Carlos Monsiváis: Prominent Mexican writer (1938 - 2010) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Carlos Monsiváis
Prominent Mexican writer

Carlos Monsiváis

Carlos Monsiváis
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Prominent Mexican writer
Was Critic Film critic Journalist Screenwriter Writer Literary critic
From Mexico
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Journalism Literature
Gender male
Birth 4 May 1938, Mexico City, Mexico
Death 19 June 2010, Mexico City, Mexico (aged 72 years)
Star sign Taurus
The details (from wikipedia)


Carlos Monsiváis Aceves (May 4, 1938 – June 19, 2010) was a Mexican writer, critic, political activist, and journalist. He also wrote political opinion columns in leading newspapers within the country's progressive sectors. His generation of writers includes Elena Poniatowska, José Emilio Pacheco, and Carlos Fuentes. Monsiváis won more than 33 awards, including the 1986 Jorge Cuesta Prize (named after a fellow writer about whom he wrote a book), the 1989 Mazatlán Prize, and the 1996 Xavier Villaurrutia Award. Considered a leading intellectual of his time, Monsiváis documented contemporary Mexican themes, values, class struggles, and societal change in his essays, books and opinion pieces. He was a staunch critic of the long-ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), leaned towards the left-wing, and was ubiquitous in disseminating his views on radio and television. As a founding member of "Gatos Olvidados", Monsiváis wanted his and other "forgotten cats" to be provided for beyond his lifetime.

Early life and education

Carlos Monsiváis Aceves was born in Mexico City on May 4, 1938. He studied economics and philosophy at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). As a student, Monsiváis was involved with protests that reestablished Mexican democracy. From 1956 to 1958, he worked at Medio Siglo ("Half Century") magazine and "Estaciones" ("Seasons") from 1957 to 1959. From 1956 to 1958, he worked as an editor at Medio Siglo, and at Estaciones from 1957 to 1959.

His writings, some of which are written with an ironic undertone, show a deep understanding of the origin and development of Mexican popular culture. As a movie critic during this time period, he is considered one of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema's premiere observers. Monsiváis enjoyed reviewing many different media, to include movies, art and football.

Literary career

From 1962 to 1963 and 1967 to 1968, Monsiváis was a fellow at the "Centro Mexicano de Escritores" ("Mexican Writers's Center"). In 1965, he attended Harvard University's Center for International Studies.

In 1969, Monsiváis published his first two essays: "Principados y potestades" (lit. "Princedoms and powers") and "Características de la cultura nacional" (lit. "Characteristics of the national culture"). They were characterized as being filled with a universal curiosity and the ability to distill the core essence of Mexican political and cultural life. In 1971, he penned a chronicle called Días de guardar, which was compiled into a book with his first essays. In 1976, Monsiváis composed Amor perdido, which detailed mythical film characters based upon popular song, left-wing politics, and the bourgeoisie.

During the 1980s, Monsiváis prolifically wrote the bulk of many works that shaped and destined his career. Those works include 1984's De qué se ríe el licenciado, Entrada libre, crónicas de la sociedad que se organiza in 1987, and 1988's Escenas de pudor y liviandad. In 1982, he also wrote a book called Nuevo catecismo para indios remisos, which narrated an understanding or cathecism about Mexico's indigenous people. Días de guarda and Escenas de pudor y liviandad are considered his epic works. In narrative form, Monsiváis recounted the 1985 Mexico City earthquake that killed thousands. He wrote "Historias para temblar: 19 de septiembre de 1985" ("Stories to tremble: September 19, 1985") which documented the earthquake.

In 1992, Monsiváis created a biography on Frida Kahlo entitled Frida Kahlo: Una vida, una obra.

In addition to these books, Monsiváis wrote several anthologies including La poesía mexicana del siglo X in 1966, Los narradores ante el público in 1969, and in 1986 an autobiography about Jorge Cuesta.

Monsiváis remained creative into his latter years and in 2002 wrote an essay called Yo te bendigo, vida, about Amado Nervo.

Political involvement

He was known as an activist for leftist causes.

In 1968, the Tlatelolco massacre left a distinct mark on Monsiváis. His critics maintained that Monsiváis' life was filled with social movements interweaved with real life politics and entertainment figures as he wrote about that "1968 army massacre" whose death toll varied from 25 to 350 depending on the sources. Monsiváis became an early defender of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. In 1994, he supported the Zapatistas's Chiapas revolt on behalf of Mexico's indigenous peoples. Monsiváis along with Portuguese writer Jose Saramago visited rebel camps in Chiapas.

In 2002, he spoke critically against Subcomandante Marcos's letter which supported a Basque terrorist group and criticized Baltasar Garzón. In 2006, Monsiváis signed a petition in support of the independence of Puerto Rico from the United States of America.

Later life and death

Monsiváis had struggled for years with pulmonary fibrosis and could be seen in his latter years with an oxygen tank. His weariness led to several hospital stays.

In 2007, Monsiváis opened the Museo del Estanquillo with an exhibition of Gabriel Vargas' La Familia Burrón paintings with the artist in person. Vargas sat paralyzed because of an affiction he had suffered for the past twenty years. In funding the museum, he paid homage to Vargas, La Familia Burrón and Eduardo del Río. The Estanquillo Museum also exhibits many of his varied works. It holds approximately 12,000 items that Monsiváis accumulated over 30 years.

In 2008, Monsiváis' love for his 20 cats led him to bequest funds for an animal shelter known as "Gatos Olvidados" (English: Forgotten Cats). For eight years, he had been attached deeply to "Miss Oginia", a cat he had saved from being euthanasized and a kitten he had adopted. Monsiváis approached the Distrito Federal de México about a plot of land for 50 homeless cats because a young girl, Claudia Vázquez Lozano, sent him an email requesting his support. As a founding member of "Gatos Olvidados", Monsiváis wanted his and other forgotten cats to be provided for beyond his lifetime.

As recently as March 2010, Monsiváis presented his last collection of chronicles named Apocalipstick.

On June 19, 2010, Monsiváis was declared dead after respiratory problems by the staff of the Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Health Sciences and Nutrition. He had entered the hospital on April 2, 2010, and had declined in health.


EZLN spokesman Subcomandante Marcos regarded Monsiváis as an influence. While some of his critics did not appreciate his omnipresence in all forms of the media, in a country with "low reading levels" this made him more well-known amongst the people. Pacheco, a Cervantes Prize winner, once commented that Monsiváis was the "only writer people knew on the street." Poniatowska, who knew him since 1957, said, "I think he is one of the great minds of Mexico, and an intellectual of the left." Carlos Fuentes, who was in London at the time of Monsiváis' death said, "great writer who renewed the essay genre in Mexico." Mexican President Felipe Calderón lamented his death with "profound sorrow".

Of his own autobiography that he wrote at age 28, Monsiváis once said "acepté esta suerte de autobiografía con el mezquino fin de hacerme ver como una mezcla de Albert Camus y Ringo" ("I accepted this sort of autobiography with the petty purpose of making myself look like a mix of Albert Camus and Ringo").

Personal life

Monsiváis never married and had no children. According to Poniatowska, he is survived by several nephews. Monsiváis owned a small two-story house in Mexico City’s Colonia Portales. In lieu of children, he owned 13 small cats and gave interviews with them in his lap. In his spare time, Monsiváis enjoyed reading and cinematography.


In 1977, Monsiváis won "Premio Nacional de Periodismo" Award ("National Journalism Prize") which recognized his genre of chronicles.

Monsiváis was honoured with a Prince Claus Award in 1998 from the Prince Claus Fund, an international culture and development organization based in Amsterdam.

In 2000, Monsiváis was awarded the "Premio Anagrama de Ensayo" ("Anagram of Essay Prize"). At the "Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara" (" International Book Fair of Guadalajara") in 2006, he received the "FIL de Guadalajara Prize") along with its $100,000 prize money and has been awarded honorary doctorates from universities in Peru, Arizona, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana and the Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa. Monsiváis has won more than 33 awards with his last coming from the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí. Along with Miguel León-Portilla, Friedrich Katz, Fuentes and Pacheco, Monsiváis was a past recipient of The Medalla 1808 from the government of Mexico City.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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