Héctor Tobar, Chicano/Latino studies and English associate professor, is a 2018 recipient of the UC Santa Cruz Division of Social Science's Distinguished Alumni Award. The honor recognizes the award-winning writer for sustained and exemplary contributions to society.
Tobar is the author of four books and another in progress, which follows the story of an American who circled the globe in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and died fighting with the rebels in the Salvadoran revolution. Following on the success of his first novel, The Tattooed Soldier, he authored The Barbarian Nurseries which earned a Gold Medal California Book Award, the Southern California Independent Booksellers Award for Fiction, and was a New York Times Notable Book. His 2014 book, Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of Thirty-Three Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, was a Silver Medal California Book Award winner, one of Publishers Weekly’s Best 10 Books of the Year, and a New York Times Notable Book and Bestseller for eight weeks running. It was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award. He recently co-edited The Wandering Song, an Anthology of Central American Writing and published a piece in Tales of Two Cities, an anthology on inequality in the U.S.
Tobar began his career in the late 1980s as an editor of El Tecolote, a San Francisco newspaper. He then moved on to the Los Angeles Times where he spent five years as a metro reporter (1988-93) and took a brief hiatus to work for one year as the features editor at the LA Weekly before returning to the LA Times. He spent 18 years with the Los Angeles paper, holding posts as critic, columnist, foreign correspondent, national correspondent, and city reporter. Among his career highlights: three years as the Mexico City bureau chief, four years as the Buenos Aires bureau chief, and three years as a national correspondent. He also worked in the publication’s Baghdad bureau. He earned numerous awards for his writing, including a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news with the staff in 1993 and an Inter-American Press Association Award for Feature Writing. In 2006, Tobar was named among the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States by Hispanic Business Magazine. He left the LA Times in 2014 and has since been working as a contributor to the op-ed pages of The New York Times.
Alongside his journalism career, Tobar has also held academic positions as a lecturer with Antioch University in Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University, Pomona College, and Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Beginning in 2014, he was an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communications at the University of Oregon.
Tobar earned his undergraduate degrees in sociology and Latin American studies at UC Santa Cruz in 1985, and his MFA in creative writing, fiction at UCI in 1995. He returned to UCI in fall 2017 as a member of the faculty in the School of Social Sciences and School of Humanities.
Joining Tobar in receipt of this year’s Alumni Award is his wife, Virginia Espino, an oral historian and filmmaker who has documented the civil rights struggles of California's Latinx community. The two will be honored at an April 27 reception at UC Santa Cruz. More information can be found here: https://news.ucsc.edu/2018/04/socsci-alumni.html