Biography and History

Elena Garro was born in Puebla, Mexico on 11 or 15 December (dates vary in sources) 1916 to a Spanish father, José Antonio Garro Menendreras, and a Mexican mother, Esperanza Navarro Benítez. She studied at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) where she was enrolled in the College of Philosophy and Letters. She married the Mexican poet Octavio Paz in 1937. Shortly after their marriage, Garro and Paz embarked on a trip to Europe, traveling first to Paris, and then to Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid, Spain. In Valencia, Octavio Paz and the writers José Mancisidor and Carlos Pellicer represented Mexico at the II International Congress of Writers for the Defense of Culture (Congreso Internacional de Escritores para la Defensa de la Cultura). This conference, alternately called the “Congreso de Intelectuales Antifascistas (Congress of Antifascist Intellectuals), as well as some of the turbulent events in Spain during the Civil War (1936-1939), are well-documented in Garro's memoir, Memorias de España 1937 (1992). The author describes how she and Paz met with poets and artists from Spain, Latin America, and many other countries who were in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, including Pablo Casals, Miguel Hernández, León Felipe, Pablo Neruda, and Alejo Carpentier.

After their travels in Spain, Garro and Paz returned to Mexico where they lived until 1944 or 1945, when Paz, on a Guggenheim grant, traveled to and spent time in San Francisco, New York, and Middlebury, Vermont. In the summer of 1945, Paz taught at the Middlebury College Summer School. Two letters in the collection (Elena Garro to Helena Paz, 1945) document Elena Garro's residence in July 1945 in Bread Loaf, Vermont, where she possibly attended the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference of Middlebury College. Also in 1945, Octavio Paz was invited to join the Mexican diplomatic service, and he and Garro went to Paris where he served in his first diplomatic post. Paz and Garro have one child, a daughter Helena, born, according to some sources, on December 12, 1948. According to Garro's memoirs, Octavio Paz initiated divorce proceedings with her in 1959, though it was not until some years later that the Mexican government acknowledged the divorce as legal.

In the early 1950s, Elena Garro lived in Bern, Switzerland, where she recuperated from a serious illness and wrote her novel Los recuerdos de porvenir (Recollection of Things to Come). In the late 1950s, Garro spent time in Mexico, and then returned to Paris. In 1963, Garro returned to Mexico City with her daughter Helena Paz, and the novel Los recuerdos de porvenir was published. In Mexico City, Garro worked as a writer and reporter. Soon after the massacre in the Plaza de Tlatelolco occurred on October 2, 1968, Garro was detained for nine days in the Secretaría de Gobernación by Mexican authorities. She was released and placed under “arraigo,” which meant she had no passport and was not allowed to leave the country. She left Mexico anyway, moving first to New York, N.Y. and then to Spain, in 1971 or early 1972. At the end of the 1970s, she moved to Paris, France. In 1993, Garro and her daughter Helena, returned to Mexico and began living in Cuernavaca. Helena Paz has published poems in France and most recently in Mexico, she has had her poetry published in the cultural section of the newspaper Unomásuno.

Since the publication of Los recuerdos de porvenir, Garro has published other novels, plays, and short stories, several of which have won prizes. Los recuerdos de porvenir won the prestigious Villaurrutia Prize in Mexico in 1964, and the novel Testimonios sobre Mariana won the Juan Grijalbo Prize in 1980. Her highly regarded collection of short stories La semana de colores (1964) includes a short story “La culpa de los Tlaxcaltecas,” translated by Alberto Manguel and included in the anthology Other Fires: Short Fiction by Latin American Women Writers (1986). Garro died in 1998.

Source: From the finding aid for C0827

  • José Bianco Papers. 1928-1985 (inclusive), 1941-1979 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0681

    The José Bianco Papers consists of notes and correspondence of the Argentine editor, author, and translator José Bianco, as well as a small selection of writings by others and audio recordings of Cuban poets José Lezama Lima and Nicolás Guillén reading their poetry.

  • Elena Garro Papers. 1935-1998 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0827

    The Elena Garro Papers consist of manuscripts, correspondence, notebooks, journals, photographs, and printed material of Mexican writer Elena Garro (1916-1998). Included in the papers is correspondence and personal documents of Garro's daughter, Helena Paz Garro (1939-2014), a published poet.

  • Gabriela Mora Collection of Elena Garro. 1974-1980 (bulk), 1974-2005 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0994

    The collection includes correspondence to and from Mexican author Elena Garro and Chilean American critic and scholar Gabriela Mora, a handwritten testament by Elena Garro and photographs of Gabriela Mora, Elena Garro, and Elena Garro's daughter, Helena Paz Garro. Also includes audio recorded interviews of Elena Garro conducted by Gabriela Mora in 1974 and 1979.