The Mexico Reader: History, Culture, Politics

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The Mexico Reader is a vivid introduction to muchos Méxicos—the many Mexicos, or the many varied histories and cultures that comprise contemporary Mexico. Unparalleled in scope and written for the traveler, student, and expert alike, the collection offers a comprehensive guide to the history and culture of Mexico—including its difficult, uneven modernization; the ways the country has been profoundly shaped not only by Mexicans but also by those outside its borders; and the extraordinary economic, political, and ideological power of the Roman Catholic Church. The book looks at what underlies the chronic instability, violence, and economic turmoil that have characterized periods of Mexico’s history while it also celebrates the country’s rich cultural heritage.

A diverse collection of more than eighty selections, The Mexico Reader brings together poetry, folklore, fiction, polemics, photoessays, songs, political cartoons, memoirs, satire, and scholarly writing. Many pieces are by Mexicans, and a substantial number appear for the first time in English. Works by Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes are included along with pieces about such well-known figures as the larger-than-life revolutionary leaders Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata; there is also a comminiqué from a more recent rebel, Subcomandante Marcos. At the same time, the book highlights the perspectives of many others—indigenous peoples, women, politicians, patriots, artists, soldiers, rebels, priests, workers, peasants, foreign diplomats, and travelers.

The Mexico Reader explores what it means to be Mexican, tracing the history of Mexico from pre-Columbian times through the country’s epic revolution (1910–17) to the present day. The materials relating to the latter half of the twentieth century focus on the contradictions and costs of postrevolutionary modernization, the rise of civil society, and the dynamic cross-cultural zone marked by the two thousand-mile Mexico-U.S. border. The editors have divided the book into several sections organized roughly in chronological order and have provided brief historical contexts for each section. They have also furnished a lengthy list of resources about Mexico, including websites and suggestions for further reading.

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About the author

Gilbert M. Joseph is Farnam Professor of History and Director of Latin American and Iberian Studies at Yale University. He is coeditor of Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico and Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.–Latin American Relations (both published by Duke University Press).

Timothy J. Henderson is Associate Professor of History at Auburn University Montgomery. He is the author of The Worm in the Wheat: Rosalie Evans and Agrarian Struggle in the Puebla-Tlaxcala Valley of Mexico, 1908–1927 (also published by Duke University Press).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Jan 1, 2009
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Pages
808
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ISBN
9780822384090
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Latin America / Mexico
Travel / Mexico
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Agriculture, commerce, and mining were the engines that drove New Spain, and past historians have treated these economic categories as sociological phenomena as well. For these historians, society in eighteenth-century New Spain was comprised, on the one hand, of creoles, feudalistic land barons who were natives of the New World, and, on the other, of peninsulars, progressive, urban merchants born on the Iberian peninsula. In their view, creole-peninsular resentment ultimately led to the wars for independence that took place in the American hemisphere in the early nineteenth century.

Richard B. Lindley’s study of Guadalajara’s wealthy citizens on the eve of independence contradicts this view, clearly demonstrating that landowners, merchants, creoles, and peninsulars, through intermarriage, formed large family enterprises with mixed agricultural, commercial, and mining interests. These family enterprises subdued potential conflicts of interest between Spaniards and Americans, making partners of potential competitors.

When the wars for national independence began in 1810, Spain’s ability to protect its colonies from outside influence was destroyed. The resultant influx of British trade goods and finance shook the structure of colonial society, as abundant British capital quickly reduced the capital shortage that had been the main reason for large-scale, diversified family businesses.

Elite family enterprises survived, but became less traditional and more specialized institutions. This transformation from traditional, personalized community relations to modern, anonymous corporations, with all that it implied for government and productivity, constitutes the real revolution that began in 1810.

Second only to the Soviet Union, Mexico is the country most important to the security and well-being of the United States. Its stability is therefore a major concern. As Prospects for Democracy in Mexico documents, there are problems. This ancient Aztec nation now suffers the worst economic conditions since its revolution exploded in 1910. The economy has been as flat as a tortilla since the oil boom fizzled in the early 1980s, and the purchasing power of workers has declined 50 percent in recent years. Open and disguised unemployment afflicts nearly half of the 26-million-member workforce. External debt keeps upward pressure on interest rates, while the government and private sector must meet $12 billion annually in foreign-debt payments. Widespread pollution continues to contaminate the already fetid air of metropolitan areas such as Mexico City.

Similar conditions in the United States or Western Europe would ignite demonstrations, catalyze strikes, and launch the careers of demagogic politicians. Mexico remains remarkably quiet-with discontent channeled though legitimate institutions such as the Congress, mass media, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). This volume dissects the current situation and forecasts future developments. Diplomats, scholars, public officials, and businessmen contribute sixteen chapters and answer a number of the most critical questions.

It is unlikely that this collection will be surpassed for comprehensive coverage and intellectual balance for years to come. It is supported by in-depth statistical tables covering every phase of Mexican life: from unemployment, religious affiliation, inflation rates, presidential electoral results, military expenditures, and the size of the armed forces. In addition, the volume concludes with a selected biography that Latin Americanists, political scientists, and policy-makers will find essential.

George W. Grayson is the Class of 1938 Professor of Government at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. His books include The Mexican Labor Machine: Power, Politics, and Patronage (1989); Oil and Mexican Foreign Policy (1988); The United States and Mexico; Patterns of Influence (1984); and The Politics of Mexican Oil (1980)
Michel Gobat deftly interweaves political, economic, cultural, and diplomatic history to analyze the reactions of Nicaraguans to U.S. intervention in their country from the heyday of Manifest Destiny in the mid–nineteenth century through the U.S. occupation of 1912–33. Drawing on extensive research in Nicaraguan and U.S. archives, Gobat accounts for two seeming paradoxes that have long eluded historians of Latin America: that Nicaraguans so strongly embraced U.S. political, economic, and cultural forms to defend their own nationality against U.S. imposition and that the country’s wealthiest and most Americanized elites were transformed from leading supporters of U.S. imperial rule into some of its greatest opponents.

Gobat focuses primarily on the reactions of the elites to Americanization, because the power and identity of these Nicaraguans were the most significantly affected by U.S. imperial rule. He describes their adoption of aspects of “the American way of life” in the mid–nineteenth century as strategic rather than wholesale. Chronicling the U.S. occupation of 1912–33, he argues that the anti-American turn of Nicaragua’s most Americanized oligarchs stemmed largely from the efforts of U.S. bankers, marines, and missionaries to spread their own version of the American dream. In part, the oligarchs’ reversal reflected their anguish over the 1920s rise of Protestantism, the “modern woman,” and other “vices of modernity” emanating from the United States. But it also responded to the unintended ways that U.S. modernization efforts enabled peasants to weaken landlord power. Gobat demonstrates that the U.S. occupation so profoundly affected Nicaragua that it helped engender the Sandino Rebellion of 1927–33, the Somoza dictatorship of 1936–79, and the Sandinista Revolution of 1979–90.


The Oxford History of Mexico is a narrative history of the events, institutions and characters that have shaped Mexican history from the reign of the Aztecs through the twenty-first century. When the hardcover edition released in 2000, it was praised for both its breadth and depth--all aspects of Mexican history, from religion to technology, ethnicity, ecology and mass media, are analyzed with insight and clarity. Available for the first time in paperback, the History covers every era in the nation's history in chronological format, offering a quick, affordable reference source for students, scholars and anyone who has ever been interested in Mexico's rich cultural heritage. Scholars have contributed fascinating essays ranging from thematic ("Faith and Morals in Colonial Mexico," "Mass Media and Popular Culture in the Postrevolutionary Era") to centered around one pivotal moment or epoch in Mexican history ("Betterment for Whom? The Reform Period: 1855-1875"). Two such major events are the Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821) and the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), the subjects of several essays in the book. Publication of the reissued edition will coincide with anniversaries of these critical turning points. Essays are updated to reflect new discoveries, advances in scholarship, and occurences of the past decade. A revised glossary and index ensure that readers will have immediate access to any information they seek. William Beezley, co-editor of the original edition, has written a new preface that focuses on the past decade and covers such issues as immigration from Mexico to the United States and the democratization implied by the defeat of the official party in the 2000 and 2006 presidential elections. Beezley also explores the significance of the bicentennial of independence and centennial of the Revolution. With these updates and a completely modern, bold new design, the reissued edition refreshes the beloved Oxford History of Mexico for a new generation.
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