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Hispanic Heritage Month: Francisco Ruiz

KCPS Hispanic Heritage Month graphic with a colorful border and a black-and white photo of a smiling man in a jacket.

Francisco Ruiz was born in San Diego, Texas, in 1929. He and his wife, Irene Hernández Ruiz, both studied at the University of Kansas. With their three sons, Francisco and Irene settled in Kansas City’s Westside neighborhood. In 1964, KCPS hired Francisco as Foreign Language Consultant. His work with KCPS authoring Spanish textbooks helped him become the first Chicano professor at Penn Valley Community College. Francisco also taught at other local colleges and universities, including Longview and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Francisco was the publisher of the literary magazine Entrelíneas (Between the Lines), which his family would help assemble on the dining room table. In the 1970s, Francisco agreed to teach a class on Chicano history at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, encouraging students in the class to contribute to a new prison newspaper, Aztlan de Leavenworth. Francisco continued to write about Mexican-American causes throughout, particularly about Latino students, until his death in 1993.

Today, some of Francisco’s papers are part of the bilingual collection at the Irene H. Ruiz Biblioteca de las Americas, the Kansas City Public Library branch named in her honor. Irene was a teacher, leader and librarian who helped preserve an oral history of the Westside