Virginia Higginbotham, a scholar of Spanish Film and Literature, died on March 10, 2023 at her home in Austin,Texas. While working on her doctorate in Spanish at Tulane University, she became interested in the twentieth century Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca whose works gave her a “treasury of ideas,” and led to her first book published in 1976, “The Comic Spirit of Federico Garcia Lorca.” A contemporary of Lorca’s, Spanish film maker Luis Bunuel, whose “mature’” films Higginbotham saw as “works of mastery,” led to her second book: Luis Bunuel, published in 1979 by Twayne Publishers. She would continue to publish books and articles on the subject of surrealism in film, literature and art.
A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Higginbotham taught for over 30 years in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Texas at Austin. Upon her retirement, Higginbotham was
diagnosed with cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
Virginia Higginbotham’s earliest influence to study the Spanish language came from her second grade teacher. After graduating from high school, her parents took her on a trip around the world where her exposure to numerous new cultures, art forms, nature and plant life would ultimately shape her views and lead her to seriously pursue numerous activities outside of academia.
An avid bird watcher, Higginbotham was an editor for the Travis Audubon newsletter, “Signal Smoke,” and did volunteer work for the American Birding Association. Her membership in the Jane Goodall Foundation, Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and other animal rights organizations made her aware of the growing destruction of wildlife habitat but more concerning to her was the displacement of wildlife in her own community. Higginbotham joined a community of like-minded
individuals who formed Wildlife Rescue, Inc. and in 1988, she served as its President. At home, she took in orphaned wildlife in need of care and rehabilitation. For several years, she worked tirelessly to help fellow Wildlife Rescue members develop educational materials that would give future members’ guidance in the care of wildlife. Among her other interests, Higginbotham rode horses, first a jumper and then inspired to become a dressage rider when she fell in love with a horse named Pfighter Pilot who she nicknamed Piloto. As her academic career was winding down, she pursued other interests. She studied classical guitar under Adam Holtzman, director of the Guitar program at the University of Texas at Austin. She learned to play the native American flute and then became intrigued with the Japanese Shakahatchi flute which she played for several years and studied under a Japanese master flautist. In her youth, she
attended summer camp in New Mexico and would return during her semiretirement years to make Santa Fe her summer home. A consummate reader and learner, Higginbotham immersed herself in the history of native american art and music and for over 20 years attended performances by the Santa Fe Opera.
Higginbotham’s desire to improve the wellness and health of horses led her to become a certified
ractitioner of equine acupressure by the Tall Grass Animal Institute. At home, she remained an active grower of orchids, enjoyed playing with her dogs, reading her New Yorker and watching National Geographic Wild’s veterinary programs while savoring a Dr. Pepper.
Virginia Higginbotham was born in Dallas,Texas on November 6, 1935 to Cecil McLaurin Higginbotham and Martha Lou Stratton. She is predeceased by her brother Cecil M. (Larry) Higginbotham and sister
Joann Mastin and nephew Randall (Randy) Mastin. She is survived by her life partner and caregiver, Yvonne Becerra, dogs Flower and Clifford and horse Piloto; her nephew Thomas F. Mastin, IV and his wife,Julie; niece Laurin Chevallier and husband Mason; nephew William (Bill) Bate Mastin and wife Nancy; sister-in-law Jane B. Higginbotham, nephew Scott Higginbotham, nephew Robert M. (Bob) Higginbotham and wife Lucy, nephew Brooks Higginbotham and wife Celia. Special thanks and
gratitude to Virginia’s caregivers: Vanessa Villalobos for engaging Virginia’s mind and keeping her physically fit, to Maria Hart for teaching Virginia how to make corn tortillas, Diane Hamilton for making Virginia laugh, Pamela Elam for giving Virginia her first ever Christmas tree, Patricia Soria and
Cora Lewis, Betty Nwele and Belinda Aguillon for their vigilant care and service, to Dr. Laurence Tokaz for extending Virginia’s life and enabling her to enter into remission, to her team of doctors who over the years gave her the quality of life she longed for: Dr. Gurneet Kohli, Dr. Elizabeth Peckham, Dr. Chad Whited and Dr. Corinne Jones. A very special thanks to Premier Family Nurse Lisa Tingle who spent an inordinate amount of time being a “good listener,” and adviser. Much gratitude to Austin Palliative Care,
Hospice Austin and especially to Hospice volunteer Anne Mcready Heinman who helped Virginia enjoy one of her favorite pastimes—reading books.
A Celebration of Virginia’s life will be held on April 27th at 12 noon at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The celebration will be live streamed and can be accessed by going to “Remembering Virginia Higginbotham” https://vimeo.com/event/3160978
To share remembrances about Virginia Higginbotham, write to: [email protected]
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to your local animal shelter or rescue organizations.
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may also be shared at www.cookwaldenfuneralhome.com for the Higginbotham family.