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Book Review

Vincent Bosquez

[This review first appeared in

The San Antonio Express-News]



Ricardo's Race/ La carrera de Ricardo
By Diane Gonzales Bertrand
Piņata Books/Arte Publico, $15.95

If one were pressed to put a face on education in the Alamo City, perhaps the prevalent choice would be Dr. Ricardo Romo, the president of the University of Texas at San Antonio since 1999.

During his tenure, Romo has seen the university's enrollment increase 40 percent, has added numerous programs and facilities to enhance student life, tripled the number of advisers for students, spearheaded an Olympic village-style housing complex, and instituted programs to help students succeed at earning a degree.

What makes all these achievements even more endearing is that Romo is a true native son of San Antonio, raised in a home attached to a store the Romo family owned on Guadalupe Street, in the heart of the city's West Side.

Award-winning children's and young adult author Diane Gonzales Bertrand has chronicled Romo's life in "Ricardo's Race/La carrera de Ricardo," a bilingual picture book that is sure to inspire people of all ages to strive for success by pursuing their dreams through hard work and academic achievement.

With beautiful illustrations drawn by Anthony Accardo, Bertrand weaves a biographical tale that begins when the future UTSA president was 5 years old and his dad handed him a broom to sweep the front section of the family's store. Among his other duties were stacking cans on the shelves and carrying groceries home for elderly Spanish-speaking neighbors.

Bertrand devotes several pages to Romo's track career, which began when he was a seventh-grader attending Horace Mann Junior High School and continued in high school and college. Early on, Romo realized he was fast when running to catch the bus so that he wouldn't be late for work. Little did he know that running for the bus would eventually lead to winning the state high school championship in May 1962 with a 4:17.9 mile, followed in June by running a 4:10 mile, the fastest mile ever for a Texas high school student. Two years later, Romo would become the first Texan and the first Hispanic to run a mile in fewer than four minutes.

While injuries ended Romo's dream of running in the 1968 Olympics, his educational goals were achieved when he earned a master's degree and a doctorate, both in history. As a teacher in California, Romo became fascinated by Mexican heroes and other Hispanic cultural symbols that would lead to a lifelong passion for teaching students to be proud of their heritage.

From sweeping dirt away from a storefront at the age of 5 to his present-day task of running a large state university, Bertrand's portrayal of Romo's fairytale-like life may provide the impetus to scholars of all ages to join "Ricardo's Race" for education

Vincent Bosquez is president of the Society of Latino and Hispanic Writers of San Antonio


Copyright 2006 design and content by John S. Christie and Jose B. Gonzalez
Copyright 2006 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, Pearson Education, Inc.
Copyright 2006 Latino Fiction and the Modernist Imagination, John S. Christie


Last Updated: July 06, 2009