Carlos Monsiváis, more than the witness of Mexico

May 04, 2021 at 11:04 hrs.
Carlos Monsivais. Photo: Graciela Iturbide
Carlos Monsivais. Photo: Graciela Iturbide


They count the various legends which Carlos Monsiváis He was never mugged because every time he took the risk he was recognized by his assailants in a respectful tone.

'Forgive us, Mr. Monsiváis, we did not recognize it'they told him.

What is true is that his memory, and re-reading your sharp texts, critics, and blamed for the poverty of others, eleven years after his death, only reinforce the recognition of his importance and his position as essential.


The critical journalist


The chronicler, narrator and essayist, Carlos Monsiváis, was born on May 4, 1938 in Mexico City, and before becoming this essential character to understand contemporary Mexico, the young Monsiváis studied Economy, and Philosophy and Letters in the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Since his years of study, the avid and restless reader was a collaborating pen in magazines and cultural supplements in the capital, as well as being an actor of small roles in at least 10 transitional cinema films during the sixties. Later he would return to this facet, since he never lost his affection for the seventh art that accompanied him as a student and announcer.

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Carlos monsiváis participated in at least 10 films, in which they stand out: 'Los caifanes',' The visitations of the devil ',' Emiliano Zapata ',' Mexico of my loves', 'Fonqui', 'The avenging warrior 2', ' A strange world 'and' Harassed '. Photo: El Estanquillo Museum..


During his career and a few years after his degree, already sheathed in the profession of journalism, where the raw material of the works that establish his teaching lies, and strongly impacted by the coup that shook Guatemala In 1954, he created and conducted programs to UNAM Radio and became director of the college record collection, Live Voice of Mexico.

These years also allowed him to elaborate his first books, where they stand out, Principles and powers (1969) Days to keep (1971) and Lost love (1976), the latter based on some mythical figures from the cinema, popular song, trade unionism, leftist activism, politicians and the Mexican bourgeoisie. 

In other works, he explained the Zapatista uprising based on the keys to racial discrimination against Indian peoples and the lack of recognition of their rights as an ethnic minority. In still others, he defended the cause of women without any ambiguity.

Monsivais, defined himself as a leftist intellectual, respected and read by his contemporary sphere which includes Enrique Krauze, Fernando Benítez, Vincent RedJose Luis Cuevas y Carlos Fuentes, with whom he met in magazines and supplements such as Seasons, Half a century, Mester and University Magazine, Y Culture in Mexico, was gestating his words in the history of society, some fueled by social vivacity, persecution and the suffering of Mexico below, some of a cultural critic dedicated to putting his finger on the sore of the social wounds with fine irony, faithful to recognize reality as an endless and profuse soap opera and novel.

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Carlos Monsiváis with Carlos Fuentes, José Luis Cuevas and Fernando Benítez. Photo: El Estanquillo Museum


In one of the thousand improvised odes that he dedicated to the profession, he reported that:

It allows you to contemplate reality as an endless, profuse, multiple soap opera and also a novel. It allows you to meet great people and also meet politicians to balance. It helps you to relate to the multiple levels of a society as deeply unjust as that of Latin America, and it also allows you to practice writing in difficult conditions that often end up against you, but in which you have the opportunity, on occasions, to try literature. So I am grateful to journalism.


Friendships: Rius and Rojo 


El Estanquillo Museum which shares the Monsiváis collection and which was founded in 2006, has more than 20 thousand pieces, including historical documents, paintings, photographs, caricatures and models. The site located in the Historic Center of Mexico City, also has dozens of letters, drawings and collages that document the relationship between Rius and the public intellectual, in which the frankness and sense of humor made them establish a deep friendship in the one that the chronicler knew closely about the self-taught monero, and that he finally adapted with a formidable ability to communicate and educate.

To this pair, they are joined Vincent Red, painter, designer, editor, and a notable cartoonist of intimate, brief and unpublished work, and Gabriel Vargas placeholder image, Creator of The Burrón Family, a graphic series that immortalized these memorable Mexican comic characters that arose from a marriage that Vargas met, made up of a very large woman and a very small man; the woman was bossy and the husband was subject to her orders. After meeting them, he learned that there was a story there and he drew them, although he captured the woman thin and tall.

Under the command of Fernando Benitez, who ran the supplement Mexico in Culture, published by the newspaper New arrivals, Red, Monsivais, Rius, José emilio pacheco, and many other artists and writers more agreed in this basket of talent and were finding the blank and the power of the letters. Between the friendship of the four, each one in their own field, knowing that the opposites complement each other, creative rigor and creative chaos ended up complementing each other, making Mexican cultural life live one of its most extraordinary and fertile moments during the second half of the XNUMXth century and the beginning of the XNUMXst.

The Monsivais that was outside of journalism and the left, was a prolific of the fine arts, which even ventured into theater and music with the rock project The Tepetatles.

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After his return from Harvard to Mexico, Carlos MonsiváisIn 1965, he was part of the rock project Los Tepetatles, organized by Alfonso ArauFacebook: Estanquillo Museum.

Thus, by 1958, Carlos Monsivais, not as a witness, but as a central figure of the events, he turned to the description of judgments, witty opinions and stories full of irony of the things that happen in life within the city ​​of palaces, to define his cultural rigor that responded so much to him with the affection of an audience that followed him through fame, prestige, respect and recognition.

Monsivais lives


Carlos Monsiváis is found in the books he read and collected, and you can still visit his collection of 24 works that is kept inside the Library of Mexico, in the Plaza de la Ciudadela, in Mexico City.

Those letters, eleven years after his death, deserve attention because they cross Mexican literature to give it a historical and social validity beyond the text itself. They served as the basis for many of the cultural and social approaches that continue in Mexico, as well as a provocation to observe history as a commitment to the present. They encourage inquiry into popular culture, its identity, the processes of citizenship, rebellion and resistance, and recognition of humanism.

For the journalist and founder of the newspaper The Journey, Javier Aranda Luna, Carlos Monsiváis He was a person who knew everything, with a surly appearance that many people were afraid of, but he was always a very generous man.

Thus, in these ways, and by the memory of his way of being through those closest to him, Carlos, a man of good character, very dry, but who always joked around, will continue to be a missed celebrity in the university classrooms, in publishing houses, in fact, because more than witnesses, we need Monsiváis to understand what is happening to us.

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