The Mexico Reader

History, Culture, Politics

The Mexico Reader

The Latin America Readers

More about this series

Book Pages: 808 Illustrations: 91 illus. Published: January 2003

General Interest > Travel, Latin American Studies > Mexico

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.


“[A] sweeping yet comprehensive overview of some of the most important historical and literary documents from Mexico’s history. The book is great to pull off a shelf and open to any page; consider it your daily lesson in Mexican history and culture. It’s also in English, so you’ve got no language barrier excuses!” — Colazzo Projects blog

“Anyone who has a keen interest in Mexico—in delving deep into the country’s rich history and culture before going there—would be fascinated by this book.” — June Sawyers , Chicago Tribune

“Gil Joseph and Tim Henderson must be commended for tackling the onerous task of compiling a reader entirely devoted to Mexico…. The Mexico Reader presents a diverse, original, and rare collection of primary and secondary texts…. The Mexico Reader is poised to become a highly prized collection of texts that any instructor will want to use and any student of Mexico will enjoy reading.” — Juliette Levy , New Mexico Historical Review

"[The Mexico Reader] could be the foundation of an exciting course. . . . You will not find a more varied or fearless introductory volume to Mexican Studies. . . . The volume is well presented. . . . Translations . . . are expertly done. . . . The most impressive aspect of the volume is the variety of voices it reveals. . . . Remarkable." — Timothy E. Anna , H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews

"[A] careful selection of articles and texts that cover a wide variety of subjects. . . . Originally written in Spanish, these texts have been masterfully translated into English. . . . [T]he collection can be understood as a survey of intellectual culture in Mexico from a historical perspective, allowing readers to understand how Mexican reality has been conformed, transformed, and adapted. Recommended." — M. R. Lara , Choice

"[A]n exciting, comprehensive, truly superior collection of Mexican literature. . . . In all of my reading about Mexico -- and I have read extensively the old and the new -- I have never experienced a better and more thorough collection of works about this mysterious and marvelous country."
— Wayne Greenhaw , Southern Scribe Reviews

"Teachers will find a tremendous wealth of material in this new anthology, allowing them to choose selections supporting a wide range of historical approaches, and at a surprisingly affordable price. . . . [T]his volume will make a thought provoking read for undergraduate students, for vacationers on the beach in Acapulco, or-a professor's spring break fantasy-or both." — Jeffrey M. Pilcher , The Americas

"The volume's main virtue . . . is that it enables the non-Spanish-speaking reader to actually access a number of arguably key Mexican texts that cannot be obtained elsewhere in translation." — Will Fowler , Bulletin of Latin American Research

"There is an impressive, even passionate, commitment to excavating the embedded cultural, political, and economic reference points that arguably constitute something called a Mexican nationalist imaginary. At the same time, the editors have methodologically sought out the contradictions of that imaginary, offering both official, and many unofficial, voices. The result simultaneously exposes and subverts the nation's foundational fictions. . . . [I]mpressive." — Eric Zolov , Hispanic American Historical Review

"This anthology is obviously destined for classroom use and appears to be suitable for supplemental textbook assignments for both survey and two-part courses in Mexican history." — Colonial Latin American Historical Review

"This volume is a most sincere attempt to depict Mexico in all its complexity, an object carried out superbly and in an altogether unprecedented fashion. Very seldom has a reader, an analytically-challenged subgenre by definition, done as much justice to any Latin American country." — Héctor D. Fernández L'Hoeste, The Latin Americanist

"Three layers of introductions-for the volume, for each section and for each text-provide necessary contextual information, while highlighting emerging themes. Thanks in part to these excellent introductions, students and teachers of Mexico will find that this volume could supplant textbook histories, while giving students access to hundreds of pages of primary sources, well-chosen images and two photo-essays." — Patience A. Schnell, Journal of Latin American Studies

”For any journey through Mexican history, politics, social movements, and popular culture, travelers should start with this fascinating collection. Expertly edited and translated, each document adds to the rich landscape and each is cogently introduced to the reader. The perfect source book for any college course on Mexico from the Aztecs and Mayas to the 21st century.” — John H. Coatsworth, Harvard University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

A Note on Style xiii

Introduction 1

I The Search for "Lo Mexicano"

Introduction 9

The Mexican Character / Joel Poinsett 11

The Cosmic Race / José Vasconcelos 15

The Sons of La Malinche / Octavio Paz 20

The Problem of National Culture / Guillermo Bonfil Batalla 28

Does It Mean Anything to Be Mexican? / Roger Bartra 33

Mexico City 1992 / Alma Guillermoprieto 41

Two Ranchera Songs / José Alfredo Jiménez and Cuco Sánchez 53

II Ancient Civilizations

Introduction 55

The Origins of the Aztecs / Anonymous 57

The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society / Inga Clendinnen 61

Popol Vuh / Anonymous 79

The Meaning of Maize for the Maya / J. Eric Thompson 86

Omens Foretelling the Conquest / Anonymous 92

III Conquest and Colony

Inroduction 95

The Spaniards’ Entry into Tenochtitlán / Bernal Díaz del Castillo and Hernán Cortés 97

Cortés and Montezuma / J.H. Eliott 105

The Battles of Tenochtitlán and Tlateloclo / Anonymous 109

The Spiritual Conquest, Fray Jerónimo de Mendieta 114

Why the Indians Are Dying / Alonso de Zorita 122

The Colonial Latifundio / Enrique Florescano 131

A Baroque Archbishop-Viceroy / Irving Leonard 141

On Men's Hypocrisy / Sor Juana 156

The Itching Parrot, the Priest, and the Subdelegate / José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi 160

IV Trials of the Young Republic

Introduction 169

The Siege of Guanajuato / Lucas Alamán 171

Sentiments of the Nation / José María Morelos 189

Plan of Iguala / Agustín de Iturbide 192

Women and War in Mexico / Frances Calderón de la Barca 196

The Glorious Revolution of 1844 / Guillermo Prieto 206

Décimas Dedicated to Santa Anna’s Leg / Anonymous 213

War and Finance, Mexican Style / Juan Bautista Morales 217

A Conservative Procession of Faith / The Editors of El Tiempo 220

Considerations Relating to the Political and Social Situation / Mariana Otero 226

Liberals and the Land / Luis Gonzáles y Gonzáles 239

Standard Plots and Rural Resistance / Raymond B. Craib 252

Offer to the Crown to Maximilian / Junta of Conservative Notables 263

A Letter from Mexico / Empress Carlotta 265

The Triumph of the Republic / Benito Juárez 270

Pofirio Díaz Visits Yucatán / Channing Arnold and Frederick J. Tabor Frost 273

Scenes from a Lumber Camp / B. Traven 279

President Díaz, Hero of the Americas / James Creelman 285

Gift of the Skeletons / Anonymous 292

Special Section

Mexican History in Photographs / John Mraz 297

V Revolution

Introduction 333

Land and Liberty / Ricardo Flores Magón 339

The Restoration of the Ejido / Luis Cabrera 344

Zapatistas in the Palace / Martín Luis Guzmán 351

Mexico Has Been Turned into a Hell / William O. Jenkins 357

Pancho Villa / John Reed 364

La Punitiva / Anonymous 372

Pedro Martinez / Oscar Lewis 375

Juan the Chamula / Ricardo Pozas 387

The Constitution of 1917: Articles 27 and 123 398

An Agrarian Encounter / Rosalie Evans 403

Ode to Cuanhtémoc / Carlos Pellicer 406

The Socialist ABC's / Anonymous 411

The Ballad of Valentin of the Sierra / Anonymous 418

Mexico Must Become a Nation of Institutions and Laws / Plutarco Elias Calles 421

The Formation of the Single-Party state / Carlos Fuentes 426

The Rough and Tumble Career of Pedro Crespo / Gilbert M. Joseph and Allen Wells 428

A Convention in Zacapu / Salvador Lemus Fernandez 439

The Agrarian Reform in La Laguna / Fernando Benitez 445

The Oil Expropriation / Josephus Daniels 452

Cardenas and the Masses / Arturo Anguiano 456

VI The Perils of Modernity

Introduction 461

They Gave Us the Land / Juan Rulfo 465

Mexico's Crisis / Daniel Cosio Villegas 470

Struggles of a Campesino Leader / Ruben Jaramillo 482

Art and Corruption / David Alfaro Siqueiros 492

The Two faces of Acapulco during the Golden Age / Andrew Sackett 500

Mexico / Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett 511

The Dark Deeds of "El Negro" Durazo / José González G. 512

The Sinking City / Joel Simon 520

Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl / Roberto Vallarino 536

Modesta Gomez / Rosario Castellanos 545

VII From the Ruins

Introduction 553

The Student Movement of 1968 / Elena Poniatowska 555

El Santo's Strange Career / Anne Rubenstein 570

After the Earthquake / Victims' Coordinating Council 579

Letters to Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas / Anonymous 591

Corazón del Rocanrol / Rubén Martínez 598

I Don't Believe Them at All / Maldita Vecindad y los Hijos del Quinto Patio 612

The COCEI of Juchitan, Oaxaca: Two Documents / Leopoldo de Gyves de la Cruz and COCEI 619

Women of Juchitan / Jeffrey W. Rubin 625

EZLN Demands at the Dialogue Table / Zapatista Army of National Liberation 638

The Long Journey from Despair to Hope / Subcomandante Marcos 646

A Tzotzil Chronicle / Marian Peres Tsu 655

Debtors' Revenge / Heather Williams 670

Mexicans Would Not Be Bought, Coerced / Wayne A. Cornelius 684

VIII The Border and Beyond

Introduction 687

Plan of San Diego / Anonymous 689

The Mexican Connection / Rudolfo Acuña 692

The Maquiladoras / William Langewiesche 698

Dompe Days / Luis Alberto Urrea 708

Pedro P., Coyote / Judith Adler Hellman 717

There's a Party Going On in Texas / Anonymous 728

Two Poems about Immigrant Life / Pat Mora and Gina Valdes 731

The Deadly Harvest of the Sierra Madre / Alan Weisman 734

Two Songs about Drug Smuggling / Salomé Guitérrez and Paulino Vargas 747

The New World Border / Guillermo Gómez-Peña 750

Suggestions for Further Reading 757

Acknowledgment of Copyrights 763

Index 773

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3042-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3006-6
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