Solidarity with our dreams will not make us feel less alone, as long as it is not translated into concrete acts of legitimate support for all the peoples that assume the illusion of having a life of their own in the distribution of the world.
Latin America neither wants, nor has any reason, to be a pawn without a will of its own; nor is it merely wishful thinking that its quest for independence and originality should become a Western aspiration. However, the navigational advances that have narrowed such distances between our Americas and Europe seem, conversely, to have accentuated our cultural remoteness. Why is the originality so readily granted us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change? Why think that the social justice sought by progressive Europeans for their own countries cannot also be a goal for Latin America, with different methods for dissimilar conditions? No: the immeasurable violence and pain of our history are the result of age-old inequities and untold bitterness, and not a conspiracy plotted three thousand leagues from our home. But many European leaders and thinkers have thought so, with the childishness of old-timers who have forgotten the fruitful excess of their youth as if it were impossible to find another destiny than to live at the mercy of the two great masters of the world. This, my friends, is the very scale of our solitude.
– Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dec. 8, 1982
By Arturo R. García
It was only fitting, in this modern age, that news of the death of Mexican author, diplomat, and social critic Carlos Fuentes, spread via Twitter. And it was just as befitting of his stature that the person who broke the news was the President of México himself, Felipe Calderón.
That kind of acknowledgement from the highest political circles might’ve amused Fuentes; as recently as the 1980s, his name and works were practically verboten in the public-school curriculum mandated by the country’s ruling party of seven decades, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Far from being a loyal party subject, Fuentes, the son of a diplomat, resigned from his post as Mexico’s ambassador to France in 1977 after the PRI named Gustavo Díaz Ordaz–the former president who sanctioned the 1968 massacre of student protestors at Tlatelolco Plaza in Mexico City–to be his colleague. The party also hovered over one of his more celebrated works, The Death of Artemio Cruz.
“There was no need to mention the PRI,” he once told The Associated Press. “It is present by its absence.”
In his absence, Fuentes’ presence will be remembered not just because of his sheer dedication–he published more than 50 works spanning literature, theater, and film, beginning with La Región Más Transparente (Where The Air Is Clear) in 1957–but because of his influence on the other writers who would fuel the Latin American “Boom” movement. As University of California-Riverside Professor Raymond L. Williams told the AP, Fuentes was responsible for galvanizing other preeminent authors, like Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, and Mario Vargas Llosa into a collective.
“It took Fuentes’ vision to say if we unite forces and provide a common political and literary voice, we’ll have more impact,” Williams told the AP. “His home in Pedregal (an upscale Mexico City neighborhood) was the intellectual center what brought a lot of writers together.”
Fuentes was creative, almost literally, to the very end: not only is his latest book, Vlad, scheduled for release this July (“I loved the old Dracula movies,” he told Publishers Weekly)–but an essay he penned on the recent presidential elections in France was published in the Mexican newspaper Reforma the day he died, just 24 hours after his interview with the Spanish newspaper El Día was printed, in which he revealed that he had completed another book, and planned to start another.
So, it’s only fitting to let this consummate man of words speak for himself. Under the cut are selections and videos from several interviews Fuentes has given over the years. Today, we join readers, writers, and fans of the written word all over the world in celebrating Fuentes’ singular vision.