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...
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