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Luis Leal, literary scholar and professor, dies at 102

LOS ANGELES - Luis Leal, an internationally recognized scholar of Mexican, Chicano and Latin American literature who was one of the founders of the field of Chicano literary studies, has died. He was 102.

Leal, a professor of Chicano studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, died Jan. 25 of natural causes at a convalescent hospital in Santa Barbara, said his son, Antonio.

His book "A Brief History of the Mexican Short Story," originally published in Spanish in Mexico in 1956 and later in English in the United States, is viewed as a landmark of modern literary scholarship.

"He began writing on Mexican literature, and he expanded to Latin American literature outside Mexico," said Mario T. Garcia, a professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UC Santa Barbara. "By the late '60s, he began to focus on Chicano literature and champion it as an important part of American literature."

Leal received numerous honors, including the National Humanities Medal, which was presented at the White House by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

He also received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Association for Chicano Studies in recognition of his lifetime achievement in 1988. And in 1991, he was awarded the Mexico Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor granted to foreign citizens by the Mexican government.

Leal was born Sept. 17, 1907, in Linares, Mexico. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States and was drafted into the Army during World War II and served in the Pacific.

Leal was predeceased by his son, Luis; and his wife, Gladys.

Besides his son Antonio, he is survived by three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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