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Globally acclaimed Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes dies

Alfredo Estrella / AFP - Getty Images

Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes takes part in a tribute to Mexican writer and anthropologist Fernando Benitez (1912-2000) at the Fine Arts Palace in Mexico City, on Dec. 18, 2011.

Novelist Carlos Fuentes, one of Latin America's most eloquent and widely read authors and a fierce critic of governments, has died after a literary career spanning more than five decades. He was 83.

Fuentes' best-known works include "The Death of Artemio Cruz,'' "The Crystal Frontier'' and "The Old Gringo," which was made into the 1989 movie by the same name starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.

Local media said Fuentes died in a Mexico City hospital on Tuesday following heart problems.


Dividing his time chiefly between Mexico City and London, Fuentes dovetailed literature — writing more than 30 books that have been translated into two dozen languages — and social observation throughout his career.

Fuentes, an "elegant public intellectual and grand man of letters," as the New York Times obituary describes him — helped spark the explosion of Latin American in the 1960s and 70s known as "el boom" along with Colombia's Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru and Argentine Julio Cortazar.

In the 1980s he was a frequent critic of U.S. intervention in Central America and lambasted the effects of U.S. immigration policy on Mexican migrant workers in his mid-1990s novel, "La Frontera de Cristal'' (The Crystal Frontier).

"They know they need migrant Mexican labor, without which their harvests, services and many aspects of life would go to ruin,'' Fuentes once said, calling U.S. policy a farce.

Fuentes also became one of the most open critics of Mexico's entrenched political system under the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for 71 years before it was ousted in 2000 elections.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon and other political and cultural leaders quickly paid tribute to Fuentes on Tuesday.

"I profoundly regret the death of our beloved and admired Carlos Fuentes, writer and universal Mexican,'' Calderon wrote on his Twitter account.

Fuentes' critical eye was at work from the start of his career. His first novel in 1958, "La region mas transparente'' (Where the Air is Clear), was not only a look at life in Mexico City, now ironically one of the most polluted in the world. It also examined how the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917 had created a new and wealthy elite but did nothing for the impoverished and indigenous masses.

Born in Panama in 1928, Fuentes divided his early years among the United States, Chile and Argentina, following his father's diplomatic postings before going on to study law.

In an interview with the Academy of Achievement, Fuentes explained how his life growing up as the child of a diplomat pushed him in the direction of writing.

"As a little boy, I read a lot," he said. "That was solitary in a way, because I knew my friends wouldn't last more than two or three years, then another change, new friends. So I had to build my own inner world through reading, movies, radio at the time."

Reuters contributed to this report

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