Carlos Fuentes is one of a small number of writers from Latin America whose works are recognized throughout the world. His life and work are truly international. His father was a diplomat, so Fuentes’ early life was influenced by his schooling and experiences in such capitals as Washington, D.C., Santiago, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City. He is equally fluent in Spanish and English and is familiar with the cultural life of most American and European countries. As one of Mexico’s most distinguished citizens, he has held important diplomatic positions in Europe, has lectured at major universities throughout the Western world, and has been awarded prestigious literary awards. The Old Gringo was made into a successful film and became the first novel by a Mexican writer to be included on The New York Times best-seller list.
All of his writings deal with the complexity of identifying what it means to be a Mexican. He seeks the identity of his people in the myth, legend, and history of the Aztec culture, in the traditions of the Catholic faith that the Spanish brought to the New World in the fifteenth century, and in the failed hopes of the Mexican Revolution. All these elements are included in his novel Terra Nostra.
Fuentes is also concerned with articulating Mexico’s relationship with the rest of the world. In Distant Relations, he examines the often troubled interaction between Mexican and European cultures. His most famous novel, The Old Gringo, is a study of Mexican-American relations. Christopher Unborn, his Christopher Columbus novel, is a penetrating investigation and satire of contemporary Mexico approaching the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Fuentes warns of a certain fall to ruin if a reformation and a redefinition of Mexico’s basic values—as found in its myth, legend, and history—do not take place immediately.