Vasconcelos, José (hōsāˈ väskōnsāˈlōs) [key], 1882–1959, Mexican educator and writer. He headed (1920–24) the National Univ. of Mexico and, as minister of education under Álvaro Obregón, worked vigorously and with considerable success to establish schools, to persuade the Mexican people of the importance of education, and to raise the literacy rate. For this task he enlisted the aid of prominent figures, notably the poet Gabriela Mistral. In 1929 he was defeated in the presidential race and was forced into exile by Plutarco Elías Calles. As teacher, propagandist, and writer, he attracted a large youthful following, and his fierce localism and belief in Latin American culture as the response of a unique mixture of peoples to a unique physical environment had an effect abroad as well as in Mexico. In later years he became an ardent Roman Catholic and a zealous apologist for the Spanish tradition. He denounced democracy and tended to glorify force and racism. Among his well-known works are La raza cósmica (1925) and Indología (1927). The first volume of his four-volume autobiography (1935–39) is Ulises criollo— also the general title for the whole work, which includes La tormenta, El desastre, and El proconsulado.
See biographies by G. de Beer (1966) and J. H. Haddox (1967).