Roberto Rodríguez

In Memoriam
Image of Dr. Roberto Rodriguez

Roberto Rodriguez, PhD – or Dr. CintliDr. Roberto Rodriguez (Dr. Cintli), Emeritus Associate Professor, was faculty in the Mexican American Studies Department at the University of Arizona, from 2007 until he retired in 2021 and moved to live by a village next to Teotihuacan, Mexico. He passed suddenly on July 31, 2024, leaving a legacy of seven books, and hundreds of journalistic writings from his career as nationally syndicated columnist, author, and human rights defender.

Dr. Cintli was a longtime-award-winning journalist/columnist who returned to school in 2003 in pursuit of a Master's degree (2005) and a Ph.D. in Mass Communications (Jan. 2008) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. 

While there, he co-produced with Patrisia Gonzales, Amoxtli San Ce Tojuan, a 2005 documentary on origins and migrations. Also, Ethinic Studies at UC Berkeley published a collection of their columns (Gonzales-Rodriguez, Uncut and Uncensored, 1996). Prior to returning to school, he was a nationally syndicated columnist, first with Chronicle Features and then with Universal Press Syndicate. He was the author of Justice: A Question of Race (Bilingual Review Press, 1997); it documents his 7 ½ year quest for justice in the courtroom, involving 2 trials, stemming from a case of police brutality that almost cost him his life. His research at the University of Arizona focused on Maíz culture on this continent, which included its relationship to the Ethnic Studies controversies nationwide. He worked with the concepts of elder-youth epistemology and running epistemology.

Dr. Cintli taught classes on the history of maiz, Mexican/Chicano/Chicana culture and politics and the history of red-brown journalism. As part of his work, he had developed and published on the concept of running epistemology (International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, 2012. In 2013, a major digitized collection of Mexican and Indigenous media was inaugurated by the University Arizona Libraries, based on a class he created: The History of Red-Brown Journalism. Dr. Rodriguez coordinated a Maya Maíz Roots conference involving 15 Mayan scholars who visited Arizona in April 2019 to teach their culture, history and philosophy. Dr. Cintli wrote for Diverse Issues in Higher Education and wrote for Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. 

His book, Our Sacred Maiz is our Mother: Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl was published by the University of Arizona Press 2014. He was the 2013 Baker-Clark Human Rights award from American Educational Research Association. In 2016, he received an award from the National Association for Ethnic Studies, in recognition and appreciation as Conference Chair for the 44th annual conference at the UA. 

He published another book for the UA Press on violence against the Black-Brown-Indigenous communities of the United States: Yolqui: A warrior summonsed from the spirit world (University of Arizona Press, Fall 2019). 

Dr. Cintli's most recent book, Writing 50 Years más o menos Amongst the Gringos  (Aztlan Libre Press, 2021), won the 2022 International Latino Book Awards Gold Medal in the Raul A. Yzaguirre Best Political/Current Affairs Book category. 

Writing 50 Years mas o menos Amongst the Gringos is a compilation of 91 separate pieces of writings (512 pages) that includes journalistic columns and articles, essays, short stories, poems, cantos, huehuetlahtolli, academic work, and excerpts from his seven books that span the last five decades of Dr. Cintli’s life, from 1973-2021. Not only does this collection document his personal life’s work and evolution as a writer, journalist, columnist, academic and public intellectual, it also chronicles those movements and issues that have been, and are, important to la Raza Mexicana and the Xicanx/Latinx people in the U.S. Designed as a multi-and-interdisciplinary reader for the general public, and for college/university and high school students in Indigenous/Chicanx/Ethnic Studies and Journalism/ Communications courses, this book includes discussion questions, writing prompts and activities for teachers and students at the end of each decade.

The National Association for Chicana/Chicano Studies (NACCS) awarded him the prestigious NACCS Scholar award in April 2024, for his lifetime achievements and contributions to the field. At the NACCS Tejas Foco statewide conference in March 2024, Dr. Cintli was recognized with the Premio Estrella de Aztlan Award for Lifetime Achievement in Chicanx Studies.

Dr. Cintli considered his work to be a trilogy with two books, Our Sacred Maíz is Our Mother: Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas (2014), and Yolqui: A Warrior Summoned from the Spirit World/Testimonios on Violence (2019) published by the University of Arizona Press. The last book of this trilogy, Smiling Brown: People the Color of the Earth was forthcoming. At the time of his passing, Dr. Cintli  was working on Smiling Brown, a book and project on color and color consciousness among Brown peoples in this country and on this continent. He was also working on a book on origins and migrations of Mexican peoples with his former co-author Gonzales. Dr. Cintli also initiated a retrospective on the work of the late Lenape scholar Jack Forbes. Until his passing, he also wrote a bi-monthly column for The Progressive Populist and directed the Raza Killings Database Project. 

Dr. Cintli spent his final years living next to the great sacred site of Teotihuacan and collaborating with various Indigenous knowledge keepers there. He often went to Teotihuacan to make offerings for people who were sick or had passed on. In honor of his work, the Department of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona has created a scholarship in his name to support students advocating for social justice in their community. We thank you for any offering you may make to ensure that more Cintli, and more seeds of knowledge keepers and human rights defenders, emerge among our peoples.