Carlos Fuentes

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Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes, Paris - Mar 2009 (6).jpg
Fuentes in 2009
BornCarlos Fuentes Macías
(1928-11-11)November 11, 1928
Panama City, Panama
DiedMay 15, 2012(2012-05-15) (aged 83)
Mexico City, Mexico
Resting place Cimetière de Montparnasse, Paris
OccupationNovelist, writer
Literary movement Latin American Boom
Notable works
  • Rita Macedo (1959–73)
  • Silvia Lemus (1976–2012, his death)
  • Cecilia Fuentes Macedo (1962–)
  • Carlos Fuentes Lemus (1973–1999)
  • Natasha Fuentes Lemus (1974–2005)

Carlos Fuentes Macías ( /ˈfwɛnts/ ; [1] Spanish:  [ˈkaɾlos ˈfwentes] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); November 11, 1928 – May 15, 2012) was a Mexican novelist and essayist. Among his works are The Death of Artemio Cruz (1962), Aura (1962), Terra Nostra (1975), The Old Gringo (1985) and Christopher Unborn (1987). In his obituary, The New York Times described Fuentes as "one of the most admired writers in the Spanish-speaking world" and an important influence on the Latin American Boom, the "explosion of Latin American literature in the 1960s and '70s", [2] while The Guardian called him "Mexico's most celebrated novelist". [3] His many literary honors include the Miguel de Cervantes Prize as well as Mexico's highest award, the Belisario Domínguez Medal of Honor. He was often named as a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, though he never won. [4]

<i>The Death of Artemio Cruz</i> book by Carlos Fuentes

The Death of Artemio Cruz is a novel written in 1962 by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes. It is considered to be a milestone in the Latin American Boom.

<i>Terra Nostra</i> (novel) book

Terra Nostra is a 1975 novel by the Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes. The narrative covers 20 centuries of European and American culture, and prominently features the construction of El Escorial by Philip II. The title is Latin for "Our earth". The novel received the Xavier Villaurrutia Award in 1976 and the Rómulo Gallegos Prize in 1977.

<i>The Old Gringo</i> book by Carlos Fuentes

The Old Gringo is a novel by Carlos Fuentes, written from 1964 to 1984 and first published in 1985. Fuentes stated: "What started this novel was my admiration for Ambrose Bierce and for his Tales of Soldiers and Civilians. I was fascinated with the idea of a man who fought in the United States Civil War and dies in a Mexican civil war." The novel addresses themes of death, cultural exchange, and Mexican identity, among others. Its English-language translation became the first novel by a Mexican author to become a U.S. bestseller. The book was one of three nominees for the Ritz Paris Hemingway Award as best novel of 1985.


Life and career

Fuentes was born in Panama City, the son of Berta Macías and Rafael Fuentes, the latter of whom was a Mexican diplomat. [2] [5] As the family moved for his father's career, Fuentes spent his childhood in various Latin American capital cities, [3] an experience he later described as giving him the ability to view Latin America as a critical outsider. [6] From 1934 to 1940, Fuentes' father was posted to the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., [7] where Carlos attended English-language school, eventually becoming fluent. [3] [7] He also began to write during this time, creating his own magazine, which he shared with apartments on his block. [3]

Panama City City in Panama

Panama City is the capital and largest city of Panama. It has an urban population of 880,691, with over 1.5 million in its metropolitan area. The city is located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, in the province of Panama. The city is the political and administrative center of the country, as well as a hub for banking and commerce.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

In 1938, Mexico nationalized foreign oil holdings, leading to a national outcry in the U.S.; he later pointed to the event as the moment in which he began to understand himself as Mexican. [7] In 1940, the Fuentes family was transferred to Santiago, Chile. There Carlos first became interested in socialism, which would become one of his lifelong passions, in part through his interest in the poetry of Pablo Neruda. [8] He lived in Mexico for the first time at the age of 16, when he went to study law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City with an eye toward a diplomatic career. [3] During this time, he also began working at the daily newspaper Hoy and writing short stories. [3] He later attended the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. [9]

The Mexican oil expropriation was the nationalization of all petroleum reserves, facilities, and foreign oil companies in Mexico on March 18, 1938. In accordance with Article 27 of the Constitution of 1917, President Lázaro Cárdenas declared that all mineral and oil reserves found within Mexico belong to "the nation", i.e., the federal government. The Mexican government established a state-owned petroleum company, Petróleos Mexicanos, or PEMEX. For a short, this measure caused an international boycott of Mexican products in the following years, especially by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, but with the outbreak of World War II and the alliance between Mexico and the Allied powers, the dispute with private companies over compensation were resolved. The anniversary, March 18, is now a Mexican civic holiday.

Santiago Place in Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile

Santiago, also known as Santiagode Chile is the capital and largest city of Chile as well as one of the largest cities in the Americas. It is the center of Chile's largest and most densely populated conurbation, the Santiago Metropolitan Region, whose total population is 7 million. The city is entirely located in the country's central valley. Most of the city lies between 500 m (1,640 ft) and 650 m (2,133 ft) above mean sea level.

Socialism is a range of economic and social systems characterised by social ownership of the means of production and workers' self-management, as well as the political theories and movements associated with them. Social ownership can be public, collective or cooperative ownership, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them, with social ownership being the common element shared by its various forms.

In 1957, Fuentes was named head of cultural relations at the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs. [7] The following year, he published Where the Air Is Clear , which immediately made him a "national celebrity" [7] and allowed him to leave his diplomatic post to write full-time. [2] In 1959, he moved to Havana in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, where he wrote pro-Castro articles and essays. [7] The same year, he married Mexican actress Rita Macedo. [3] Considered "dashingly handsome", [5] Fuentes also had high-profile affairs with actresses Jeanne Moreau and Jean Seberg, who inspired his novel Diana: The Goddess Who Hunts Alone . [7] His second marriage, to journalist Silvia Lemus, lasted until his death. [10]

<i>Where the Air Is Clear</i> book by Carlos Fuentes

Where the Air Is Clear is a 1958 novel by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes. His first novel, it became an "instant classic" and made Fuentes into an immediate "literary sensation". The novel's success allowed Fuentes to leave his job as a diplomat and become a full-time author.

Havana Capital city of Cuba

Havana is the capital city, largest city, province, major port, and leading commercial center of Cuba. The city has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of 781.58 km2 (301.77 sq mi) – making it the largest city by area, the most populous city, and the fourth largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region.

Cuban Revolution Revolution in Cuba between 1953 and 1959

The Cuban Revolution was an armed revolt conducted by Fidel Castro's revolutionary 26th of July Movement and its allies against the authoritarian government of Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. The revolution began in July 1953, and continued sporadically until the rebels finally ousted Batista on 31 December 1958, replacing his government with a revolutionary socialist state. 26 July 1953 is celebrated in Cuba as the Day of the Revolution. The 26th of July Movement later reformed along communist lines, becoming the Communist Party in October 1965.

Fuentes served as Mexico's ambassador to France from 1975 to 1977, resigning in protest of former President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz's appointment as ambassador to Spain. [2] He also taught at Cambridge, Brown, Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, and Cornell. [10] [11] His friends included Luis Buñuel, William Styron, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, [7] and sociologist C. Wright Mills, to whom he dedicated his book The Death of Artemio Cruz . [12] Once good friends with Nobel-winning Mexican poet Octavio Paz, Fuentes became estranged from him in the 1980s in a disagreement over the Sandinistas, whom Fuentes supported. [2] In 1988, Paz's magazine Vuelta carried an attack by Enrique Krauze on the legitimacy of Fuentes' Mexican identity, opening a feud between Paz and Fuentes that lasted until Paz's 1998 death. [7] In 1989, he was the subject of a full-length PBS television documentary, "Crossing Borders: The Journey of Carlos Fuentes," which also aired in Europe and was broadcast repeatedly in Mexico. [13]

Gustavo Díaz Ordaz President of Mexico

Gustavo Díaz Ordaz Bolaños was a Mexican politician and member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He served as the President of Mexico from 1964 to 1970.

Cambridge City and non-metropolitan district in England

Cambridge is a university city and the county town of Cambridgeshire, England, on the River Cam approximately 50 miles (80 km) north of London. At the United Kingdom Census 2011, its population was 123,867 including 24,506 students. Cambridge became an important trading centre during the Roman and Viking ages, and there is archaeological evidence of settlement in the area as early as the Bronze Age. The first town charters were granted in the 12th century, although modern city status was not officially conferred until 1951.

Brown University University in Providence, Rhode Island

Brown University is a private Ivy League research university in Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1764 as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, it is the seventh-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution.

Fuentes fathered three children. Only one of them survived him: Cecilia Fuentes Macedo, born in 1962. [2] A son, Carlos Fuentes Lemus, died from complications associated with hemophilia in 1999 at the age of 25. A daughter, Natasha Fuentes Lemus (born August 31, 1974), died of an apparent drug overdose in Mexico City on August 22, 2005, at the age of 30. [14]

Carlos Fuentes Lemus (1973–1999) was a Mexican writer, photographer, painter and director. He was the son of famous Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes and interviewer Silvia Lemus.


Fuentes described himself as a pre-modern writer, using only pens, ink and paper. He asked, "Do words need anything else?" Fuentes said that he detested those authors who from the beginning claim to have a recipe for success. In a speech on his writing process, he related that when he began the writing process, he began by asking, "Who am I writing for?" [15]

Fuentes' first novel, Where the Air Is Clear (La región más transparente), was an immediate success. [2] The novel is built around the story of Federico Robles – who has abandoned his revolutionary ideals to become a powerful financier – but also offers "a kaleidoscopic presentation" of vignettes of Mexico City, making it as much a "biography of the city" as of an individual man. [16] The novel was celebrated not only for its prose, which made heavy use of interior monologue and explorations of the subconscious, [2] but also for its "stark portrait of inequality and moral corruption in modern Mexico". [17]

A year later, he followed with another novel, The Good Conscience (Las Buenas Conciencias), which depicted the privileged middle classes of a medium-sized town, probably modeled on Guanajuato. Described by a contemporary reviewer as "the classic Marxist novel", it tells the story of a privileged young man whose impulses toward social equality are suffocated by his family's materialism. [18]

Fuentes' best-known novel, The Death of Artemio Cruz (La muerte de Artemio Cruz) appeared in 1962 and is today "widely regarded as a seminal work of modern Spanish American literature". [8] Like many of his works, the novel used rotating narrators, a technique critic Karen Hardy described as demonstrating "the complexities of a human or national personality". [7] The novel is heavily influenced by Orson Welles' Citizen Kane , and attempts literary parallels to Welles' techniques, including close-up, cross-cutting, deep focus, and flashback. [8] Like Kane, the novel begins with the titular protagonist on his deathbed; the story of Cruz's life is then filled in by flashbacks as the novel moves between past and present. Cruz is a former soldier of the Mexican Revolution who has become wealthy and powerful through "violence, blackmail, bribery, and brutal exploitation of the workers". [19] The novel explores the corrupting effects of power and criticizes the distortion of the revolutionaries' original aims through "class domination, Americanization, financial corruption, and failure of land reform". [20]

Fuentes' 1975 Terra Nostra , perhaps his most ambitious novel, is a "massive, Byzantine work" that tells the story of all Hispanic civilization. [8] Modeled on James Joyce's Finnegans Wake , Terra Nostra shifts unpredictably between the sixteenth century and the twentieth, seeking the roots of contemporary Latin American society in the struggle between the conquistadors and indigenous Americans. Like Artemio Cruz, the novel also draws heavily on cinematic techniques. [8] The novel won the Xavier Villaurrutia Award in 1976 [21] and the Venezuelan Rómulo Gallegos Prize in 1977. [22]

His 1985 novel The Old Gringo (Gringo viejo), loosely based on American author Ambrose Bierce's disappearance during the Mexican Revolution, [10] became the first U.S. bestseller written by a Mexican author. [4] The novel tells the story of Harriet Winslow, a young American woman who travels to Mexico, and finds herself in the company of an aging American journalist (called only "the old gringo") and Tomás Arroyo, a revolutionary general. Like many of Fuentes' works, it explores the way in which revolutionary ideals become corrupted, as Arroyo chooses to pursue the deed to an estate where he once worked as a servant rather than follow the goals of the revolution. [23] In 1989, the novel was adapted into the U.S. film Old Gringo starring Gregory Peck, Jane Fonda, and Jimmy Smits. [4] A long profile of Fuentes in the U.S. magazine, "Mother Jones," describes the filming of "The Old Gringo" in Mexico with Fuentes on the set. [24]

Mexican historian Enrique Krauze was a vigorous critic of Fuentes and his fiction, dubbing him a "guerrilla dandy" in a 1988 article for the perceived gap between his Marxist politics and his personal lifestyle. [25] Krauze accused Fuentes of selling out to the PRI government and being "out of touch with Mexico", exaggerating its people to appeal to foreign audiences: "There is the suspicion in Mexico that Fuentes merely uses Mexico as a theme, distorting it for a North American public, claiming credentials that he does not have." [5] [26] The essay, published in Octavio Paz's magazine Vuelta , began a feud between Paz and Fuentes that lasted until Paz's death. [7] Following Fuentes' death, however, Krauze described him to reporters as "one of the most brilliant writers of the 20th Century". [27]

Fuentes' works have been translated into 24 languages. [4] He remained prolific to the end of his life, with an essay on the new government of France appearing in Reforma newspaper on the day of his death. [28]

Political views

The Los Angeles Times described Fuentes' politics as "moderate liberal", noting that he criticized "the excesses of both the left and the right". [5] Fuentes was a long-standing critic of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) government that ruled Mexico between 1929 and the election of Vicente Fox in 2000, and later of Mexico's inability to reduce drug violence. He has expressed his sympathies with the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas. [2] Fuentes was also critical of U.S. foreign policy, including Ronald Reagan's opposition to the Sandinistas, [7] George W. Bush's anti-terrorism tactics, [2] U.S. immigration policy, [4] and the role of the U.S. in the Mexican Drug War. [5] His politics caused him to be blocked from entering the United States until a Congressional intervention in 1967. [2] Once, after being denied permission to travel to a 1963 New York City book release party, he responded "The real bombs are my books, not me". [2] Much later in his life, he commented that "The United States is very good at understanding itself, and very bad at understanding others." [3]

The U.S. State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation closely monitored Fuentes during the 1960s, purposefully delaying — and often denying — the author’s visa applications. [29] Fuentes' FBI file, released on June 20, 2013, reveals that the FBI’s upper echelons were interested in Fuentes’ movements, because of the writer's suspected communist-leanings and criticism of the Vietnam War. Long-time FBI Associate Director Clyde Tolson was copied on several updates about Fuentes. [29]

Initially a supporter of Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution, Fuentes turned against Castro after being branded a "traitor" to Cuba in 1965 for attending a New York conference [7] and the 1971 imprisonment of poet Heberto Padilla by the Cuban government. [3] The Guardian described him as accomplishing "the rare feat for a leftwing Latin American intellectual of adopting a critical attitude towards Fidel Castro's Cuba without being dismissed as a pawn of Washington." [3] Fuentes also criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, dubbing him "a tropical Mussolini." [2]

Fuentes' last message on Twitter read, "There must be something beyond slaughter and barbarism to support the existence of mankind and we must all help search for it." [30]


On May 15, 2012, Fuentes died in Angeles del Pedregal hospital in southern Mexico City from a massive hemorrhage. [10] [31] He had been brought there after his doctor had found him collapsed in his Mexico City home. [10]

Mexican President Felipe Calderón wrote on Twitter, "I am profoundly sorry for the death of our loved and admired Carlos Fuentes, writer and universal Mexican. Rest in peace." [6] Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa stated, "with him, we lose a writer whose work and whose presence left a deep imprint". [6] French President François Hollande called Fuentes "a great friend of our country" and stated that Fuentes had "defended with ardour a simple and dignified idea of humanity". [32] Salman Rushdie tweeted "RIP Carlos my friend". [32]

Fuentes received a state funeral on May 16, with his funeral cortege briefly stopping traffic in Mexico City. The ceremony was held in the Palacio de Bellas Artes and was attended by President Calderón. [32]

List of works


Short stories




Awards and recognition

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Preceded by
José Angel Conchello Dávila
Belisario Domínguez Medal of Honor
Succeeded by
Leopoldo Zea Aguilar