The Buried Mirror Essay - Critical Essays

Carlos Fuentes

The Buried Mirror

The five-part BBC television series, THE BURIED MIRROR, for which Carlos Fuentes was the on-camera host, motivated him to produce this richly illustrated, exquisitely designed book. Musing on the five hundred years of Latin American history that began with Columbus’ arrival on the North American continent, Fuentes establishes as his controlling metaphor the mirrors often found in ancient Indian burial mounds. Mirrors, when held, up, permit people to see where they have been, where they came from.

The point of view in this book shifts continually between Latin America and Europe, focusing most notably on the Spain from which most early European settlers in Latin American came. In the Spain of the fifteenth century, Fuentes finds strong parallels to the Latin America of today. Whereas Spain was a country of mixed cultures, most notably European, Moorish, and Jewish, Latin America from its beginnings had an intermixture of the European and the native Indian cultures. This intermixing was intensified by an influx of people from Africa and the Orient into Latin America.

Fuentes asks what Latin America has to celebrate in this quincentennial year. Its countries are faced with great unemployment, high deficits, runaway inflation, pollution, and other problems common in modern, industrialized societies. His answer is that Latin America can legitimately celebrate its cultural heritage, which is manifested today in its art, its music, and its literature.

Fuentes’ metaphorical mirror reflects reality and projects imagination. In the broad, diverse cultural heritage of Latin American countries, he finds cause for optimism.

Sources for Further Study

ARTnews. XCI, April, 1992, p. 20.

Chicago Tribune. April 19, 1992, XIV, p. 5.

The Christian Science Monitor. June 30, 1992, p. 13.

Hispanic. V, October, 1992, p. 80.

History Today. XLII, May, 1992, p. 59.

Insight. VIII, April 27, 1992, p. 23.

Library Journal. CXVII, March 1, 1992, p. 105.

Los Angeles Times. April 22, 1992, p. E4.

The Nation. CCLIV, March 30, 1992, p. 408.

New Statesman and Society. V, April 17, 1992, p. 41.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVII, April 26, 1992, p. 9.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIX, March 23, 1992, p. 58.

Time. CXXXIX, June 29, 1992, p. 78.

The Washington Post Book World. XXII, March 29, 1992, p. 1.