Carlos Fuentes

2 minute read
Tim Padgett

Carlos Fuentes’ best-known novel may be The Old Gringo, set during the Mexican Revolution. But his finest fiction dwelled in the aftermath of that upheaval, wryly but passionately decrying modern Mexico’s betrayals of the revolution’s egalitarian values. Few characters embody that venality more than Artemio Cruz, the soldier-politico-tycoon who haunts The Death of Artemio Cruz, perhaps the finest of Fuentes’ 24 novels and a masterly portrait of the one-party dictatorship that ruled Mexico for most of the 20th century.

Fuentes, who died May 15 at 83, co-founded Latin America’s literary boom, a movement that included his Nobel-laureate buddies Gabriel Garca Mrquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, who summoned modernist, magical-realist styles to tell their region’s epic. “In the 1960s, why not?” Fuentes once told me. “We were young, bold, infinitely ambitious.” And leftist, fired in those days by a Castroesque zeal that made getting U.S. visas a pain. As the Cold War gave way to NAFTA, Fuentes soured on “yesterday’s communism without freedom” while keeping a keen eye on “today’s capitalism without justice.” He should have gotten his own Nobel, but he died knowing that Mexico had finally democratized and reached out to the world. Thanks to Fuentes, the world had already been introduced to the rich if enigmatic soul of Mexico.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at