Folks with experience in Mexico during the period before, say, the 1990s, tend to be impressed with the unparalleled success by anyone with Enrique Krauze’s Polish-Jewish descent – especially considering Mexico’s relentlessly stern Catholic atmosphere.
Krauze was born in Mexico City in 1947, and had a prominent public career even when still in college. (When my wife and I worked for the Reporter’s founder, it meant living part-time in Guadalajara. There we made friends with a young man who was a talented tailor. I was taller – over six feet – than most Mexicans, which meant I had to buy clothing on trips to the border. The tailor I chose here to produce clothing that fit me turned out to be Jewish. I was quickly surprised by what it meant to be Jewish in this then fiercely Catholic country. I had attended a Catholic high school in a small non-Catholic town, but found the harsh atmosphere that my new Jewish friend and his family had to endure more than I had imagined.
Despite the rough notice Krauze’s intelligence often drew, his braininess continued to draw admiring probing attention. He was a member of the student council, he earned a doctorate in history from the highly thought-of Colegio de Mexico. In 1978 he earned a scholarship for studies from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He began writing, and published his first article in the Mexican magazine Siempre when he was 24. A year later he began contributing material to Octavio Paz’s demanding Plural magazine.
He published his first book, “Caudillos culturales en la Revolucion Mexicana” (Cultural Leaders in the Mexican Revolution) in 1979, when he was 25.
The following year, he joined Paz’s editorial staff of Vuelta [“Return”] magazine, serving as deputy editor until 1981. From 1981 to 1996 Krauze was deputy director of the magazine.
He also founded the publishing house Clio in 1992, and a magazine of his own, Letra Libres, in 1999. He was soon an essayist and columnist widely published in Latin America, Spain and the United States, where the New Republic has been the main venue for translations of his work. All this has made him, without doubt, one of the most renowned and important intellectuals in Mexico.
Besides this impressive output, says one admirer, Krauze “has written more than a dozen books of popular history and political criticism, produced numerous television documentaries, become embroiled in intricate polemics, addressed every urgent issue facing Mexico ... and the world ... all without ever holding public office — a circumstance that distinguishes him from his predecessors. All the while he was exerting an increasing influence on Mexican public life.”
(This is a second of a series.)