MEXICO CITY -- Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Nobel laureates Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Nadine Gordimer and former leaders of Spain and Chile headed here Monday for the ceremony beginning assorted activities paying homage to and marking the 80th birthday of writer Carlos Fuentes.
In a ceremony at historic Chapultepec Castle and in the presence of noteworthy intellectuals, Calderon said that "as one more Mexican" he, too, would add to the recognition to be given to Fuentes all over the country.
The most famous of contemporary Mexican writers has become a "reference point from which to understand" the country, Calderon said.
Thus began the acts of homage to the author as he enters his ninth decade, a series of events including conferences, book publications and expositions, among other activities.
Calderon announced that the federal government will issue one of Fuentes' books that will be given to more than 1 million high school students "so that the young people may draw closer to the writer's work."
Fuentes main works have delineated a picture of Mexican society, "of what we Mexicans are with our virtues, weaknesses, defects, values and frailties," the president said.
In turn, Fuentes thanked Calderon for the support he had given when one of his books, the novel "Aura," received some minor censure by Cabinet minister Carlos Abascal during the 2000-2006 administration of Vicente Fox.
The guest of honor emphasized the work of Gordimer, who he said struggled against racism in South Africa, and he defended universal values and praised the role of Colombia's Garcia Marquez in Latin American literature.
About former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, who was also present, Fuentes said that he managed to close a dark chapter in the history of his country - a reference to the 1973-1990 Pinochet dictatorship - and set it once again on the road toward freedom.
With regard to Felipe Gonzalez, Spain's prime minister from 1982-1996, Fuentes recalled that for 13 years he negotiated his country's entry into the European Union with the condition that Madrid be given the support necessary to develop its economy.
If Spain is currently "a full and stellar member of the European community it is in substantial measure due to Felipe Gonzalez. He did not nationalize the economy so the advantages would not be suffocated, rather he strengthened the state to impede the disadvantages, a very good prescription for what is happening today," the writer said. EFE
Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes embraces Colombian Nobel Literature Laureate Gabriel García Márquez under the eyes of Mexican President Felipe Calderón November 17, 2008, during the official opening of a tribute to Fuentes at his eightieth birthday celebration at the Castle of Chapultepec in Mexico City. Photo by David de la Paz of EFE.Click here to select and watch interview clips with Carlos Fuentes in English
Click here to visit the Official Website of Carlos Fuentes in English and Spanish