Acclaimed Austin author Professor Rolando Hinojosa-Smith has died
Austin author and professor Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, who shared the ways of the Rio Grande Valley with the rest of the world, died Tuesday at a Cedar Park nursing home. He was 93 years old and suffered from dementia.
“Rolando Hinojosa-Smith was a friend, mentor, and inspiration to me,” said Sergio Troncoso, president of the Texas Institute of Letters and author of “Nobody’s Pilgrims.” “His ‘Klail City Death Trip’ series is a classic that everyone in Texas and beyond should read.”
The “Klail City Death Trip” series centers on a fictional county in the lower Rio Grande Valley. It was published in 15 volumes from 1973 to 2006. Hinojosa-Smith wrote sometimes in English and often in Spanish, and he translated his own books.
“Her talent for making the voices of South Texas people sing in color – in English, Spanish or Tex-Mex – has enriched our world,” said Carmen Tafolla, former state poet of Texas, former president from the Texas Institute of Letters. and professor emeritus at the University of Texas at San Antonio, “and his warmth, wickedly playful sense of humor, and literary talents will leave a huge void in our community.”
Hinojosa-Smith was born on January 21, 1929 in Mercedes, the son of Manuel Guzman Hinojosa and Carrie Effie Smith. He was a Korean War veteran. He attended the University of Texas, where he later became an English professor, and the University of the Highlands of New Mexico. Hinojosa earned a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1969.
He is survived by his children Robert Huddleston, Clarissa Hinojosa and Karen Hinojosa, as well as his stepdaughter Kathi Huddleston and his grandsons Ryon and Cory.
“Growing up, there were always – and I mean always – books piled up in every room,” said his daughter Karen Hinojosa, a former digital content producer for the American Statesman. “He once said he didn’t care what my sister and I read as long as we read. We always had library cards and the books were given away at Christmas and birthdays.”
She said her father loved the opportunities to travel that came with his writing and teaching career.
“He learned German on his own – he was already fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese,” Hinojosa said. “He loved any language questions my siblings or I could ask him, and he was a stickler for grammar but enjoyed a creative use of slang.
“We had a tradition that after the first day of every semester, I would call and ask about her new ‘kids,'” Hinojosa continued. “He was always enthusiastic and hopeful about them. I think he was a bit of a throwback in the class. “Smith, so he was going to call them Mr. or Mrs.”
John Morán González, J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English Literature at UT, called Hinojosa-Smith the quintessential “writer’s writer.”
“Just as William Faulkner plumbed those depths in his chronicles of Yoknapatawpha County, Hinojosa-Smith told stories (of South Texas), often in two languages, with quick wit and genuine compassion to give us an essential part of Texas history,” González mentioned. “He was UT’s connection to the great tradition of 20th century writing that included not only Faulkner but also the great ‘Boom’ writers of Latin America, including Gabriel García Márquez, with whom he had deep ties. .
“In short, he wrote at the Crossroads of the Americas as a reflection of Texas’ past, present, and future.”
Poet Tafolla first met Hinojosa-Smith in 1975 when Chicano writers gathered from across the country at the Floricanto Festival, a three-day event that brought together dozens of emerging Mexican poets and writers.
“His readings were an instant hit for their depth, cultural power and linguistic richness,” she said. “The last survivor of the trio of Premio Quinto Sol winners who defined the first wave of a pioneering generation of Chicano literature and an early Chicano literary movement, his work has been vitally important in breaking down racist stereotypes on Mexican Americans.”
Steven L. Davis, literary curator of the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University at San Marcos, believes that Hinojosa-Smith’s writing stands out as one of the most important in Texas literature.
“He had such a sharp, penetrating mind and an all-consuming curiosity about the world around him,” Davis said. “He befriended so many writers and made all of us feel like we shared a special kinship with him. I loved him, as did many others. He had such a positive impact in his life. We miss him dearly and we will cherish his spirit, which continues to support us.”
Memorial plans are in the works for the week of May 16 at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Homes on Parkcrest Drive.
“I sometimes forget his impact,” said his daughter Karen Hinojosa. “We hear from friends, colleagues, and former students everywhere. He taught and inspired many people. I met people on my own travels who knew him, and even years after I left UT , they’d always spring from it.
“It will always – always – fill me with pride that people hold him in such high regard. Even though he helped bring Latino literature into the mainstream and received countless awards and accolades, at home, he was always a dad.”