Biography of José Emilio Pacheco: His Life and Works

With a very personal style, José Emilio Pacheco, an outstanding writer of Mexican literature of the XNUMXth century, and a great intellectual of these times, becomes one of the most outstanding members of the so-called Mid-Century Generation, due to his literary culture. and poetic sensibility. We invite you to discover the details of the Biography of Jose Emilio Pacheco.

biography of jose emilio pacheco

Biography of Jose Emilio Pacheco

La Biography of Jose Emilio Pacheco tells us that this great literary man is the son of María del Carmen Berny Abreu and José María Pacheco Chi, José Emilio Pacheco Berny was born at 183 Guanajuato Street in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City on June 30, 1939, living there much of his childhood, and then moved to the city of Veracruz where he lived with his grandparents.

His initiation into literature was due to two fundamental aspects, the first was the discovery of a large family library, and the second, the experience with Professor Moreno Tagle, whom he met when he was approximately fifteen years old and who was the one who guided him in his first readings and in the fact of knowing Mexican literature.

However, his passion for literature began at a very young age, when at the age of 8 he attended a musical adaptation of Don Quixote de la Mancha, directed by Salvador Novo, at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City; and according to his own words, that show revealed to him that the language in which he was born «can be for those who know how to use it, something similar to the music of the show, the colors of the clothes and the houses that illuminate the stage».

According to the biography of José Emilio Pacheco, he married the Mexican journalist and writer Cristina Romo Hernández, in 1962, with whom he fathered two daughters: Laura Emilia and Cecilia. Cristina Romo Hernández has stood out for writing innumerable children's stories, and she has important and recognized awards to her credit, including the National Journalism Award.

The writer José Emilio Pacheco died on January 26, 2014, at the age of 74, at the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition in Mexico City, due to cardiorespiratory arrest. José Emilio Pacheco had been hospitalized a day earlier after suffering a fall when he tripped over the books that were stored in his study when he had just written his column "Inventory" for the weekly "Proceso", hitting his head hard. "He left quietly, he left in peace," said his beloved daughter Laura Emilia Pacheco. He goes down in history as one of the greats of Latin America along with other writers such as Chavez Nogales.

José emilio pacheco

literary influences

Furthermore, the Biography of Jose Emilio Pacheco brings us closer to his favorite authors. In his free time he would read works by authors Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde, Manuel Payno, Amado Nervo, Jorge Luis Borges, Alfonso Reyes and Rubén Darío, without counting the visits made by a series of prominent writers such as José Vasconcelos, Héctor Pérez Martinez, Juan de la Cabada, Juan José Arreola, among others, to his parents' house, where the boy José Emilio did not tire of listening to them and learning from them, and their experiences.

In his childhood, his grandparents gave him the novel Quo Vadis, and he made a children's version of it to go beyond where its author had left it, demonstrating to what extent he could continue what others started.

From that moment the biography of José Emilio continued to venture into the world of poetry, chronicles, novels, short stories, narrative, translation and literary criticism, during the following years of his life, appearing alongside the great Latin American poets such as Carlos Monsiváis, Eduardo Lizalde, Sergio Pitol, Juan Vicente Melo, Juan García Ponce, Salvador Elizondo, and Sergio Galindo, among others.

He began writing in adolescence, publishing his articles in newspapers and student magazines of the Preparatory School in 1955 called 'Proa', in Mérida between 1956 and 1958 he wrote in 'Diario de Yucatán' and 'Diario del Sureste'; at the Faculty of Law he wrote the student studies 'Índice' (1957) and 'Letras Nuevas', the latter for Philosophy and Letters at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

He was part of the bohemian and cosmopolitan vision of his generation, addressing themes such as children's universes and fantasy, history and cyclical time, even the city and death itself. Her narrative stands out for discussing life in the modern world, and the use of unsophisticated language in literature and her artistic production.

José emilio pacheco

His studies

The data Biography of Jose Emilio Pacheco reveals to us that he studied Law and Letters at the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) and there he began in the magazine Medio Siglo, abandoning his studies at the age of 19 to dedicate himself entirely to literature.

He formed the direction of the Ramas Nuevas supplement of the Estaciones magazine and the editorial staff of the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) magazine. He also served as editor-in-chief of the supplement México en la cultura.

He also directed the library of university students, in addition, a member of the National College since 1986. He worked as a researcher in the Department of Historical Studies of the INAH (National Institute of Anthropology and History), where his work was on the reconstruction of life Mexican culture of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, this influenced José Emilio Pacheco to broaden his perspective on life, being reflected in many of his works. Different anthologies emerged from this work, many of which were translated into different languages.

He was a professor at various universities in Mexico, at the University of Maryland (College Park) and the University of Essex, among others in the United States, Canada and England.

The backbone of his works are the passage of time, life and death. For his part, his poetic and narrative work is based on the extreme refinement of ornamental elements. For this he introduces topics such as the loss of childhood and affective relationships. In most of his works, his concern and social and historical commitment to his country stand out.

His articles and essays are characterized by being based on literature, addressing political and social issues. His verses are written in everyday language that makes them deceptively simple, and his poetry often turns ironic.

Jose Emilio Pacheco 5

Works by Jose Emilio Pacheco

A common feature of his works is the constant renewal and re-evaluation, since he considered literature as dynamic and changing. José Emilio Pacheco perceives literature as something that moves, that changes, which led him to reread, improve and reconsider his own works, in a desire for self-criticism. His conception of rewriting encompasses the dialogue with previous texts.

At the Cervantes Prize award ceremony, he commented: "read a lot, write a lot, publish a little", in fact, his books, which are few, are an example of difficult simplicity, he never stopped correcting himself. For what he considered endless writing, a work that is constantly corrected not only by its author, but also by contact with its readers.

José Antonio Pascual Rodríguez, member of the Cervantes Prize jury and representative of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), referring to José Emilio Pacheco, expressed the following:

“An exceptional poet of everyday life, with a depth, a freedom of thought, an ability to create his own world, an ironic distance from reality when necessary, and a use of language… that is impeccable”

José Emilio Pacheco described translations with the term approximations, for him making a translation was a creative task that he did with that intermediation, it was not just transferring from one language to another, but also using creativity.

In addition to approaching texts for adults, he dedicated himself to translating as a complementary activity, texts with the intention of reaching children, having as his own experience the knowledge that literature was reached from a very young age. As an example of these texts we have "Alice for children" by Lewis Carrol, "The book of riddles" by Mónica Beisner, "Circos" by Vicente Rojo, and "The mirror of echoes" by Jesus Cisneros.

José Emilio Pacheco stands out for using direct and simple, humble and normal words in his works, which differed from the figurative language used by the other great poets of the time. His verses do not have any type of idle ornament, and they are exposed in a colloquial language, which makes them extremely simple.

Love becomes an element always visible in its different stages, both in his poetic work and in the narrative; for example, in his book "Battles in the desert" he narrates love at the beginning of adolescence, as in "At the beginning of pleasure", including erotic themes in some of his poems.

He participated in different cultural magazines and supplements, such as "La cultura de México, siempre!", directed by Fernando Benitez, whom he considered his guide and best friend, contributing to his career acquiring great quality and becoming recognized.

For decades he worked as a contributor to the Mexican political and social opinion and analysis weekly called "Proceso." And in the Excelsior newspaper, in its cultural supplement Diorama, it shone in its “inventory” column, being first a miscellaneous column, to gradually become a monograph, the recurring theme being literature and its authors; "Inventory" became one of the most surprising and creative works of José Antonio Pacheco, one of the main reasons for him to be awarded and recognized with the National Prize for Journalism in 1980.

Below we will detail his works, specifying the genres of poetry, short stories, novels, articles, translations and anthologies. We will do this list chronologically.


Poetry was undoubtedly his genre, with the extreme refinement of ornamental elements being a primary characteristic of his poetic work, written in everyday language and very simple, being understandable by any type of reader. He always highlighted the social and political commitment to his country, always emphasizing the issues of life, death and the passage of time. In addition, many of his poetic works are full of irony, black humor and parody.

For José Emilio Pacheco writing was his being. “The language in which I was born constitutes my only wealth”, he said in 2010 when he was awarded the prestigious Cervantes Prize. According to Pacheco's vision, the poet is the critic of his time and a metaphysician concerned with the meaning of history, history and criticism must go hand in hand. He is convinced that writing has a popular character, that it lacks a specific author and belongs to everyone.

In his work “Don't ask me how time passes”, he introduces irony and critical irreverence as main characteristics, this being the one that marks an important change in his poetic work. With his work "You will go and you will not return" he reflects a special interest in denouncing injustice, as it is a work of a social nature.

According to Biography of Jose Emilio Pacheco, the famous writer of Mexican literature has left us the following works as a poetic legacy:

  • The Elements of the Night (1963)
  • The Rest of the Fire (1966)
  • Don't Ask Me How Time Flies (1969)
  • You will go and you will not return (1973)
  • Drifting Islands (1976)
  • Since then (1979)
  • The works of the sea (1983)
  • I look at the earth (1987)
  • Memory City (1990)
  • The Silence of the Moon (1996)
  • The Wandering Sand (1999)
  • Last Century (2000)
  • Sooner or later (Poems 1958-2009) (2009; complete poetry, FCE)
  • Like the rain (2009)
  • The Dark Ages (2009)
  • The Mirror of Echoes (2012)

biography of jose emilio pacheco 1


His stories stand out for being containers with few ornamental details and also for their brevity. José Emilo Pachecho gives us the opportunity to read among his stories:

The Distant Wind (1963)

Among the stories written by José Emilio Pacheco, are "The distant wind" written in 1963, in which children learn to survive in an unfavorable and absurd environment, and adolescents who experience the ardor of first loves and the ashamed of being underestimated. In this work, rejection, violence and threats appear hidden when they are least expected.

The Pleasure Principle (1972)

For its part, The Pleasure Principle is made up of five short stories and a short novel, where love and sexuality are revealed in an environment of perversity, falsehood, and depravity. The rest of the stories reveal friendship, hate and dependency, being able to be considered as extraordinary stories of an inadmissible reality, which despite changing every day, basically remains the same.

The Blood of Medusa and Other Fringe Tales (1956 and 1984)

The blood of Medusa was not conceived by José Emilio Pacheco as a book, but rather it is the grouping of the stories written in the first years of his career, those published in his early years in little-known magazines, and some more that are not known. they had collected.


  • You'll Die Away (1967)
  • The Battles in the Desert (1981)

You will die far away is a novel and therefore it is hypothetical, it is presented as a bold experiment that handles different narrative planes, which shows the story of a man who goes to the park every day and can be a vigilante who observes the actions of em , a man who hides in one of the neighboring houses and who, as he suspects that he is being spied on, watches the other carefully trying to verify his intentions.

It is not known if eme is a Nazi criminal, nor if the other has finally located him in a long persecution that extends for years. This present invokes the war of the Roman Empire against the Jews and the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and advances to the expulsion of Thessaloniki, to the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto, to culminate in the extermination camps where Nazi Germany mechanized genocide.

The battles in the desert, is a short masterful novel that narrates a sweet and bitter story of an impossible love, full of nostalgia, with an ordinary terror that the protagonists preferred to believe that it is something phantasmagorical and extraordinary, involving aspects such as the loss of childhood, social and political corruption, the beginning of modern Mexico and the country's despair.


To describe «Inventario», there is nothing better than making a verbatim quote from the prologue by Juan Viloro in the second edition of it:

Foreword by Juan Villoro to the second edition

From 1973 to 2014, for four decades, the weekly column "Inventory" was an unavoidable reference for understanding culture in Mexico. The immense erudition of José Emilio Pacheco allowed his readers to approach both Mexican and universal literature, history and the most significant cultural events. Pacheco sought to understand events by linking them to broader contexts, often in unexpected ways.

"Inventory" became from the first years a new literary genre, a space where everything fit and where everything was connected with everything in always agile, exciting and intelligent texts, where history and literature constantly crossed and where they often met. I had the feeling of being before crucial moments.

In the “inventory” genre, imagination and information, a sense of humor and the finest texts about the great poets of history, from Sappho to Juan Gelman, naturally coexisted. Many of his themes returned in new "Inventories": the French Intervention, the liberals of the Mexican nineteenth century, López Velarde, Darío, Borges, Paz, modernism, Vasconcelos, the murder of Obregón as a setting for fictional characters.

Pacheco always wanted his “Inventories” to be collected in a book, but never all of them. This selection follows his instructions and covers the many facets of this column. These three volumes include a third of the published texts and give a clear account of his well-deserved prestige. Inventory. Anthology is the most long-awaited book by José Emilio Pacheco.

  • Inventory I. Anthology. 1973-1983 (2017)
  • Inventory II. Anthology. 1984-1992 (2017)
  • Inventory III. Anthology. 1993-2014 (2017)


  • Four Quartets, by TS Eliot
  • What It Looks Like by Samuel Beckett
  • Imaginary Lives, by Marcel Schwob
  • Deep, by Oscar Wilde
  • A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams


Anthology of modernism (1884-1921) (1970). Mexico, UNAM: José Emilio Pacheco integrated in "Anthology of Mexican Modernism" the texts that forever changed the meaning of the word poetry; in these texts the calligrams are drawn, the initial Mexican haikus are gathered and the first erotic verses appear, highlighting the urban, small-town and natural landscapes of the country.

This anthology is marked by the exploits of literature and not by politics. Poems by Manuel Gutierrez Nájera and Ramón López Velarde, including poets from the modernist constellation such as Francisco Gonzalez León, Father Alfredo R. Placencia, Manuel José Othón, Luis G. Urbano, and Salvador Díaz Mirón.

film and music

The works of José Emilio Pacheco were successfully shown in film, music and radio, crossing the borders of literary spaces. In 1972, "El Castillo de la Puridad", directed by Arturo Ripstein, and the script was made by José Emilio Pacheco, where the following actors participated: Claudio Brook, Rita Macedo, Arturo Beristáin, Diana Bracho, María Rojo, Gladys Bermejo, among others.

In 1987 an adaptation to the novel "The battles of the desert" was produced, called "Mariana, Mariana" directed by Alberto Isaac, and guided by Vicente Leñero, with the participation of the actors Luis Mario, Gerardo Quiroz, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., Aarón Hernán, Saby Kamalich, and Elizabeth Aguilar.

Then, in 1992, a musical lyric based on the story of the book "Las Batallas en el Desierto" is made, called "Las Batallas" presented in the single Café Tacuba of the homonymous group.

In 1995, the Nuevo León Symphony Orchestra launched a symphonic work for tenor called “El reso del fuego”, and the symphony orchestra by the Monterrey composer Gustavo A. Farías García, which included poems from the homonymous book. by Jose Emilio Pacheco.

In the years 1961-1964, a weekly program of conversations and commentaries on literary news is carried out on Radio Universidad UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) called "Between books" with the participation of Carlos Monsivais, Rosario Castellanos, Juan Vicente Melo, and Sergio Pitol.

In the years 1961-1969, "Cine Verdad" was published, Chronicler of the film weekly, a cultural publication of Mexican cinemas, with the participation of Gabriel García Márquez, Julieta Campos, Carlos Fuentes, Luis Suárez and Juan Dutch.

And finally, in 1968, the album with a prologue by Eduardo Lizalde was released to the public, with the Voz Viva de México, from UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico).


It should be noted that José Emilio Pacheco has less recognition and awards than he deserves in his category, for being a discreet and very conservative writer, however, his career was worthy of prestigious and very important awards, which we name below:

  • His first Prize was Magda Donato 1967 for You will die away
  • Aguas Calientes National Poetry Award 1969 for Don't ask me how time goes by
  • He was awarded the Xavier Villaurrutia Prize in 1973 for The pleasure principle
  • Doctor Honoris Causa of the Autonomous University of Sinaloa (November 16, 1979)
  • Also, obtained the National Prize of Journalism of Mexico 1980 for Cultural Disclosure
  • Malcom Lowry 1991 for career (Literary essay)
  • National Prize for Sciences and Arts in the Area of ​​Linguistics and Literature 1992
  • José Asunción Silva for the best book of poems in Spanish published between 1990 and 1995
  • Mazatlan of Literature 1999
  • He was awarded the José Donoso Ibero-American Prize for Letters in 2001.
  • He also received the Octavio Paz International Prize for Poetry and Essay 2003
  • Ibero-American Poetry Ramón López Velarde 2003
  • Alfonso Reyes International Award 2004
  • He was awarded the 2004 Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Prize.
  • Poetry Federico García Lorca 2005
  • Honorary member of the Mexican Academy of Language (May 23, 2006)
  • Queen Sofía Award for Ibero-American Poetry 2009
  • They also awarded him the 1808 Medal, awarded by the government of the Federal District (June 25, 2009)
  • Gold Medal for Fine Arts, awarded by the Ministry of Public Education of Mexico (June 28, 2009)
  • Cervantes Prize 2009
  • Honorary doctorate from the Autonomous University of Nuevo León (September 11, 2009)
  • In addition, he received an honorary doctorate cause by the Autonomous University of Campeche (March 3, 2010)
  • honorary doctorate cause by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (September 23, 2010)
  • Alfonso Reyes Award 2011, from El Colegio de México

Among his famous phrases:

«I chose to be a writer and at this point I am still an apprentice

who knows nothing of his work and for whom each page

is again the first and may be the last»


A reader since childhood, the biography of José Emilio Pacheco belongs to the last generation that lived the world through radio. From the university period is the origin of his friendship with Carlos Monsiváis, as well as his first participation in various magazines, among which Medio Siglo and Estaciones stand out. In 1958 the volume of stories "The blood of Medusa" was published, later in the decade of the 60s the collection of poems "The elements of the night", "The rest of the fire" appeared, and the emblematic work within his lyrical production "Don't ask me how time flies."

The publication of the novel «You will die far away» dates back to this decade, which has been said to be one of the best narrative works of the time. Titles such as «You will go and you will not return», «Islands adrift», «Zoology album», «The silence of the moon», or the endearing novel «The battles in the desert» and the stories collected in «The beginning of pleasure" and "The distant wind" make José Emilio Pacheco not only a prolific author but one of the voices that masterfully reflects a nostalgic Mexico, a city that rests on the collective conscience of the passengers of the XNUMXth century.

But his works transcend beyond the narrative and poetic borders, his work as an editor, columnist and essayist, as well as a literary historian prove it. It is also necessary to highlight his performance as a translator, facets that make José Emilio Pacheco one of the great masters of Mexican literature.

The literary career reflected in the biography of José Emilio Pacheco has been recognized with the most important awards such as the Javier Villaurrutia Prize, the Aguas Calientes Poetry Prize, as well as the National Prize for Literature and Linguistics or the José Asunción Silva Prize for the best book. of poems in Spanish published between 1990 and 1995, to name a few. Most of his life was spent in a total and unlimited dedication to literature, to the preservation of Mexican memory and to the enrichment of culture.

If you want a summary of the Biography of Jose Emilio Pacheco We invite you to watch the next video:

Be the first to comment

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *



  1. Responsible for the data: Actualidad Blog
  2. Purpose of the data: Control SPAM, comment management.
  3. Legitimation: Your consent
  4. Communication of the data: The data will not be communicated to third parties except by legal obligation.
  5. Data storage: Database hosted by Occentus Networks (EU)
  6. Rights: At any time you can limit, recover and delete your information.