A sad, SAD day for the Mexican arts.
But he was much more than that: Essayist; editorialist; political & social critic. In short, a true intellectual giant.
I had the great fortune of meeting Fuentes once in person in 2010. My sister Angélica invited me to a teachers congress celebrated in one of the hotels facing Paseo de la Reforma, and Fuentes was going to give the final lecture.
It's a doubly memorable anecdote, because that day I was wearing my finest black leather jacket which I took off once we were seated listening to other speakers, and when we stepped outside the hall --my sister and I-- during a brief recess, by the time we came back the jacket was gone! There's something to be said about the honesty of Mexican educators --or their lack thereof.
My sister was totally furious and was screaming and fighting with some of the organizers demanding that the jacket showed up, or else! I admit I was a bit concerned at first, seeing how I had kept the parking ticket I received at the hotel lobby in the inside pocket, yet once the proper measures were taken to ensure my car would not be allowed to exit the hotel without alerting me first, I was surprisingly serene and taking the loss of my jacket very philosophically. "What's done is done" I thought, and since I had gone there to hear Fuentes in the first place, I wasn't going to let the loss of the jacket interfere with my goal.
The organizers were so mortified --or fed up with my sister's rant-- that they even allowed us to sit in the front row of the auditorium, where I was in a great place to enjoy the words of Fuentes. I even worked up the nerve to ask something to him during the Q&A session; since the focus of the congress was the state of education in Mexico, I wanted to know what he felt about the over-saturation of information in the web, and how it was becoming more taxing to discern between reliable data and pure bunk.
Fuentes' reply pleased me greatly. He said that he wasn't too concerned with excessive information; quite the contrary, between an excesss of knowledge and censorship or other ways to restric access to information, he would always choose the former. I agree 100%.
At the end of his lecture I walked up to the stage, shook his hand, and asked him to sign my copy of 'La Región Más Transparente' (The Most Transparent Region). He wrote:
Alas, I don't have a photo which could have immortalized the moment. My sister was still so darn busy giving hell to the organizers about my jacket that she wasted the chance of taking a pic with her cell phone. I swear to God I wasn't bothered about it at all; the way I saw it, meeting such a literary legend was well worth a jacket ;)
Some days later Fuentes was invited to some TV program to talk about his most recent novel, and during the show he mentioned the congress he attended, and that he was pleased that some of the young teachers there kept copies of his oldest books *hint hint*
Oh! and remember how I said that had been a doubly memorable anecdote ? Well, I take that back: it was TRIPLY memorable. Because guess what? I got my jacket back!
Yeah. Believe it or not a week later I received a call from the hotel's administration telling me the 'person' who "had took my jacket by mistake" (yeah right) was willing to take it back so long as I accepted to not pick it up personally (?) but send someone else instead. My sister thinks the thief realized a person the size of the jacket's owner would be a bit intimidating, and presumably in a not too-cordial mood.
I don't know. I think about it as the Universe rewarding me for putting stock in the things that really matter. And meeting Fuentes was a rich experience that I'm happy to share with you know.
Farewell Carlos. The Universe decreed your departure on May 15th., the day in which we Mexicans honor our teachers; I couldn't really think of a more fitting way to underscore the importance of your career and the value of your legacy.
Descanse en Paz.