Award-winning writer and University of Houston distinguished professor Cristina Rivera Garza joined a short list of 21 talented individuals awarded a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship. The “genius” grant, as it is commonly known, is a prestigious $625,000, no-strings-attached award “to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential,” according to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Rivera Garza is founder and director of the UH doctoral program in Hispanic Studies with a concentration in creative writing in Spanish. An internationally acclaimed writer, she’s authored novels, short stories, poetry and non-fiction books, which have garnered numerous awards around the world.
MacArthur Fellowships are among the most prestigious and generous awards given to those who have demonstrated extraordinary talent and dedication in academia, writing, music, film and other creative fields. The MacArthur Foundation praised its recent grant recipients, who have maintained their innovative spirit and intellectual curiosity even in the face of unprecedented global challenges.
“In the midst of civil unrest, a global pandemic, natural disasters, and conflagrations, this group of 21 exceptionally creative individuals offers a moment for celebration,” said Cecilia Conrad, managing director of the MacArthur Fellows program.
Most of Rivera Garza's creative works are in Spanish but were written in the United States, where she has lived for more than 30 years. She earned her doctorate in Latin American history from UH in 1995 and was awarded an honorary degree from UH in 2012. Rivera Garza joined the UH faculty in 2016 and has pursued scholarly interests in bilingual cross-genre creative writing.
The MacArthur Fellowship recognizes Rivera Garza’s unique capacity for self-direction and will grant her the freedom to take her pursuits in exciting new directions. The goal of the “genius” grant, which is distributed over five years, is to give MacArthur Fellows an opportunity to boost their careers and advance their expertise.
“This is an incredible – and quite unexpected – honor. I am suddenly short of words,” said Rivera Garza. “The MacArthur Fellowship will be instrumental in furthering ongoing projects: a series of geological writings exploring the relationship between territory and body on the borderlands and throughout the Americas. I am immensely grateful.”