A few weeks ago an extraordinary book by Federico Reyes Heroles began circulating. It is titled “Orfandad” (Orphanage), and it presents an intimate portrait of Reyes Heroles’ father. He uses a very intelligent literary strategy in which he describes two distinct beings who are embodied in the same person, who is Jesús Reyes Heroles, public official and collaborator with five presidents in key agencies in Mexico as well as Don Jesús, father and husband.
We have never before seen this latter facet of his personality, except through his son. The portrait has a pleasant sharpness. He narrates the pillow fights where he always conquered, the superstitions that were settled with the most novel resources (the episode of the toothpick in the pocket is unsurpassed), the family outings to the corner store, the physical clumsiness that was treated with love but was not excused and the inner workings of the family process during crucial moments in our contemporary history.
We were front row guests to the development and success of the political reform driven by Don Jesús, undoubtably the bravest and most profound reform in the last 50 years. We know about the conversations he had with those representing the violent conservatism at the time, such as Gonzalo N. Santos and Fidel Velázquez, whom Don Jesús represented and affectionately addressed as “my ahuehuete” (the national tree of Mexico), as we now know.
We understand a large part of the personalities of former Mexican presidents Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Luis Echeverría, José López Portillo and Miguel de la Madrid. Most importantly, we now see a large part of our history that defines us as a country with new eyes. In addition to being a filial essay, the book is a treatment of contemporary politics. It is at all times underlined by the great love that Federico has for his father, an outstanding Mexican who could not be replaced. But much more insight is still needed.