The counselor
Luis Javier Garrido

Which is the reason a great poet and essayist as Octavio Paz, that in a long part of his work denounced the Mexican system, ended in the final part of his life serving to that power?

1. The death of Octavio Paz (April, 19th) has raised a waterfall of praise texts of very scarce quality but very few reflections, and a central must be without doubt be asked once again which was the reason for which a writer that could be independent, it was not.

2. Which was the reason Paz did not end his relationships with the regime after 1968, when he requested ``to be post in availability'' for the Foreign Relationships Secretariat, or in 1974, when together with other thought men outlined the need of constituting a new partie in Mexico?

3. The man is labeled without doubt by his experience and that of Paz seems have been always that of advise power. The recent publication of part of the correspondence of Paz as ambassador in India with the chancellor Antonio Flowers Pulley (Vuelta 256) notes a first explanation to this problem, beacause it shows that long part of his life, as a man devoted to the public function, Octavio Paz was a man devoted to advise power and that firmly believed in regime's men.

4. The work of an author is indissoluble of his own contradictions that, in spite of hiself, highlight it in a determinant way. In an essay written at the end of the presidental period of López Portillo, entitled ``Quevedo, Heráclito and some sonnets'', collected in Shades of Works (Seix Barral, 1983), without realizing Paz described his own contradiction and, upon speaking of Francisco de Quevedo, the great conceptual poet of the Gold Century, traced also his own portrait. Paz recognized in that text he had lost the admiration that he professed to Quevedo his youth after reading the studies of Raimundo Lida, and realizing that he had been a man without scruples that upon preferring the interest of the power to his ideas failed moral and intelectually.

5. Octavio Paz assumed himself throughout those years as a critical thinker, though he was not in front of the reality of his own country. Paz could not occupy the place that Sartre or Foucault had in France or Chomsky in the United States, beacuse instead of be the critical voice that was requiring the society, in very little time assumed the paper of publicist of the official politics and far from be an independent writer became a prompt of the system. During the last 15 years of his life, Paz was a customary of Los Pinos who served the presidents: he worked in private as their counselor and in public as an advocate of their politics.

6. Octavio Paz's public resign of everything he had written in political matter was produced by mid 1988, a month after July 6th and the electoral "system fall". During the period thousands of Mexicans were demanding to open the electoral packages and to count votes to verify who had gained, Paz endorsed the fraud, supported that Salinas' victory was clear and vituperated Cárdenas ("Ante un presente incierto", La Jornada, August 10th-12th, 1988) and those who do not think as him, and weeks later he was present near several Latin American dictators in the duty ceremony of Carlos Salinas in the Presidency of México.

7. The Octavio Paz of Carlos Salinas' presidential election forgot what he had written about power and put his prestige to the service of a system in decomposition and of who was heading it. Paz's apologists would yield a service to the country if they gathered his articles and tons of his statements confirming a government that had any kind of excesses and corruption and committed any crime gender, and this in exchange for having a determinant power over the cultural policies of the State and for earning popularity. When Nobel Prize arrived to him the in 1990, Paz was the fondled writer of the Mexican oligarchy who knew him through Televisa and buys his books, but who doesn't read them.

8. Paz's commitments towards "system" prevented him to understand at the end of his life Mexico's process and especially the revolt in Chiapas, that according to him was due to the fact that the indigenous communities had been cheated by a group of irresponsible demagogues (La Jornada, January 5th, 1994). He became offended by some criticisms, as those of Spanish novelist Manuel Vicent, who asked him if that was the reason to be a poet, but he did not vary his position. And he couldn't know two years laterr, when he attempted to shade some of his judgements (Vuelta 231), that for many Mexican had no credibility.

9. Can it surprise all over this that the writer had been paid homage at his death, more than by his readers, by the regime he ended serving?

10. Octavio Paz figure is fundamental in the intellectual life of Mexico in the XX century, but it will not be understood if there is an insistency for making him a myth and avoid analyz his relationships with the regime. Make it will help without doubt to understand the mechanisms of power and to discern what he, his writer pretense, did not know to understand: that the men of thought have failed to Mexico.

Taken from:
La Jornada, January 24th, 1998.

Most recent revision: Mayo 19, 2002