Carlos Fuentes, Mexican Novelist Who Inspired Latin American Writing, Dies

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images (MEXICO CITY) -- Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican writer whose powerful mix of deep political and social commitment with bold stylistic innovation made him among the most prominent figures in Latin American writing in the 1960s and ’70s, has died in a Mexico City hospital. He was 83.

He may be best known in the United States for his 1985 novel The Old Gringo, about the disappearance of the American writer Ambrose Bierce in Mexico during the revolution. The book became a U.S. bestseller and was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda. But it was with his earlier novels that Fuentes made his most profound mark on world literature.

Though he was perennial contender for the Nobel Prize, he never won. He still received worldwide recognition for his work. Terra Nostra received the Venezuelan Romulo Gallegos Prize; in 1987 he won the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world’s highest literary honor.  In 1994 Spain gave him a Prince of Asturias Award for literature. In 1997 he was named a commander of the National Order of Merit, France’s highest civilian award given to a foreigner.

He also received the Four Freedom Awards for Freedom of Speech and Expression in 2006, in Middelburg, the Netherlands.

He taught courses at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown, and twice served as Mexican ambassador, first to England and then to France. He resigned both posts in protests related to the 1968 slaughter of Mexican students.

Fuentes was born in Panama City on Dec. 11, 1928 to Mexican parents. His parents were both diplomats, so Fuentes moved frequently in his early years, living in Montevideo, Uruguay; Rio de Janeiro; Washington, D.C.; Santiago, Chile; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. He later divided his time between homes in Mexico City and London, where he did most of his writing.

He married actress Rita Macedo in 1959, and the couple had a daughter, but they divorced in 1973. Fuentes was romantically linked to the actresses Jeanne Moreau and Jean Seberg.

Fuentes later married journalist Silvia Lemus and they had two children together. Their son Carlos Fuentes Lemus died from complications associated with hemophilia in 1999, and Natasha Fuentes Lemus died in 2005 after a cardiac arrest.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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