During his sixty-two years José Rubén Romero (raw-MAY-roh) was, among other things, a poet, short-story writer, grocer, haberdasher, civil servant, revolutionary, diplomat, novelist, and essayist—more or less in that order. His lifetime (1890-1952) was for the most part a period of violent and sweeping change unparalleled in Mexican history; not even the war of independence from Spain (1821) was as protracted or witnessed such carnage.
Although Romero did not participate in the military phase of the revolution, through the influence of his father he was named private secretary to the revolutionary governor of the state of Michoacán. Accused of political agitation, Romero fled the state capital, Morelia, for Mexico City, later settling in Tacámbaro, where he engaged in the politically safe professions of grocer and haberdasher. At the age of twenty-eight, however, literary fame and political connections brought him back to Morelia to serve the new governor, Pascual Ortiz Rubio. Once again on the move, he returned to Mexico City in 1920 as the emissary of the governor and to take a position in the diplomatic service, an appointment he held until his retirement eight years before his death.
The first diplomatic posting for Romero outside Mexico occurred in 1930 during the presidency of his mentor, Ortiz Rubio. While he was in Barcelona, Spain, nostalgia for his homeland inspired an autobiographical novel, Notes of a Villager, published in 1932. The title of this novel seems a foreshadowing of two characteristics that reappeared in his later fiction: a preference for anecdote at the expense of plot and the use of rural settings. By the end of the 1930’s Romero was the author of seven novels and the subject of two critical studies.
Before the age of forty-two Romero wrote only rather uninspired poetry and unread short stories. The publication of Notes of a Villager signaled a change in his literary fortunes. In novel writing he at last achieved the leisurely pace and...
(The entire section is 827 words.)