Ramon Eduardo Ruiz, 88, author of 15 books on Mexico and Latin America, dies

Author and historian Ramón Eduardo Ruiz's final book is set to be published this fall.
Author and historian Ramón Eduardo Ruiz's final book is set to be published this fall. (Elaine Fleming/uc San Diego)
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By Dennis McLellan
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ramón Eduardo Ruiz, 88, a renowned historian of Mexico and Latin America whose books included in-depth studies of the Mexican and Cuban revolutions, died July 6 at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. He had cancer and suffered complications from a recent fall.

Dr. Ruiz joined the history department at the University of California at San Diego in 1970 and chaired the department in the early '70s. He wrote 15 books, including "Triumphs and Tragedy: A History of the Mexican People," "Cuba: The Making of a Revolution," "The Great Rebellion: Mexico, 1905-1924" and "On the Rim of Mexico: Encounters of the Rich and Poor."

In 1998, the 77-year-old American son of Mexican immigrants joined historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., biographer Stephen E. Ambrose, novelist E.L. Doctorow and five other distinguished Americans who were awarded the National Humanities Medal at a White House ceremony.

In the classroom and through his books, Dr. Ruiz told the San Diego Union-Tribune before traveling to Washington, he sought to "convey the complexity and excitement of Mexican history. I especially try to convey the great cultural richness of Mexican life and of Mexican literature."

Ramón Eduardo Ruiz was born Sept. 9, 1921, in San Diego and grew up in nearby La Jolla. His interest in the history of Mexico was piqued by his nursery-owner father, a former member of the Mexican navy who left his country during the revolution.

"My father was a militant nationalist," Dr. Ruiz said in a 1998 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "He would talk about the heroes of Mexico, the food of Mexico, the character of Mexico and the folklore of Mexico. We were saturated with tales of Mexico, the values, and pride in our Mexican heritage."

After serving in the Army Air Forces as a B-29 pilot in the Pacific during World War II, Dr. Ruiz received his bachelor's degree from what is now San Diego State in 1947. He received his master's from what is now Claremont Graduate University in 1948 and his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in 1954.

He taught at the University of Oregon and at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., before joining the faculty at UC San Diego.

Dr. Ruiz retired in 1991 and continued to write, including his 2003 memoir, "Memories of a Hyphenated Man," which examined what it meant to be American by birth and Mexican by culture.

In the fall, the University of California Press will publish his final book, "Mexico: Why a Few Are Rich and the People Are Poor," which will also be published in Spanish through Oceano Press in Mexico.

Dr. Ruiz's wife of 62 years, Natalia, died in 2006. Survivors include two daughters; two sisters; a brother; and two grandsons.

-- Los Angeles Times

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