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EDITOR'S NOTE: Video clips of Fuentes' lecture are available. Clip#1 and Clip#2

February 13, 2004

Social unity, education key to economic recovery

By Leticia Vasquez

There are no perfect people. No one is free of problems or faults, and this is something we should embrace and use to our advantage to rebuild an economy for the people of the world. That was the message of author Carlos Fuentes at the University of Houston’s annual Farfel Distinguished Lecture Wednesday evening.

In his address, Fuentes, one of the titans of Mexican literature, praised the efforts of authors William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, Anne Bradstreet and William Faulkner, writers who have enriched the human spirit through their imagination and have created a new reality.

“They added something to the world that was not before there,” Fuentes said. “They understood that the purpose of the imagination is to transform the functions of men and women by making us understand ourselves again and again as problematic, as problematic beings.”

Fuentes, author of such critically praised novels as “Inez” and “The Years with Laura Diaz,” lauded the technological advances the United States has made over the years but pointed out countries like Mexico that lack the knowledge and financial backing to achieve similar goals. For them, it is impossible to catch up to their neighbors.

“The global economy, like Mt. Everest, is there. What we have to figure out is how we can achieve it. The new economy has to be criticized, humanized. The necessary powers have to socially reconstruct political control over the economy,” he said.

Fuentes said it is important not to forget those who surround us. With the wealth of knowledge, money and power the Unites States has, it is important to be good neighbors and to maintain good relations with others.

“When we exclude, we are poor; when we include, we are rich. We have to embrace the numbers of our brothers and sisters,” he said.

There is a world that humankind creates, but knowing how to conquer it is the key question. What we must do now, Fuentes said, is nurture the talents of children who will continue the paths we have created for them. Whether it’s though their imagination, their reasoning or their art of communication, tomorrow’s children will continue to create a place in history that is their own.

“We are basically back to square one. We must find the means to build our societies from the ground up, as much as we can with international advantages of the system, as well as the disadvantages. Our priorities for economic recovery must be, should be, invested in social programs, job creations, health and education.”

Today, Fuentes, who also cultivated a career in diplomacy, stands as Mexico’s most celebrated novelist and essayist and one of the greatest literary figures in the Spanish-speaking world.

Fuentes also served as Mexico’s ambassador to France during the 1970s and is currently the Robert F. Kennedy Professor of Latin American Studies at Harvard University.

A winner of the Miguel de Cervantes Prize — the highest honor for a Spanish-language author — and France’s Legion of Honor, Fuentes’ best-known novels include “The Old Gringo,” “The Death of Artemio Cruz” and “Terra Nostra.”