in Cajamarca, Peru
December 25, 1925
April 27, 1998
About this author
Carlos Castaneda (December 25, 1925 – April 27, 1998) was a Peruvian-born American author. Immigration records for Carlos Cesar Arana Castaneda indicate that he was born on December 25, 1925 in Cajamarca, Perú. Records show that his surname was given by his mother Susana Castañeda Navoa. His father was Cesar Arana Burungaray. His surname appears with the ñ in many Hispanic dictionaries, even though his famous published works display an anglicised version. He moved to the United States in the early 1950s and became a naturalized citizen in 1957. In 1960 he was married to Margaret Runyan in Tijuana, Mexico. They lived together for only six months, but their divorce was not finalized until 1973. He was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (B.A. 1962; Ph.D. 1973).
Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his purported training in traditional Mesoamerican shamanism. His 12 books have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages. The books and Castaneda, who rarely spoke in public about his work, have been controversial for many years. Supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices, which enable an increased awareness. Academic critics claim the books are works of fiction, citing the books' internal contradictions, discrepancies between the books and anthropological data, alternate sources for Castaneda's detailed knowledge of shamanic practices and lack of corroborating evidence.
Castaneda died on April 27, 1998 in Los Angeles due to complications from hepatocellular cancer. There was no public service, Castaneda was cremated and the ashes were sent to Mexico. It wasn't until nearly two months later, on June 19, 1998, that an obituary entitled A Hushed Death for Mystic Author Carlos Castaneda by staff writer J.R. Moehringer appeared in the Los Angeles Times.