Mexican novel sells well following school dispute

A dispute over the use of a famous Mexican novel in a secondary school classroom has exposed divisions within Mexico's ruling…

A dispute over the use of a famous Mexican novel in a secondary school classroom has exposed divisions within Mexico's ruling National Action Party (PAN), whose ideological roots lie in pro-Catholic conservatism.

The book in question, Aura, was written decades ago by Mexico's leading novelist Carlos Fuentes, who has spoken out frequently on behalf of President Vicente Fox, the PAN leader who promised a "new era of tolerance" when elected last July.

President Fox's Labour Minister Carlos Abascal initiated the complaint, insisting that the Fuentes novel was unsuitable for his daughter, who attends the church-run Instituto Felix Jesus de Rougier, in Mexico City.

"As parents we have the right to complain when inappropriate reading material is presented to our children" said Mr Abascal, who caused controversy on International Women's Day last month when he advised women to stay at home rather than join the labour market.


Ms Georgina Rabago, the teacher at the centre of the dispute, claimed yesterday that she signed a letter of resignation under pressure from school authorities, who threatened to withdraw her professional teaching licence should she fight the case.

The subsequent publicity led school authorities to cancel Ms Rabago's resignation and offer her her post back as of today but the teacher is still weighing up legal options before returning to work.

President Fox is anxious to shed PAN's image of a conservative, intolerant force which has banned rock concerts, miniskirts and even an advertisement for Wonderbra.

"There probably isn't a single couple in Mexico who doesn't make love beneath an image of the Guadelupe Virgin," Mr Fuentes said, referring to the offending paragraph in his book, singled out as "tasteless" by school authorities.

Mr Abascal advised Mexicans to avoid Fuentes and read Cicero and Jules Verne instead.

"Abascal needs to read Cicero," Mr Fuentes responded. "It might at least improve his rhetoric."

President Fox, in Quebec at the Summit of the Americas, found himself answering questions on classroom censorship. "Every parent has the right to decide what their children read," Mr Fox said, "but the use of education materials is not just an issue of individual preference."

Mexican writers held a public protest in front of government offices this week, including a public reading of the disputed novel.

"I think I owe Mr Abascal a share of the royalties from the book," Mr Fuentes said. Mexican bookshops reported brisk sales of the novel since the controversy began.