Professor Octavio Romano, Founder of Quinto Sol Publications

ImageImageProfessor Romano, who founded Quinto Sol Publications in 1965 and launched a prestigious literary prize for Mexican American writers — the Premio Quinto Sol — died of a stroke Feb. 26 in Berkeley.

He was born in Mexico in 1923 and moved with his family to the United States as a child, growing up in the San Diego area. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in Europe for 2 1/2 years during World War II.

After the war, Professor Romano attended college on the GI Bill and became the first in his family to earn a college degree. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico and a master’s and doctorate in anthropology from UC Berkeley.

His press was the first to publish renowned New Mexican writer Rudolfo Anaya, bringing his debut novel, “Bless Me, Ultima,” into print in 1972 after it was passed over by other publishing houses. The book was awarded the Premio Quinto Sol the same year, with a $1,000 prize that was manna for the struggling young writer.

Anaya, who went on to become a best-selling author and winner of the National Medal of Arts, said Professor Romano’s publishing efforts had helped create much broader visibility for Mexican American authors in the 1960s and ’70s.

“It was a very difficult time to get our works known and to have a national public realize there was a Chicano literary movement going on,” said Anaya. “The press and Octavio were prime movers. They saw a need and filled it. ”

Quinto Sol Publications (now Tonatiuh-Quinto Sol Publications) also nurtured the careers of other important Chicano writers, including Tomás Rivera and Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, and published journals of Mexican American culture and social thought, including El Grito and El Espejo.

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