Notes on the early years of the poet

Octavio Paz was born on March 31, 1914. A turbulent year punctuated by betrayal, in Mexico City on the walls of Lecumberri, the Black Palace was still fresh with the blood of Francisco I. Madero. General Huerta’s government had ordered the suspension of the external debt. A coup plotter and usurper, he had decreed to reduce the 50% of the cash guarantee that Mexican banks should maintain, the currency was highly devalued and the discussions were escalating. The Revolution was preparing new weapons and leaders and had left dead on the street corners, alarming news, new hatreds and devotions. But the days followed one another and even with the sound of shrapnel, Mexico City refused to disappear.

At some point in his life, Octavio Paz said that he was born in Mixcoac, at that time more than a suburb, an old town, with large farms, extensive gardens and ancient trees. Incredible place for a poetic initiation where writers could compose texts talking about the terrifying voices that were heard in the Callejón del Diablo and then fall silent when they heard the bells of the San Juan temple.

Mixcoac, the territory of such illustrious writers as José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi and of Reformation heroes such as Valentín Gómez Farías, turned out not to have been his birthplace, but it hardly matters. He came into the world in one of the most elegant neighborhoods in Mexico City: Colonia Juárez, on Calle de Venecia. Paz himself once recognized it when he wrote: “I was not born in Mixcoac, but I lived there throughout my childhood and a good part of my youth. I was barely a few months old when the chances of the Revolution forced us to leave Mexico City; my father joined the Zapata movement in the south while my mother took refuge in the old house of my paternal grandfather, Ireneo Paz, patriarch of the family.”

That grandfather loved books, he had a good library and he instilled in the boy Octavio the habit of reading. First, he read Mexican authors, but later, he found fantastic things that he detailed in a short text: “Among the objects that caused me admiration in my grandfather’s library, there were some revolving lecterns that held an infinity of cards with the portraits of the writers. admired by him. French predominated, although there were other nations and languages: Hugo, Balzac, Zola, Byron, Tolstoy and I don’t remember how many more. There was a special niche for the Spaniards, for Pérez Galdós and Emilia Pardo Bazán and Don Emilio Castelar, patriarch of the Mexican liberals. Another niche was dedicated to republican heroes, such as Lincoln, Gambetta, and Garibaldi, and to revolutionary men: Mirabeau, Desmoulins, Danton, and others. Neither Oliver Cromwell nor Bonaparte could be missing. Among all these notables from abroad, many Mexicans and some Hispanic Americans such as Sarmiento, Bello, Zorrilla and Jorge Isaacs naturally appeared. The card collection was reminiscent of family portraits. In a way it was true: in my house we saw them as distant relatives and guardian figures.”

However, legend also tells that with his father, Octavio Paz had a more difficult relationship. The fact of having militated on the side of the Zapatistas put the family in a difficult economic situation and covered the young poet with absence and pain. After a brief exile he returned to Mexico when the country’s revolutionary passions seemed to die down. However, the bullets that had mowed down the life of Emiliano Zapata in Chinameca had also mowed down the brightest part of his soul, and the brilliant career of Octavio Paz Solórzano, the father of our poet, lawyer and negotiator for the Zapatista cause, was abruptly cancelled. . The defeat of his political side and the stigma of failure, only found refuge in alcohol and a life of delusions and loss placed him further than the same absence. A poem by Paz talks about it: “Tied to the rack of alcohol / between vomiting and thirst / you came and went between flames / I could never talk to you / I remember you now in dreams / that blurred homeland of the dead”

By 1930 Octavio Paz had grown up. The grandfather had died and a new fervor of verses and philosophies inhabited him all the time. He was about to enter the National Preparatory School in San Ildefonso. The city was different and the caudillos of the pistol had disappeared. The young Octavio Paz toured the city, traveling in the huge, comfortable, yellow trams that took fifty minutes from Mixcoac to the Zócalo, and he was close to becoming a poet. His social and violent passion ended up becoming a poetic passion. He became aware that other eyes were looking behind his gaze. His own, as a clerk, from the empty page, from each line where it ceased to be white and was covered with letters- “I did not find opposition between poetry and the Revolution -Paz said regarding those first years- the two were facets of the same movement, two wings of the same passion.”

And with those wings, those of his feather, he flew to fame, fortune and the closest infinity.

Leave a Comment