Octavio Paz – Mexican Poet, Cultural Essayist, Translator

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“This is an irreplaceable loss for contemporary thought and culture – not just for Latin America but for the entire world,” said Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo. This was a common lost shared world-wide. Octavio Paz was known for many things in his lifetime such as his works of poetry and essays, because of his fine works of arts he often received many awards and recognizations for his skills and abilities in writing. Paz’s writings often reflect his personal childhood experiences and allowed him to incorperation his culture and perspective of his native surroundings. Octavio Paz lets his culture shine though his works in many ways paz often descrides his native backrounds, interwinded certain slang words and examplifies his childhood experiences throughout.

Octavio Paz was born on March 31 1914 in Mexico City. Both sides of Paz’s family came from different ethnic roots. His Fathers side was a group known as Mestizo from a state known as Jalisco. His Father was a lawyer who was involed in the Mexican Revolution.

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His grandfather was a well known jurnalist who fought against the French. Octavio’s mother’s side were purely Spanish imigrants. As a young boy Octavio Paz experienced the result of urbanlization to his village, “We lived in a large house with a garden. Our family had been impoverished by the revolution and the civil war. Our house, full of antique furniture, books and other objects, was gradually crumbling to bits. As rooms collapsed we moved the furnitur into another. I remember that for a long time I lived in a spacious room with part of one of the walls missing. Some magnificent screens protected me inadequately from the wind and rain . A creeper invaded my room……”.

The civl war and Mexican Revolution seems to have a great effect on his writings. It seems to have given Paz a greater sense of domestics and pride for his culture and native Octavios father was an influence on him because he had taken part as a lawyer in the Mexican Revolution, which gave Paz a sence of reality in the revolution.

Paz probably got his unique writting abilities from his grandfather who often attacked the French . This makes it amazing that Paz’s writings can be so calm with his influences being so bold. That shows Paz has the qualities to be independent and go against the fades. The biggest influence on Paz’s writing is not a person,but a thing. It is his garden in his backyard.

Octavio makes many references to this jungle like a garden in his writings. Octavio even refered to this garden in his 1990 noble speech: “ The Garden soon became the centre of my world; the library, an enchanted cave. I used to read and play with my cousins and schoolmates. There was a fig, temple of vegetation, four pine trees, three ash tress, nightshade, a pomegranate tree, wild grass and prickly plants that produced purple grazes. Adobe walls. Time was elastic; space was a spinning wheel. All-time, past or future, real or imaginary, was pure presence. Space transformed itself ceaselessly.

The beyond was here, all was here: a vally, a mountain, a distant country, the neighboors’ Octavio bases many of his poems on his enchantment with the garden. Paz had great respect for his culture, he appoached the differences and tried to live within the set rules of his ethnic roots. The Mexicans/Spaniards are known as hard works and appeciate their earnings. Octavio went though many rough times as a child such as when Zapata ( a peasant leader of Mexico’s 1910-1920 revolution) was murdered in 1919, and the Paz family went into brief exile in Los angeles and there they were selling pieces of furniture to make ends meet. Octavio soon made things change for himself. Paz with his interlecture mind and his politic sense was sure to be going far. At the age of 16 he got his first poem published and a year later he got his first essay published.

In 1937 he travelled to many countries such as Valenica and Spain to participate in the International Congress of Anti-Fascist Writers. He made his trip back to Mexico in 1938 we he began to establish a journal called Taller, a journal for the new generation of Mexican writers. Octavio soon earned a Guggenheim Fellowship to America where he was immersed in Anglo-American after two years in America he joined a Mexican dipomatic serice. Paz was then sent to France ironicly because his grandfather made many attacks against the french in his writings.

There Paz wrote his best known work “Labyrinth” a description of Mexican history Octavio later explained it as a search-” for our own selves, deformed or masked by strange institutions” after the publishing of this essay many of his friends refused to speak to him. Between the years of 1946 and 1962 Paz was involed in many activtes organized by the surrealists.

Then in 1962 one of the biggest moments in the life of the poet and his works happened, he got appointed Mexico’s ambassador to India. There he met and married Married Maria-Jose Tramini,Paz said “After being born, this is the most important thing that has happened to me”. This event affect such works as, “ The Grammarian Monkey” and “ East Slope”. After only 6 years as ambassador he resigned from his postion to protest against the goverment’s bloodstained argument against the student demonstrations in Tlatelolco during the Olympic Games in Mexico.

The Tlateloloc massace gave Paz a great deal of spiritual agony. Octavio took this tragedy and compared it to his Mexican roots, The Aztecs rituals of mass sacrifice and the irony of when the aztec lived there it was called“rivers of blood”. After Tlatelolco Paz when into three years of depression. During that time he taught at Cambridge and in 1971-1972 he held the Charles Eliot Norton Chair of Poetry at Harvard. After his teaching Paz made a trip to Mexico in 1973.

There he founded a new monthly cultural and political magazine called “Plural”. Paz was held in high regards til Paz was set back by a goverment take over by attacks made on the government. In 1976 Paz formed another literary and cultural monthly called ‘Vuelta” or called “return”. Paz’s new publication wasted no time acquring the some prestige of the formor “Plural”. In 1980 after editing and publishing two magazines, two books of poetry, and teaching world-wide, publishing seven books of essays on nearly everything, producing booklength studies of Mexican politics and having a collection of poetry translated in six languages did he receive the name honorary at Harvard.

The 1980’s produced alot of prestige awards for Paz. In 1981 Paz received the Cervantes award- the most important award in the Spanish-speaking world and in 1982 the American Neustadt. Paz spend most of the 80’s lecturing around the world, editing “Vuelta”, and appearing on Mexican television. In 1990 Octavio Paz won the very impressive Noble Prize for literature. Paz has the ability to connect with people on different levels throughout his works.

In “Sandstone” , one of Paz’s better known poems, a few lines connected with oh life to live, life already lived, time that comes back in a swell of sea, time that recedes without turning its head, the past is not past, it is still passing by, flowing silently into the next vanishing moment: Paz’s words in this stance seemed to connect with me because his words make you think about what Paz is trying to say and work it in with your life. This works in with my life and everyones life because everyone has a past and can relate to this.

The swell of sea is your pasted come back to as if it is a memory good or bad. Everyone can relate because everyone has a moment where they remember or something they have done in the past come back to them. Paz makes many references about cities and what a striking battle they are against nature. Paz makes such reference to the harsh city in “ In to Matter” these words come from his childhood when Paz was going up in his village it was taking over by urbanaliztion.

Paz uses this as a way to show his pride for the untouched beauty of this culture. Paz was torn by the critics and government. Critics praised him for his brillent works of mixing culture of the past and present and his varying writing ability consisting of anthropology, literature, philosophy, and science. Government and Paz’s colleagues were stunned by his harsh critiques. Paz’s gained many fans throughout his years of Paz was able to express in words what most writers are unable too. For this reason I feel Paz was a great writer.

The point of writing is to get a reaction from someone and Paz was able to do that, no matter if the reaction was good or bad Paz can affect everyone. I am going to end my paper with the way Octavio Paz started his speech on December 8 1990 “I begin with two words that all men have uttered since the dawn of.

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Octavio Paz – Mexican Poet, Cultural Essayist, Translator. (2018, Oct 11). Retrieved from


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