María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

María Amparo Ruiz de Burton
Career  Author
Born July 3, 1832
Died August 12, 1895
Nationality Hispanic American 

Maria Amparo Ruiz was a Mexican-born author. She owns the distinction of being the first woman Mexican American author to have published a book in English. 


Maria Amparo was born on July 3, 1832, into an upper-class family in Baja, Mexico. Maria Amparo’s father, Don Jose Manuel Ruiz, served as the governor of Baja. He owned a vast piece of land in Ensenada. The family lost their land when the Mexican-American War broke out, which was between 1845 and 1848. The American military seized Baja and the citizens didn’t have a choice but to surrender.   

Not long after, Maria Amparo met her future husband, Captain Henry S. Burton, a New England native. 

When the war ended, she moved to Alta, California under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. She and her mother were granted US citizenship. 

Maria Amparo and Henry Burton were married in Monterey, California in 1849. She mastered the English language, having been surrounded by Hispanic/Latino Californio landowners and Anglos. 

Maria Amparo also became popular for her beauty. Her hair was described as of “true aristocracy” by admirers. 

Literary Career

Her husband was a high-ranking officer of the U.S. military. Her first-hand experiences in the inner circles of U.S. military and political life became her inspiration for writing her novels. When her husband died in 1869 because of malaria, she went back to California with her two children. She tried to claim their family’s land back and got involved in many court battles. 

Despite her financial and legal struggles, she pursued a literary career during the 1870s. She published two novels that catered to English-speaking readers.

Her first two books criticized the influence of Anglo society and her resentment of the discrimination experienced by a lot of Hispanics in the U.S.

In 1872, her first novel entitled Who Would Have Thought It? was published anonymously. This book denounced what Maria Amparo saw as the deceitfulsacredness of New England culture. It was controversial being about a harsh satirical story on Congregationalist religion, abolitionism, and of then-President Lincoln. 

In 1885, she published the fictional story of The Squatter and the Don. It was a story about the challenges of Californio families in owning lands that were under U.S. annexation. Some people incorrectly tagged this novel as a historical romance, but it was a social reform fiction.  

Maria Amparo is credited as author and publisher of the popular play, 

It was published in 1876 in San Francisco, California. The name of the playwright credited is Mrs. H.S. Burton.  

She is also recognized as the author of several plays which were performed at the Mission San Diego by U.S. Army soldiers when her husband was still alive. 

A lot of scholars interpret Mari Amparo’s rewriting of Don Quixote, as a way of reclaiming her cultural heritage in California. 

Maria Amparo Ruiz Burton was a strong woman who bravely published novels that were politically charged. She was an extraordinary woman who seemed ahead of her time. She used her position in society, politics, and the military to make her thoughts known.

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