(Photo from the IMER website)
It seems that Jose Revueltas was the most revolutionary of the Revueltas siblings, though he was the youngest, and his activism came well after the 1910 revolution in Mexico. He also died well after Fermin and Silvestre, passing away in 1976 at the age of 62. Reading about his life, his work, and his repeated incarcerations at the hands of the Mexican government, I wondered if this gives some insight into the decision of the Revueltas parents to send Silvestre and Fermin to the United States for their education. Jose’s first incarceration was at age 15 and inspired him to write a short story, ” El quebranto” about his experiences, published in the collecton Dios en la Tierra (1944), beginning a life long pattern of defining the struggles of the Mexican left through writings from the persepctive of the individual struggling artist. Ostensibly Silvestre and Fermin were sent to the U.S. to keep them safe and out of trouble during the years of political turmoil during and soon after the revolution. When one looks at the amount of trouble Jose, educated in Mexico City, got into, it seems like they may have had a point. In addition, there seems to have been something about the Revueltas family, the parents, their upbringing, that made them resonate with the ideals of the 1910 revolution. I can’t help wondering what it was exactly. Maybe it was just something “in the air” of that time among educated Mexicans. Maybe it had something to do with the family’s direct experiences, or the leanings and teachings of the Revueltas parents. Maybe there is information to be gleaned in Jose Revueltas papers, some of which are housed at the University of Texas in San Antonio, or by speaking to Revueltas descendants. It seems like a rich vein of historical information. Whatever it was, Jose seems to have been a “lightning rod” in that he conducted these views most strongly of all the siblings.
Another trait that several of the Revueltas siblings seem to have had in common is a certain intelligent outspokenness, and a need to share their opinions about cultural and political events, whether welcome or not. Jose exemplifies this in his dealings with the Mexican Communist party, from which he was kicked out twice due to his criticisms of their bureaucratic process, which some also thought were “the best analysis of the left in Mexico”. The body of work that he created in his life was a continuous commentary on the Mexican Left and Mexican politics in general.
The best known of the Revueltas siblings went into artistic fields and there made memorable contributions, often establishing new schools of thought, philosophies, and leaving significant bodies of work. Jose exemplifies this in his contribution to Mexican literature. He is credited with being one of the early creators of the “Nuevo Narrativo” ( New Narrative) style in Mexican literature, combining two styles that had previously been separate streams, a non-realist imaginative stream, and a realist stream concerned with the revolution. Jose felt strongly that a left wing life should not only be defined in one’s writing and theory, but lived fully, and his own life and the lives of the characters in his writing fleshed out this principle. On his tombstone a quote from Proust was inscribed: “All theory is grey, green is the golden tree of life.”, while in a letter published before his death he asked that after his death his literary works not be treated separately from his political aims, and that he not be canonized. The Revueltas brothers had a complicated relationship with canons, to say the least. Jose exemplified the combination of the imaginative style with writing that was clearly also political in nature, documenting the struggle of left wing individuals within Mexican politics and within left wing political institutions, while pointing the way for new and future left wing movements in Mexico. In this he was relevant and effective to the point where the Mexican government perceived him as a threat, accusing him of being the “Intellectual author” of the 1968 Mexican student movement that culminated in the Tlatelco massacre, and jailing him once again.
Crespi, Simon. “Jose Revueltas (1914-1976): A Political Biography”.Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 6, No. 3, (Summer, 1979), pp. 93-113.
Bosteels, Bruno. “Hegel in Mexico: Memory and Alienation in the Posthumous Writings by José Revueltas”. South Central Review, Vol. 21, No. 3, Memory and Nation in Contemporary Mexico (Fall, 2004), pp. 46-69
Murad, Timothy. “Before the Story: José Revueltas and the Beginnings of the New Narrative in Mexico”. Modern Language Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Winter, 1977-1978), pp. 57-64.
Karsen, Sonja. “Latin American Letters 1964”. Books Abroad, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Spring, 1965), pp. 141-144.