Alfonso Reyes Biography


(World Poets and Poetry)

Alfonso Reyes Ochoa was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, the ninth of twelve children born to General Bernardo Reyes and Aurelia Ochoa, both of whom were from the environs of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. General Reyes, the author of an array of military manuals, brochures, and histories, was an enlightened and efficient governor of the state of Nuevo León and was largely responsible for the progressive spirit which obtains in Monterrey even in the twenty-first century. Of his early years, Reyes wrote in “Sol de Monterrey” (“Monterrey Sun”), “I knew no shadow in my childhood,/ only the brilliance of the sun”; a sun that followed at his heels “like a Pekinese.” Reyes entered the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria in Mexico City in 1905, and went on to the Escuela Nacional de Altos Estudios. Mexico at that time was in the tight grip of the dictator Porfirio Díaz, and although the positivist milieu that Díaz encouraged was not favorable to the study of the humanities, Reyes immersed himself in the study of the classics.

Reyes married Manela Mota in 1911, and their only child, Alfonso, was born in 1912. The following year, Reyes received a law degree from the University of Mexico. He became the youngest member of the Centennial Generation (which included Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Antonio Caso, and José Vasconcelos), a group dedicated to changing the official modes of thought in Mexico. Reyes also helped found the Ateneo de laJuventud (Athenaeum of Youth), an institution for young intellectuals that flourished until 1940.

When Díaz was ousted by Francisco Madero in 1910, Mexico was thrown into a welter of revolt and banditry. Before dawn on February 9, 1913, rebel troops tried to install...

(The entire section is 712 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“The art of expression,” wrote Alfonso Reyes (RAY-yays), “did not appear to me as a rhetorical function, independent of conduct, but a means of realizing human feeling.” Thus this Mexican writer defined and justified his literary vocation, so faithfully and completely fulfilled during the fifty years of his writing that he has justly been called “the most accomplished example of the man of letters in Mexico.”

Born in Monterrey, capital of the state of Nuevo Leon, on May 17, 1889, he was the son of General Bernardo Reyes, at that time governor of the state and a prominent politician in the regime of President Porfirio Díaz. Having begun his schooling in his native city, Reyes moved later to Mexico City, where in 1913 he received the professional title of lawyer. There he became part of a generation of writers engaged in a vigorous intellectual revolution that had enormous repercussions in Mexican culture. These writers were united in a movement called El Ateneo de la Juventud (The Athenaeum of Youth). Reyes was the youngest member of this group, and he labored side by side with other writers who became primary figures in the intellectual life of modern Mexico, including José Vasconcelos, Antonio Caso, Martín Luis Guzmán, and Enrique González Martínez. The basic aims of this group were the study and understanding of Mexican culture, the assimilation of the emerging post-positivist philosophies, and the development of literary criticism, all grounded in the universal ideas and values of the Enlightenment. The coming revolution, however, produced a rift among those aims: the dream of a harmonious insertion of the Mexican culture into the universal one proved complicated. Each member of the generation pursued his own path out of the impasse.

Immersed in these intellectual currents, Reyes left for Europe in the service of Mexican diplomacy. In Madrid he...

(The entire section is 774 words.)