Panteòn de Dolores, Ave. Constituyentes, Panteón Civíl de Dolores, 11100 Miguel Hidalgo, CDMX
Jaime Mario Torres Bodet (17 April 1902 – 13 May 1974) was a prominent Mexican politician and writer who served in the executive cabinet of three Presidents of Mexico.
Torres Bodet was born in Mexico City. His mother was Emilia Bodet Levallois, a Peruvian of French heritage, and his father was Alejandro Torres Girbent from Barcelona. The couple met in Peru, married and migrated to Mexico in the very late 19th century. His father was a promoter of operas and theatre, activities which impressed Jaime as a young child. Jaime was one of two children. He had a younger brother, Mario, who died very young and to whom Torres Bodet does not refer in his memoirs. His mother was a great influence on him, but his relationship with his father was less close as he was rarely home. He ran the Esperanza Iris Theater and arranged shows such as appearances by Enrico Caruso. The family was wealthy, living in a home on Donceles Street that allow them to see then-president Porfirio Díaz arrive for official business at the Chamber of Deputies across the street. Both of Torres Bodet's parents stressed literature and the arts. His early education was the purview of his mother, who taught him piano, reading and the Gallic language. This allowed him to enter directly into the third grade when he started school. In 1912, he graduated the sixth grade, he received as a gift the collection of "The Natural Episodes" by Benito Pérez Galdós, along with many other books. He attended high school at the National Preparatory School, where his literary development began, befriending like-minded people in Bernardo Ortiz de Montellano, José Gorostiza, Carlos Pellicer and Luis Garrido. Torres Bodet came of age during the Mexican Revolution. He published his first book of poems at age 16.
In 1929, he published Biombos, Poesias, Destierro (Screens, Poetries, Unearthing). In the same year, he founded with a group of friends a magazine called Los Contemporáneos (Contemporaries). The group behind this publication would become known as the "no grupo" (not a group) or "grupo sin nombre" (nameless group) and consisted of Enrique González Rojo, Benardo Ortiz de Montellano, José Gorostiza, Salvador Novo, Xavier Villaurrutia along with Torres Bodet. The purpose of Contemporáneos was to promote an expressive and poetic movement called Nuevo Ateneo, which had begun in 1924. The publication was quickly criticized as for not being in line with the current revolutionary ideology, nor patriotic enough. In fact, it was apolitical, itself becoming a political statement He had contact with various other writers such as Federico García Lorca, Alberto del Toro Aguirre, Pedro Salinas (Generation of 27), Paul Valery and Valery Larbaud.
If condominiums and apartments attracted middle-class gays, wealthier men were seduced by the social possibilities large manses afforded them. Located in quaint, cobblestoned, suburban colonial towns like San Angel and Coyoacan, manses enabled cabinet members and wealthy professionals to lead anonymous, quiet lives in homes set back amid vast walled gardens. Luis Montes de Oca, Minister of Revenue, and Genaro Estrada, Minister of Foreign Affairs, lived in compounds where they hosted pool parties for handsome gay men, notably actors and film producers Ramón Novarro, José Mojica, Felipe Subervielle and Agustin J. Fink. Estrada’s home held prized homoerotic objets, like a four-poster bed with life-size male statues – replicas of the famed Medici tombs in Florence. Montes de Oca constantly remodelled his colonial manse, knocking down walls to exhibit his antiques better. Living with a single male servant, Montes de Oca regarded himself as the guardian of San Angel, spurring his neighbours to maintain the neighbourhood’s architectural unity. Genaro Estrada’s home in Las Lomas was featured in society magazine Social, as a backdrop to photographs depicting the wife he married prior to accepting a cabinet post, a tactic that Jaime Torres Bodet later emulated when he accepted his first ministerial appointment in 1943. Estrada’s mother and sisters lived in his large home with his wife and daughter. Estrada did not spend much time at home, preferring instead to hang out in restaurants, cafes and bookstores, or in the homes of gay couples like Antonio Adalid Pradel and Antonio Dodero. After a day of work, he would meet friends to discuss books and politics at Robredo’s bookstore, then dine at Prendes, a Spanish restaurant where he hosted intimate dinners, before retiring home. Estrada – who as a result of his obesity, suffered from high-blood-pressure – spent most weekends in Cuernavaca, whose lower elevation benefited his weak heart. There, he would invite male friends to accompany him, among them exiled Spanish intellectual José Moreno Villa.
Torres Bodet was appointed Secretary of Public Education (1943–46) by President Manuel Ávila Camacho; he then served as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1946–1951) under President Miguel Alemán Valdés. He was the ambassador of Mexico to France from 1954 to 1958. Later, in 1958–64, he was again appointed to serve as Secretary of Public Education, this time under President Adolfo López Mateos. He believed that the answer to Mexico's problem lie with education, that it could diminish crime, corruption, lack of employment, etc. This was particularly true with vocational education, despite himself being a poet. According to his personal secretary Rafael Solana, President Manuel Ávila Camacho offered to guarantee him the presidency, but Torres reminded him that it was prohibited under Article 82 of the Mexican Constitution as he was only a first generation Mexican. He retired from public life after his stint as the Secretary of Public Education, rejecting various positions that were offered to him. Between 1929 and the outbreak of the Second World War, Torres Bodet held diplomatic positions in Madrid, The Hague, Paris, Buenos Aires and Brussels. He served as director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from 1948 to 1952. From 1955 to 1958 he was Ambassador to France.
He lost sight in one eye in 1954, while returning to Mexico City from Cuernavaca. He spent the last years of his life dedicated only to writing his memoirs. According to his personal secretary, Rafael Solana, he planned to end his life after finishing them. He had decided he had done everything he wanted to do. His diplomatic career ended when he turned 65, forced to retire. He had a wife but no children or nieces and nephews on his side. His decision to commit suicide was also influenced by a 1956 book called The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima. He was impressed by the idea of destroying a perfect temple rather than letting it decay. He was also affected by the deaths of various friends and associates after long or debilitating illnesses. In 1974, he ended his life with by gunshot. The official version of the story stated that it was due to a long battle with cancer. Solana states Torres Bodet was fine both mentally and physically at the time of his death.
Dr. Jaime Torres Bodet was buried in the Rotunda of Illustrious Men.
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