Internationally acclaimed author, poet and essayist Romeo Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, who used his life in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to write a series of award-winning novels, has died, his family has announced. He was 93 years old.
Hinojosa, who died on Tuesday, was best known for his “Klail City Death Trip” series about the life and people of fictional Belken County and Klail City.
Hinojosa-Smith was honored by the National Book Critics Circle with its 2013 Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.
“He was a writer,” said John Morán González, a professor of American and English literature at the University of Texas at Austin and a colleague.
Some have compared the bilingual series to William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” and his fictional county of Yoknapatawpha and Gabriel García Márquez’s fictional Maconda in “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.
“Like William Faulkner, Rolando immortalized his ‘little postage stamp of native soil’ the borderlands of the Rio Grande Valley,” Elizabeth Culliford, a UT professor and chair of the English department, said in 2013 during of the announcement of the Hinojosa Prize.
The first book in the series, “Estampas del Valle”, won the 1973 Premio Quinto Sol award for best work by a Chicano author.
“Klail City y Sus Alrededores” earned Hinojosa the Premios Casa de las Américas award, a prestigious honor for Latin American literature.
“Writing in two languages, experimenting with different genres of fiction, and having a sarcastic and cutting Texan Mexican wit made Hinojosa one of the most influential American writers of the late 20th century and early 21st century,” said Jaime Armin. Mejía, Associate of Texas State University. professor of English and Chicano literature, wrote in a chapter on Hinojosa-Smith for the Encyclopedia Britannica.
He said in a 2014 interview with Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, that he chose to create a city so he wouldn’t be tied down while writing.
“Klail City is very important to me because it gives me the freedom to write about a city in the valley, any event, any historical moment as well, and the different ethnicities there,” he said. -he declares.
“I have always insisted on being faithful to the place, having a sense of place, to convince the reader that whatever he reads, this man who writes knows what he is talking about. It’s easy for me to write about the house,” he said in the interview.
Originally from Mercedes, Texas, Hinojosa spent many years as a teacher at UT Austin, in the English, Spanish, and Portuguese departments. He was the last of his four siblings.
He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and used his experiences in his writing, including “Korean Love Songs.”
Clarissa Hinojosa, Hinojosa-Smith’s daughter, said her father “was proud to come from the valley and our family. It mattered a lot.
Teaching the world about this part of Texas was important to him, she said.
She said he recently stopped writing after retiring from UT due to dementia and because he had already “said a lot of what he needed to say.”
She said in a Facebook post that he taught for more than 60 years at all levels of education and spent 35 years at UT Austin.
He received his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1969 and received the Alumni Achievement Award from the Illinois Alumni Association in 1998. The university’s Latin/Latina Studies department renamed its guest lecture series for him in 2006.
“He was a prolific, award-winning author whose books had readers around the world,” Clarissa Hinojosa wrote on social media. “His writing has made him a popular guest lecturer at universities in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.”
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