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José Vasconcelos

José Vasconcelos Calderón (1882—1959) was an influential public intellectual who came to prominence after the Mexican Revolution. Appointed the first Secretary of Public Education, he founded the government ministry. In so doing, he set the tone for the entire century to follow.

Originally a law student, he was an early supporter of the revolution. By 1920, even prior to the presidency of Álvaro Obregón, he became head the National University. When Obregón took office (1920-1924), Vasconcelos was appointed head of Public Education and left to build the entire department.

He then worked to bring educators and artists to Mexico and created numerous public libraries and the Institute of Fine Arts (today's INBAL).

He's often credited with instigating the muralism movement among the painters of the day. And his intellectual work, today largely fallen from favor, receives a slightly more thorough discussion in the article on the Monumento a la Raza. His enormous work covered not just philosophy, but sociology and pedagogy, journalism, and even drama.

His contribution to Mexican society and public life is all the more staggering in considering that it emerged in response to the chaos of the revolution. José Vasconcelos is today well remembered in sites, schools, libraries, and monuments all over Mexico City. Across the country, there are still more. The sites related to his life and work will give just the beginnings of a venture into understanding his thoughts.

Works cited on this page:
Fernández, Tomás y Tamaro, Elena. «Biografia de José Vasconcelos». En Biografías y Vidas. La enciclopedia biográfica en línea [Internet]. Barcelona, España, 2004. Disponible en [fecha de acceso: 25 de marzo de 2022].

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