Vasconcelos, José

Vasconcelos, José

(hōsā` väskōnsā`lōs), 1882–1959, Mexican educator and writer. He headed (1920–24) the National Univ. of Mexico and, as minister of education under Álvaro ObregónObregón, Álvaro
, 1880–1928, Mexican general and president (1920–24). A planter in Sonora, he supported Francisco I. Madero in the revolution against Porfirio Díaz.
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, worked vigorously and with considerable success to establish schools, to persuade the Mexican people of the importance of education, and to raise the literacy rate. For this task he enlisted the aid of prominent figures, notably the poet Gabriela MistralMistral, Gabriela
, 1889–1957, Chilean poet whose original name was Lucila Godoy Alcayaga. She was a teacher in and director of rural schools in Chile before she attained wider acclaim as an educator.
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. In 1929 he was defeated in the presidential race and was forced into exile by Plutarco Elías Calles. As teacher, propagandist, and writer, he attracted a large youthful following, and his fierce localism and belief in Latin American culture as the response of a unique mixture of peoples to a unique physical environment had an effect abroad as well as in Mexico. In later years he became an ardent Roman Catholic and a zealous apologist for the Spanish tradition. He denounced democracy and tended to glorify force and racism. Among his well-known works are La raza cósmica (1925) and Indología (1927). The first volume of his four-volume autobiography (1935–39) is Ulises criollo—also the general title for the whole work, which includes La tormenta, El desastre, and El proconsulado.


See biographies by G. de Beer (1966) and J. H. Haddox (1967).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vasconcelos, José


Born Feb. 28, 1882, in the city of Oaxaca; died June 30, 1959, in Mexico City. Mexican historian, philosopher, and statesman.

During the period of the Mexican Revolution (1910-17), Vasconcelos was on the side of the constitutionalist bourgeois movement. From 1920 to 1925 he was rector of the National University of Mexico. As minister of public education during the years 1921-23 he promoted the development of the Mexican school system. In 1929 the most reactionary elements in the country rallied around the candidacy of Vasconcelos for the presidency of Mexico. After suffering defeat in the election, he attempted to lead an insurrection and then fled abroad. After returning to the country in 1940, Vasconcelos became rector of the University of Sonora and then director of the National Library in Mexico City. A conservative sociologist and philosopher with clearly expressed Roman Catholic sympathies, Vasconcelos was the author of works on philosophy, aesthetics, and history. In his books on history he praised Spanish colonialism, was an opponent of radical social transformations, and condemned mass popular movements. Vasconcelos was also critical of the USA’s policy in Mexico and other Latin American countries, considering it to be bloody, profiteering, and self-serving.


Breve historia de México. Mexico City, 1956.


De Beer, Gabriella. José Vasconcelos and His World. New York, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.