Roaming across the ideological spectrum, cosmopolitan author Carlos Fuentes is a prime example of freedom of speech. At one moment he was sympathetic to the left while at another he served as the Mexican ambassador to France. Born in Panama City (1928) to Mexican parents — his father was a career diplomat — he has lived in the United States, Argentina, and Chile. At the age of 16 he returned to Mexico, where he studied Law at the National University of Mexico, receiving his LL.B. in 1948. Two years later he went to Geneva, Switzerland, where he studied Economics and became secretary to the Mexican delegate to the International Law Commission of the United Nations. In addition to a diplomatic career, Fuentes also developed literary ambitions, publishing his first major work, Las días enmascaradas (The Masked Days), in 1954. His interest in government service and the arts merged when he was made the director of international cultural relations for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was with La muerte de Artemio Cruz (The Death of Artemio Cruz), published 1962, that Fuentes first received international acclaim. The novel Cambio de piel (1967, A Change of Skin) was banned from publication in Franco’s Spain because of its supposed “pornographic, communistic, anti-Christian, anti-German and pro-Jewish” content. During the 1960s Fuentes was declared persona non grata in the United States for his political views and was exiled from Mexico after he protested the government’s brutal repression of student demonstrations in 1968.
A major theme in Fuentes’s work is the search for Mexican identity which he illustrates through historical myths and a wide variety of cultural references. In his books he displays a profound belief in the causes of social emancipation and a critical awareness of the abuse of power in Latin America and beyond. In 2004 he published Contra Bush, a plea to recover an international, multilateral and reliable world order by solving political and social conflicts through diplomatic negotiation and international solidarity. Over the years, Fuentes has received numerous major awards including the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious award a Spanish-language writer can receive.