“Beth Treviño’s Books Are Aid to International Understanding,” proclaimed the headline of an article in the May 21, 1966, Bakersfield Californian.
Spanning 50 years, several books and publications, Elizabeth Borton de Treviño dedicated her writing career to telling stories that crossed borders and cultures.
Mary Elizabeth Victoria Borton was born in Bakersfield in 1904 to local attorney Fred Ellsworth Borton and Carrie Louise Christensen. The love of writing was instilled in her at a young age by her father who also wrote poems and short stories.
After graduating from Kern County High School in 1921, Borton de Treviño attended Bakersfield College for two years before she was accepted into Stanford University. While there she became a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was one of 30 students to graduate in 1925 with the Distinction of Great Honor.
The next phase in her life took her to Boston, where she was on the staff of the Boston Herald. She spent some time in Hollywood interviewing movie stars, but it was while on assignment in Monterey, Mexico, that her life changed.
Upon her arrival, she was introduced to Luis Treviño Gomez. He was assigned as her interpreter and it did not take long before the two fell in love. After wedding in 1935, the young couple moved in with Luis’ parents before setting off on their own and having two sons, Luis and Enrique.
Soon, Elizabeth embarked on a journey of creating literature that appealed to book lovers around the world. Her passion for her adopted homeland was interwoven thoughout the stories she told of old Mexico and Spain and in a series of memoirs. In 1966, she was awarded the Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to the literature of children in English for “I, Juan de Pareja,” which recounted the story of famous artist Diego Velazquez and his African slave Juan, who went on to become an accomplished artist in his own right.
Even with her success, Bakersfield was never far from her mind and she frequently returned to visit with family and to share a picture of her life in Mexico with various community groups. It was during these talks she recounted stories about the customs, education and culture of our southern neighbor.
Borton de Treviño’s nonfiction work really embodied the spirit of multiculturalism and love. Her memoir, “My Heart Lies South: The Story of My Mexican Wedding,” tells the story of family, love and the blending of cultures. Excerpts from the book were prominently featured in national magazines, condensed by Reader’s Digest, and translated into 14 languages and Braille.
On Nov. 15, 1962, The Californian praised Borton de Treviño’s follow-up memoir, “Where the Heart Is,” for its international understanding and deep appreciation of another country’s culture. Borton de Treviño provided a “fresh, humorous and deft” account of life with her Mexican in-laws, her children with their Gringo-Mexican heritage, her husband, friends, neighbors and pets.
Reminding others about the importance of acceptance and love, Borton de Treviño wrote in a 1971 epilogue to “My Heart Lies South”: “You must love each other. If you marry across racial, religious and cultural lines, you must love more and harder.” ￼