PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Julio Ortega, professor of Hispanic studies at Brown University, has been honored by the government of Mexico with the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest decoration awarded by Mexico to foreign citizens. Arturo Sarukhan, ambassador of Mexico to the United States, bestowed the honor on behalf of President Felipe Calderón in a ceremony at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Dec. 12, 2011.
The Orden Mexicana del Aguila Azteca was established by the Mexican government in 1933. It is the highest honor awarded by the Mexican State to foreign citizens, an acknowledgment of outstanding services rendered to Mexico or mankind. Previous recipients include Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, Dwight Eisenhower, and Queen Elizabeth II. In addition to Ortega, Diana Natalicio, president of the University of Texas–El Paso, and Seymour Menton, professor emeritus at the University of California–Irvine, also received the award on Monday.
“Our three honorees have worked on an issue of the Mexico-U.S. relationship that perhaps matters the most: people-to-people interactions,” said Sarukhan during the ceremony. “Their work promoting mutual understanding and cultural and academic exchange strengthens the thread count of the fabric that ties Mexico and the United States together.”
“Mexican culture has been a passionate learning for me,” said Ortega, who is known for his extensive research on the work of Carlos Fuentes. “I have dedicated a good part of my work to understanding the many faces belonging to historical, mythical, and so-called post-apocalyptic times. To me, the recognition of the Order of the Aztec Eagle is a gift representing the affection and hope for Mexico.”
Born in Peru in 1942, Ortega studied literature at Universidad Católica in Lima and emigrated to the United States in 1969. Before joining the Brown faculty in 1989, Ortega was a professor at the University of Texas–Austin and at Brandeis University. He has also been a visiting professor at numerous universities in the United States and abroad, including the University of Pittsburgh, Yale University, Harvard University, New York University, Dartmouth, and a term as the Simon Bolivar Professor of Latin American Studies at the University of Cambridge. Ortega is the author of Poetics of Change, The New Spanish American Narrative (University of Texas Press, 1986) and Transatlantic Translations (Reaktion Books, London, 2006), and has published a number of books on Latin American culture and literature.
Ortega is the recipient of the Order Andrés Bello, Venezuela, and has been decorated by the Peruvian government for distinguished service to the nation. He has received honorary doctorates from the Peruvian universities Del Santa and Los Angeles and from the American University of Nicaragua. He has been designated as Honorary Professor by the Universidad de los Andes in Venezuela, and the Universidad de San Marcos in Lima. A series of his books and selections of his literary writing have been translated into major modern languages as well as into Farsi, Arabic, Flemish, and Quechuan editions. His work has been praised by the likes of Julio Cortázar, José Lezama Lima, and Octavio Paz. Ortega also directed three National Endowment for the Humanities seminars and was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
At Brown, Ortega has served as chair of Hispanic studies, director of the Center for Latin American Studies, and currently is the director of the Transatlantic Project, an academic initiative dedicated to the history of cultural exchange between Spain, Latin America, and the United States.