Carlos Blanco Aguinaga (1926-2013)

September 16, 2013

Carlos_Blanco_VolunteerWe have just received news that Carlos Blanco Aguinaga passed away on September 11. Born in the Basque city of Irún in 1926, Carlos Blanco fled with his family across the French border in September 1936, when he was ten years old, and was later exiled to Mexico, along with twenty thousand other Spanish Republicans. He was schooled in Mexico and the United States, where he spent a year at the Western Reserve Academy in Cleveland and received a degree in Literature from Harvard in 1948. After working on cargo ships for some time he returned to Mexico to do graduate work at the Colegio de México (which had been initially founded as an institutional home for exiled Spanish intellectuals). His dissertation dealt with Miguel de Unamuno. Along with other second-generation exile authors in Mexico he founded the literary journal Presencia.

In 1953 Carlos Blanco accepted a post at the Ohio State University, from where he moved to John Hopkins and, later, the University of California at San Diego. At San Diego, he was closely involved with the civil rights movement and, along with Angela Davis and others, helped found a college focused third-world studies.

In the 1980s, after the return of Spanish democracy, he was invited to a professorship at the University of Basque Country. As a prolific, rigorous and charismatic Marxist scholar, he helped reshape the field of Hispanic Studies in the United States and Spain. “With his death we lose one of the most important critical voices of twentieth-century literature,” novelist Rafael Chirbes wrote in El País. “Carlos Blanco Aguinaga taught me how to read.”

In the 1980s he began publishing fiction; two volumes of his memoirs appeared in recent years. In 2009. he spoke about his generation’s life experience at ALBA’s annual reunion in the Bay Area. Read his speech here (pdf).

Also see obituaries in El País and Mundo Obrero.