SALVADOR NOVO (d: 1974) was born on this date. A Mexican writer, poet, playwright, translator, television presenter, entrepreneur, he was the official chronicler of Mexico City, his birthplace and home. As a noted intellectual, he influenced popular perceptions of politics, media, the arts, and Mexican society in general.
Novo defied the machismo and conservative Catholicism prevalent in 20th century Mexican culture by making almost no efforts to conceal his homosexuality. He was, however, accepted by the Mexican government. He held official posts related to culture, was elected to the Mexican Language Academy, and had a television program on Mexico City’s history. Towards the end of his life, he dyed his hair a bright carrot color and wore many ostentatious rings and colored suits.
He has been compared to Oscar Wilde, but unlike Wilde, Novo never suffered the setback of scandal or persecution and remained an accepted and respected member of society and governmental circles until his death. In fact, some sectors resented the fact that a gay writer would align himself so closely with the government and media after the repression of social movements in the 1960s and 1970s. He was well known for his wit.
When a party, where young soldiers had been invited by homosexual intellectual friends of his, had degenerated into a fight and a scandal, Salvador Novo brushed off the whole matter with a factual: “This is what happens when members of the intellectual elite try to enter military circles.” In accordance with tradition, the street on which he lived was renamed after him when he assumed the role of Mexico City’s official chronicler, a post held for life.