun News, publishing book, movie, and theater reviews regularly. In 1967 I won an NEA/Reader’s Digest Foundation Award for fiction with the story “Soledad,” published in the winter 1968 issue of Puerto del Sol, literary publication of New Mexico State University at Las Cruces. That same year I placed my first piece with the Texas Observer. Also, the Chicano Research Institute of El Paso, Texas, published my work on Issues and Challenges in Mexican American Education. Pieces of mine also appeared at this time in The New Mexico Review. I was on a publishing streak, placing pieces with The New England Review, Connecticut Review, Barat Review, The University Review, The CEA Critic, Books Abroad, Trans-Action, Choice, CLA Journal, and a host of other publications and newspapers.
During this period (1964-1970), I worked with and published a number of research pieces with Carl L. Rosen who taught me a lot about how to ascertain the reading problems of Mexican American students. Some of those works were published by the International Reading Association, the Journal of Reading Behavior, and by the U.S. Office of Education (Washington, DC). Fortuitously, during this time I also worked with and wrote a number of pieces with Mark Medoff who was then a member of the English Department at New Mexico State University. Mark would later win a Tony for his play Children of a Lesser God. Our most significant collaboration was Elsinore, a musical version of Hamlet, a play we had high hopes for until Joseph Papp suggested we turn it into a rock-musical.
Perhaps the most memorable moment during the years from 1964 to 1970 was meeting Octavio Romano, founder of Quinto Sol Publications at Berkeley, California. Octavio Romano and I met for the first time in Las Cruces, New Mexico in the summer of 1966, early in my career when I was teaching in the English department at New Mexico State University and he was visiting Las Cruces with his wife whose mother lived there.
By the strangest of circumstances Octavio and I met on campus while he was looking for the library. We exchanged greetings and paused to chat. He told me who he was and offered that he was just strolling the campus. He and his wife were visiting relatives in Las Cruces. That serendipitous meeting changed my life. I didn’t know that then, and would not until the end of that decade when I undertook the study of Backgrounds of Mexican American Literature at the University of New Mexico (1971), first study in the field.
During that chance encounter I suggested a cafesito. Octavio and I talked about sundry academic topics over coffee and pan dulce. He explained that he was an anthropologist in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley, having just received his Ph.D. in 1962. He also explained that he had worked briefly for the Public Health Department in Santa Fe.
I was surprised, for I had never met a Mexican American anthropologist. I learned that he had received his B.A. at the University of New Mexico in 1952, the year I left the University of Pittsburgh where I had majored in comparative studies (languages, literature, and philosophy) from 1948 to 1952. We swapped war stories. He served in Europe with the army during World War II. I served in the Pacific with the Marines.
I told him about my interests in literature and that I had just completed a study of Hamlet: The Stamp of One Defect (1966), an article-length version published in Shakespeare in the Southwest: Some New Directions edited by T.J. Stafford and published by Texas Western Press in 1969. He too was interested in literature, he remarked. So much so that he and a cohort of Mexican Americans in the Bay Area, including John Carrillo, Steve Gonzales, Phillip Jimenez, Rebecca Morales, Ramon Rodriguez, Armando Valdez, and Andres Ybarra, had been thinking about publishing a literary journal dedicated solely to Mexican American thought and expression.
That piqued my interest. He said he’d send me info as the journal developed. We parted and met irregularly over that summer. Toward the end of the fall semester of that year, I received a note from Octavio with details about the journal which would be called El Grito: Journal of Mexican American Thought and would be published by Quinto Sol Publications. The symbolism did not escape me. The term “Chicano” was still percolating on the ideological stovetops of many Mexican American activists. Octavio encouraged me to submit work to El Grito. Several of my pieces were published in that first volume of El Grito. I thus became one of the Quinto Sol writers. However, what radiated elán from the Quinto Sol enterprise was the editorial of Volume 1 Number 1 of El Grito in the Fall of 1967: that publication of El Grito was a manifesto that Mexican Americans would be judges of their own cultural works; that Mexican Americans would speak for themselves henceforth, and that all Anglo discourse about Mexican Americans was suspect and, therefore, would be challenged.
This discourse, the editorial asserted, “must be stripped of its esoteric and sanctified verbal garb and have its intellectually spurious and vicious character exposed to full view.” That has always struck me as a courageous pronouncement. But the significance of that editorial lies in its last paragraph: “Only Mexican Americans themselves can accomplish the collapse of this and other such rhetorical structures by the exposure of their fallacious nature and the development of intellectual alternatives.” That was the key: “intellectual alternatives.”
The rest is history. El Grito became the premier journal of the Chicano literary movement, not the only one, but it led the way. There is no doubt in my mind that without El Grito the Chicano literary movement would have developed differently–if at all. Without El Grito there would have been no Premio Quinto Sol, an award many of us in Chicano literature came to regard as equivalent to the Nobel Prize or, at least, the Pulitzer. Who would have published Rudy Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima? Or Rolando Hinojosa’s Estampas del Valle? Some other publisher, perhaps, in an alternative dimension or universe.
Octavio Romano was tapped as the Instructor for The Mexican American Population 143X, a social analysis course which he described as overdue (Daily Californian, January 6, 1969). Romano went on to say that the course would help to offset the John Wayne syndrome afflicting the American population vis-à-vis Mexican Americans, closing with the prophetic words: “the Chicano must realize that he must regain control of his historical function.”
That was Romano’s consistent theme: Chicanos must define themselves. This self-definition was the same clarion call I sounded as I prepared to teach the first course in Mexican American literature at the University of New Mexico in the fall of 1969. There was a surprising congruency between Octavio’s political philosophy and mine.
More importantly, though, Octavio Romano was a pragmatist in the Greek sense of ideation and accomplishment. That is, for the Greeks praxis is the ideation of deeds and pragma is the deed done, actually bringing them to fruition. All too often in life, there is a disconnect between what we think should be and its actualization. El Grito (the journal) was actualization of the need for Chicano self-expression in a time when that need was paramount and urgent. For me, the consequence of that actualization was a direction that gave impetus to my life not only in letters but in Chicano literature.
Without Romano’s influence I would probably have completed a dissertation on Chaucer, which was already in progress, before I decided to write a dissertation on Mexican American literature instead, not knowing it would be the first in the field. That was how profoundly Octavio Romano affected my life. Manuel Delgado, a student at Berkeley in 1969, remembers Romano as a middle-aged guy in wrinkled khaki pants and a white shirt the day Romano attended a meeting of the Mexican American Student Confederation, precursor to MEChA on campus. Romano and the Chicano students were trying to get a Chicano history course approved at Berkeley for the Spring Quarter of 1969. UC Berkeley was the last of the California campuses to offer a Chicano studies course.
My first efforts as one of the Quinto Sol writers were published in Volume 1 (1967-1968) of El Grito– “The Coming of Zamora” (a short story based on the trial of Reies Lopez Tijerina) and “The Mexican-Dixon Line” (about the Southern plantation mentality in the Hispanic Southwest). In 1969 Octavio Romano published El Espejo–The Mirror: Selected Mexican-American Literature, the first “anthological” salvo of Mexican American writing in the Chicano era, in effect “the first anthology of Chicano literature published by Chicanos.”
That September, I reviewed the anthology for The Nation, describing it as “a brown paperback book reflecting ‘brown’ literary hopes and aspirations in this country,” adding that “El Espejo represents the first fruits of a struggling nascent effort on the part of a nueva ola (new wave) of literary Mexican Americans.” This review engendered my concept of “The Chicano Renaissance” which was published in the May 1971 issue of Social Casework. In the fifth printing of El Espejo (1972), Octavio listed the Quinto Sol writers as part of the introduction he and Herminio Rios wrote (see Appendix for List).
In 1971 Octavio Romano published Voices: Readings from El Grito 1967-1971, in which he included my piece on “The Mexican-Dixon Line.” My academic and literary odyssey led me hither and yon in the 70’s and distanced my contact with Octavio. That distance, however, did not lessen my regard and admiration of him and his consistent efforts in promoting Chicano literature. Without Octavio Romano and Quinto Sol Publications and El Grito would we know about Tomas Rivera, Rudy Anaya, Estela Portillo, Rolando Hinojosa, Jose Montoya, Alurista, and the host of other Quinto Sol writers? For me, Octavio Romano was la joya inesperada—the unexpected jewel, shining in a firmament of jewels that has become Chicano literature.
My breakthrough as a writer of public affairs came when Carey McWilliams (author of North From Mexico and editor then of The Nation) assigned me to cover the Cabinet Committee meeting in El Paso, Texas, in October of 1967, called by President Lyndon Johnson and moderated by Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. My piece was entitled “The Minority on the Border: Cabinet Meeting in El Paso” (The Nation, December 11, 1967). Other assignments for The Nation followed. In 1970 my investigative piece on “Montezuma’s Children” about the deplorable education of Mexican Americans in the public schools of the Hispanic Southwest was published as a cover story by The Center Magazine (November/December 1970) of the John Maynard Hutchins Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Santa Barbara, California. The piece was read into The Congressional Record (116 No. 189, November 25, 1970, S 18965) by Senator Ralph Yarbrough of Texas The piece received the John Maynard Hutchins citation for distinguished journalism and was recommended for a Pulitzer.
In terms of language research, in 1970 the Center for Applied Linguistics published my monograph on The Linguistic Imperative in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and my piece on “Some Cultural Implications of a Mexican American Border Dialect of American English was published by Studies in Linguistics (October 1970).
The essence of my work as a scholar and writer was to emerge in 1971 with completion of my Ph.D. dissertation on Backgrounds of Mexican American Literature, first study in the field. Out of that work I extracted the essay “The Chicano Renaissance” which was published in the Journal of Social Casework (May 1971) as part of a special issue edited by Celia Aguirre. Later, Margaret Mangold, editor of the Journal of Social Casework would edit the special issue as a hardcover book with title La Causa Chicana: The Movement for Justice.
Part of the story—perhaps the most important part—in what veered me toward Chicano literature occurred in 1969 while I was completing my Ph.D. dissertation as a Teaching Fellow in the English Department at the University of New Mexico. As director of the newly established Chicano Studies Program at the University of New Mexico, Louis Bransford approached me in the Summer of 1969 to organize a course in Mexican American Literature. I assented readily. That was to be the most defining moment of my life.
Twenty-two students mostly Indo-Hispanic enrolled for the course. In my haste—perhaps naiveté—to organize the course I failed to take into account texts for the students. Setting in slowly was the reality that there had never been a course like this taught any. I was plowing new ground. There was a lot of extant historical material on the shelves of Zimmerman Library at UNM but almost none of it available in copies for even the smallest number of students. We made do with what we could find. Despite the lack of instructional materials, the course was a success—at least, I thought so.
The course opened for me a literary aperture of which I was incognizant. Before me was a trove of literature by people like me: Mexican Americans who had survived the apodictic strictures of making their way in a country that denigrated them and did not want them, making their way through a strange political system while being forced to learn a new language. For me, the course was a portal to a consciousness I had not dreamed possible. Yes that consciousness had nibbled at the edges of awareness but it was the course that nudged me toward the light.
At the beginning of the Spring semester of 1970, I met with Joe Zavadil, Chair of the English Department at UNM, explaining my request to change my dissertation topic to one on Mexican American Literature. He was surprised for I had already completed three chapters of a dissertation on Chaucer. Edith Buchanan was my advisor. Joe Zavadil acceded with the proviso, however, that I had to find three faculty members to work with me. There were, of course none who had worked in this field. But I persuaded David Remley, Robert Fleming, and David Johnson to be my dissertation committee. We were four sailors on a ship without a rudder; I was in the crow’s nest. I would look for the material; they would help me with the format.
The arrangement worked out well. I delayed Ph.D. graduation by 15 months, receiving the Ph.D. in English in August of 1971. Later I would learn that my dissertation was the first in the field, and that I was the first Mexican American to receive the Ph.D. in English at the University of New Mexico. I would also learn that I was the 5th Mexican American in the country with the Ph.D. in English: the 1st was Americo Paredes, 1956; 2nd Carlos Ramos, 1965; 3rd Robert Padilla, 1968; 4th Arturo Islas, May 1971; 5th Felipe Ortego, August 1971.
Copyright 2015 by Felipe de Ortego y Gasca, Scholar in Residence (Cultural Studies, Critical Theory, public Policy), Western New Mexico University; Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, Texas State University System—Sul Ross. A WRITER’S LIFE: A LITERARY JOURNEY was presented at The Southwest Festival of the Written Word, Silver City, New Mexico. September, 2015. Next Month: A WRITERS LIFE: A LITERARY JOURNEY PART TWO here at Latinopia.com.