Written by Catherine Bolduc



Zone de Texte:      Carlos Fuentes is one of Mexico’s most important novelists, journalists, playwrights, and essayists. He was born in Panama City on November 11, 1928, and he spent much of his childhood in Washington DC, where his father was a diplomat for the Mexican government. Fuentes also lived in Chile and Argentina. He received a privileged cosmopolitan education and was bilingual at a very early age. His mother insisted that they spoke Spanish at home, and his father, who loved books very much, made him study Mexican history. Fuentes saw Mexican history as one of defeat compared with the one of United States. He once said that he  “learned to imagine Mexico before he ever knew Mexico” (Carlos Fuentes 2002).

    Fuentes returned to Mexico in 1944 at the age of sixteen. In 1949, he entered the School of Law at the National University of Mexico, and in 1950, he left Mexico to Geneva to pursue studies in economics at Institut des Hautes Études Internationales. While in Geneva, Fuentes served in the Mexican diplomatic service as a member of the Mexican delegation to the International Labour Organization. He came back to Mexico in 1952 to finish his Law degree.

      Very soon, Carlos Fuentes was following two careers: diplomacy and literature. In 1954, he became assistant director of the press section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico, and from 1957 to 1959, he was head of the Department of Cultural Relations. He also worked as secretary and as assistant director of the Cultural Department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The time that Carlos Fuentes  spent in his country definitively marked his literary work, which is submerged in the intellectual debate of  Mexican philosophy, and which often presents a search for Mexican national identity.

    His first major work, Los días enmascarados (“The Masked Days”), was published in 1954. He also founded, along with Emmanuel Carballo, a literary publication called Revista Mexicana de Literatura. He edited El Espectador from 1959 to 1961, Siempre from 1960, and Política from 1960. At that time, Fuentes was implicated in the Communist party. His inclination for Fidel Castro, who came to power in 1959, as well as his support for the Cuban Marxist party, brought him into disfavour with the US government, and he was even  prevented for a time from entering United States (Tuck) 

    During the 1960s, Fuentes lived mostly in Europe and devoted his time to writing. He wrote some of his major works in this period, including his first novel, La región más trasparente (“Where the Air Is Clear”), in 1958, La muerte de Artemio Cruz (“The Death of Artemio Cruz”), in 1962, the haunting novella Aura, also in 1962, and Cambio de piel (“A Change of Skin”), in 1967. “Carlos Fuentes achieved international prominence as a writer during the 'Boom' in Latin American literature in the 1960s, along with Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa” (Carlos Fuentes. Bloomsbury author information).

Zone de Texte:     Fuentes broke with the Communist party in 1962, but he was still politically implicated, and he protested actively against the government’s brutal repression of the student revolts in Tlatelolco Square in 1968. After this event, he moved to Paris and was appointed Mexican ambassador to France from 1975 to 1977. Fuentes became the Simon Bolivar Professor at Cambridge University in 1986, and he inaugurated the Robert F. Kennedy Chair in Latin American Studies at Harvard in 1988. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, El Colegio Nacional in Mexico, and most recently, at Princeton, Darmouth, Washington University, Harvard, Cornell and Brown.

    Fuentes has never ceased to write and his “works are a  mixture of social protest, realism, psychological insight, and fantasy” (Carlos Fuentes Biography). He wrote many bestsellers, among which El gringo viejo (“The Old Gringo”), written in 1985, which was also made a movie, and Cristóbal nonato (“Christopher Unborn”), written in 1989. Fuentes has received numerous literary awards, including the Cervantes Prize in 1987, which is the most distinguished award accorded to a Spanish-language writer. He still writes for many European magazines, and his work has been published in “The Nation”, “The New York Times”, “The Washington Post Book World”, and other prestigious newspapers. One of his latest books, Contra Bush (“Against Bush”), presents a very current reflection on the North American and worldwide political crisis developed under the George W. Bush administration. At 78, Fuentes is still politically engaged. He currently divides his time between Mexico City and London, and he teaches a few weeks per year at Brown University, Rhode Island.

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