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Paz was born to Octavio Paz Solórzano and Josefina Lozano. His father was an active supporter of the Revolution against the Díaz regime. Paz was raised in the village of Mixcoac (now a part of Mexico City) by his mother Josefina (daughter of Spanish immigrants), his aunt Amalia Paz, and his paternal grandfather Ireneo Paz, a liberal intellectual, novelist, publisher and former supporter of President Porfirio Díaz. He studied at Colegio Williams. When he was five years he spent a year in Los Angeles with his family.
Paz was introduced to literature early in his life through the influence of his grandfather's library, filled with classic Mexican and European literature. During the 1920s, he discovered the European poets Gerardo Diego, Juan Ramón Jiménez, and Antonio Machado, Spanish writers who had a great influence on his early writings. As a teenager in 1931, under the influence of D. H. Lawrence, Paz published his first poems, including "Cabellera". Two years later, at the age of 19, he published Luna Silvestre ("Wild Moon"), a collection of poems. In 1932, with some friends, he founded his first literary review, Barandal. By 1939, Paz considered himself first and foremost a poet.
In 1937, Paz abandoned his law studies and left for Yucatán to work at a school in Mérida for sons of peasants and workers. There, he began working on the first of his long, ambitious poems, "Entre la piedra y la flor" ("Between the Stone and the Flower") (1941, revised in 1976), influenced by T. S. Eliot, which describes the situation of the Mexican peasant under the greedy landlords of the day.
In 1937, Paz was invited to the Second International Writers Congress in Defense of Culture in Spain during the country's civil war, showing his solidarity with the Republican side and against fascism. Upon his return to Mexico, Paz co-founded a literary journal, Taller ("Workshop") in 1938, and wrote for the magazine until 1941. In 1937 he married Elena Garro, now considered one of Mexico's finest writers, whom he met in 1935. They had one daughter, Helena. They were divorced in 1959. In 1943, Paz received a Guggenheim fellowship and began studying at the University of California at Berkeley in the United States, and two years later he entered the Mexican diplomatic service, working in New York for a while. In 1945, he was sent to Paris, where he wrote El Laberinto de la Soledad ("The Labyrinth of Solitude"), "an analysis of modern Mexico and the Mexican personality in which he described his fellow countrymen as instinctive nihilists who hide behind masks of solitude and ceremoniousness," according to The New York Times. In 1952, he travelled to India for the first time and, in the same year, to Tokyo, as chargé d'affaires, and then to Geneva, in Switzerland. He returned to Mexico City in 1954, where he wrote his great poem
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