Obituary: Germn List Arzubide

GERMAN LIST Arzubide was one of the last survivors of the 1910- 20 Mexican revolution. He fought alongside his hero the Indian peasant leader Emilio Zapata, and was wounded and imprisoned three times.

He was also a highly innovative and original poet, though his work is now not well known outside Mexico. He wrote his first poem on the wall of his prison cell, a satirical portrait of his gaoler, who was too much of a self-centred macho thick-head to realise that he was the subject of the poem.

List wrote many poems extolling Zapata, which were at first underground works but became very popular after the leader's assassination at the Hacienda de Chinameca, Morelos, in 1919. List's biography of his leader, Emiliano Zapata: exaltacion, appeared in 1927, and in 1973, to mark the centenary of the birth of another radical, Francisco I. Madero, who had been assassinated in 1910, he published Madero: el Mexico de 1910.

The revolutionary movement was begun by poor peasants whose ejidos (common land) had been appropriated by rich private owners, leaving the peasants destitute. Another hero of those times was Pancho Villa, a poor peasant who became a cattle-stealer, assassinated in 1923. The rallying cry, often found in List's poems, was "Tierra y Libertad!" ("Land and Liberty!").

The literary work of List and his contemporaries, both poets and novelists (including Martin Luis Guzman and Mariano Azuela), create the best picture of those passionate uprisings. The great Mexican poet Octavio Paz wrote, in Los Hijos del Limo ("Sons of the Soil", 1974), about the eternal Mexican tradition of "rupture with the past." In a perpetual climate of revolt, it was natural, indeed inevitable, that the literature of the period should also rise up in rebellion.

The young writers of Latin America strove to break all links with the past, and in emulation of all the new "isms" in Europe - Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism and so on - invented a full hand of isms of their own, ultraism, criollism (Chile), creacionismo and many more, that were to lead eventually to today's much- abused "magic realism".

In Mexico, List and his contemporaries invented their own movement, the movimiento estridentismo - as the Spanish suggests, it really was "strident" in its glorification of noisy modern scientific and industrial developments. It was started by Manuel Maples Arce in 1922, and List followed him in writing about fast trains, racing cars, aeroplanes, telephones and ocean liners, an obsession with the violent and the new that resemble Italian futurism, but from a Marxist viewpoint. Other "strident" writers included Luis Quintanilla and Salvador Gallardo. List wrote the definitive book about the movement, El movimiento estridentista (1926).

This group's work, and the writings of all the other "ism" groups, give us a vivid portrait of the revolution and its leaders, a far cry from Marlon Brando's overblown impersonation of the national hero in Elia Kazan's 1952 film Viva Zapata. A much more reliable and truthful cinematic version is the documentary by Raymundo Gleyzer, The Frozen Revolution, which contains rare newsreel footage of Zapata and Pancho Villa. List was one of the many revolutionaries interviewed in the film.

On his 100th birthday, earlier this year, List told an interviewer: "I want to die smiling, as I expect to do soon, since I don't want to continue abusing life, especially when the doctors have taken all the fun away by forbidding me alcohol and women." That is the authentic voice - rebellious to the very end.

Germn List Arzubide, poet, writer and revolutionary: born Puebla, Mexico 31 May 1898; died Mexico City 19 October 1998.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits