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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mario Benedetti

For a few years in the 1960s, the tiny South American country of Uruguay saw itself as the cradle of revolution in Latin America. Che Guevara was welcomed there as a hero during a brief visit; the home-grown Tupamaro guerrillas seemed to offer an urban alternative to peasant revolt; and writers on the magazine Marcha and elsewhere busily supplied the theory to back up revolutionary practice. Mario Benedetti, who has died aged 88, was the poet of that moment, becoming famous throughout Latin America for the direct style of his verses of love, anger, and resistance.
Benedetti was born in the small town of Paso de los Toros. Like many Uruguayans, he came from Italian immigrant stock and, following the Italian custom, was given no less than five first names: Mario Orlando Hamlet Hardy Brenno. His father was a pharmacist, but the family fortunes collapsed when he was swindled out of a business, after which Mario was taken to live in Montevideo at the age of four. Benedetti recalls his mother having to sell all the family crockery and silver, and the three of them living in a shack for a number of years, until his father, like a large number of other Uruguayans, was able to find a job working for the state.


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