José Vasconcelos was born on Feb. 27, 1882, inOaxaca, but the family soon moved to Piedras Negras. When José started to school, he walked across the bridge each day to attend classes on the Texas side of the Rio Grande. Later the family moved tovarious other Mexican cities, and for a time he attended the Instituto Campechano (Campeche Institute) and then, in Mexico City, the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (National Preparatory School) and thelaw school, receiving his law degree in 1907.
Vasconcelos belonged to the Ateneo de la Juventud (Athenaeum for Young People) and participated in the Mexican Revolution on the side of Francisco Maderoand Pancho Villa, meanwhile publishing numerous articles on the activities of Mexican intellectuals. When the revolution triumphed, Álvaro Obregón appointed him president of the National Universityof Mexico, and from 1921 to 1924 he made an extraordinary contribution as secretary of public education, organizing popular education, creating libraries, stimulating mural painting, carrying out anextensive program of publication, and importing educators such as Pedro Henriquez Ureña and Gabriela Mistral.
In 1925 he published La raza cósmica (The Cosmic Race), followed by Indologia (Indology) in1926, in both of which he dealt with the culture of Hispanic America.
Because of political difficulties, Vasconcelos had to leave Mexico several times, so he traveled in Europe and the UnitedStates. In 1929 he launched his campaign for the presidency of Mexico but was defeated and again went into exile, living in Europe, Asia, and South America. From Paris and Madrid he directed Laantorcha (The Torch), a magazine which he published in the years following his presidential campaign.
Vasconcelos is best known for the four volumes constituting his autobiography: Ulises criollo (1935; A...