Carlos Fuentes, a towering literary figure in the Spanish-speaking world, died Tuesday at a hospital in the Mexican capital. He was 83.

The cause of death was not immediately disclosed, but the writer was known to suffer from heart problems.

An acclaimed novelist and essayist who taught at Princeton and other elite universities, Fuentes also served Mexico as a diplomat, though he often despaired over his country's seeming inability to construct an authentic democracy.

Fuentes was the recipient of numerous honors, notably the Cervantes and Prince of Asturias prizes, and his 80th birthday was marked by official celebrations in Mexico.

His many novels included "La region mas transparente" (Where the Air is Clear) "La muerte de Artemio Cruz" (The Death of Artemio Cruz" and "Gringo viejo" (The Old Gringo), which inspired a film starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.

Fuentes, Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the other writers of the Latin American boom "reconnected Spanish literature with modernity" after the centuries when Spain turned its back on universal culture, Juan Goytisolo said in 2008.

The future writer was born Nov. 11, 1928, in Panama City, where his diplomat father, Rafael Fuentes, was then posted.

The elder Fuentes' assignments took the family to Argentina, Chile, Brazil and the United States, among other lands, and most of Carlos' schooling took place outside Mexico.

Though his literary vocation began in childhood, Carlos Fuentes studied law in Geneva and Mexico and followed his father into the Mexican diplomatic corps in 1950.

He represented Mexico before the Geneva-based International Labor Organization and spent three years working in the foreign ministry press office before embarking on a career in literature.

He returned to the diplomatic service in 1974 and became Mexico's ambassador to France in 1977, but resigned the post in protest over the appointment of former Interior Minister Gustavo Diaz Ordaz - blamed by Fuentes for the October 1968 massacre of student protesters in Mexico City - as envoy to Spain.

While he never held another official position, Fuentes remained engaged with politics as one of Mexico's highest-profile public intellectuals.

Reflecting on the transition that began in 2000, when the election victory of Vicente Fox ended 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, Fuentes said the new president "arrived on a wave of renovating enthusiasm that he could not fulfill."