Edward Esparza, Lecturer III in the Department of Mathematics, and his wife Sonia, both UTSA alumni, have endowed a scholarship in UTSA’s College of Architecture, and Construction Planning to honor his great-grandfather, Don J. Refugio Reyes Rivas, Arquitecto Honoris Causa.
Don Refugio was born in 1862, in a poor farming community in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico. His only education was the first two years of elementary school. In spite of this lack of formal education, he taught himself to read and write fluently, mathematics, art and the construction trades. As a teen, he became an apprentice in the construction industry where he mastered the technical aspects of building design and construction. By age 19, he was locally known as a mason, an artist, and up-and-coming architect, all self-taught.
In 1895, he moved his family to the city of Aguascalientes to develop, design, and build many, major construction projects that became his greatest legacy. These included the renowned Templo de San Antonio, and a beautiful school for teachers that later became the state museum.
He lived in Aguascalientes until his death in 1943, and remained totally unrecognized for more than three decades. In the mid 1970’s, a brief book, La Arquitectura de Refugio Reyes Rivas that included some biographical information and several of his architectural design drawings, was published in Mexico City. In 1984, he was honored posthumously by the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes with the degree and title of Arquitecto Honoris Causa.
Finally, in 2014, the state of Aguascalientes, along with the assistance of three doctoral thesis at the university, published the voluminous book, Refugio Reyes Rivas, Arquitecto Empirico, that catalogs detailed photographs and descriptions of the hundreds of structures he designed and built along with a biography. His extensive and eclectic architectural works of art are now considered part of the architectural, urban, and historical legacy not only of the city and state of Aguascalientes, but of all of Mexico. This scholarship is one more, well-deserved tribute from a direct descendent of this illustrious, self-taught architect.