FW: info re conference in Oaxaca
FW: info re conference in Oaxaca
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Subject: Re: info re conference in Oaxaca
Here's an annotated bibliography on Mexico I prepared in 1998 for students,
travelers and the general public. It's eclectic (as was my course, Peoples &
Cultures of Mexico) and tries to provide something for most tastes. Carmack,
et.al., THE LEGACY OF MESOAMERICA, is an especially detailed and
comprehensive ethnohistory, perhaps the best anthropological treatment of
Mesoamerica as of 1998.
Some Recent Writings in English
Alan Riding's Distant Neighbors (1985) served for a number of years as
the one book in English people read to gain an understanding of Mexico. As
of this writing, one book no longer serves that purpose. Mexico and its
complicated relationships with the United States are changing rapidly and
continuously. What follows is a highly selected and somewhat annotated list
of books and other writings available in English. The topics vary widely and
the list ought to provide something for nearly everyone with an interest in
learning more about Mexico.
Adventures in Mexico: A Newsletter on Retirement and Travel in Mexico.
Written by a retired American couple living in Guadalajara, each
bimonthly issue features a particular city or area which the authors have
recently visited. The newsletter is replete with information on hotels,
restaurants, places to visit, services available and real estate (rent or
buy), information you can use whether you're coming "for a week, a month or
the rest of your life" (authors' words). The authors include current prices
and freely offer their opinions on the current state of things. Some of the
more popular areas are repeated with updates every few years. Annual
subscription is US$16.00 by personal check to AIM, Apartado Postal 31-70,
Guadalajara 45050, Jalisco, Mexico. I have some back issues you may borrow.
Castañeda, Jorge G.:
The Mexican Shock: Its Meaning for the U.S. New York. The New Press,
1995. This is a collection of writings, some originally published elsewhere,
by this respected Mexican political scientist. The author "examines the key
issues in Mexican life: the impact of emigration, the relationship between
politics and economics, and the enormous cultural changes taking place as
Mexico moves closer to the United States" (from the dust jacket). Included
is the article published in the Atlantic Monthly, July, 1995, which inspired
our Mexico Year theme.
Carmack, Robert M., Janine Gasco and Gary H. Gossen:
The Legacy of Mesoamerica: History and Culture of a Native American
Civilization. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice-Hall, 1996 (Exploring
Cultures: a Prentice-Hall Series in Anthropology.) This is a history of the
cultural descendants of the high civilizations of Middle America, the
portions of Mexico and Central America labeled "Mesoamerica" by cultural
historians and anthropologists. It focuses on culture from the common
people's perspectives, rather than the "great person/momentous event" view of
history. The first section of the book is historical-chronological; the
second section treats selected topics, including religion, women and gender,
political and cultural economy, language and literature. Though the style
and level of writing is more for Mesoamerican scholars and specialists than
for students or the general public, the work summarizes and synthesizes very
well the theories and perspectives on what we know today about Mesoamerica.
Cassidy, Picot, editor:
In Mexico. St. Paul, MN. EMC Publishing, 1988. A slim paperback
designed for people who plan to travel to Mexico. Includes practical advice
on getting around, customs, useful phrases in Spanish and some of what to see
Culture Shock! Mexico: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette. Portland, OR.
Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co. 1998. 222 pages. Border's price:
$12.95. A PhD scholar turned adverturer writes about Mexico from a decidedly
personal but knowledgeable point of view. Includes an excellent summary of
the highlights of Mexican history, brief but first-hand descriptions of major
cities, and many profiles of people based on anecdotes from the author's
personal experiences. Topics include religion, sexual relationships,
politics, survival skills and a glossary of Mexican street Spanish. Current,
insightful and authoritative. If you have time to read one book on Mexico,
I'd recommend this one.
(Note: The travel sections of trade bookstores contain over a dozen books
on Mexican travel, most updated annually. Any of these, including the
American Automobile Association's Mexico Tour Book, are replete with
practical information and quite informative. I've included only the
following three items because they're somewhat exceptional in several ways.)
Cummings, Joe and Chicki Mallan:
Mexico Handbook. Chico, CA. Moon Publications, latest edition (updated
periodically). One of the most complete travel handbooks available; includes
all aspects of where to go, where to stay, what to see and how much to expect
to pay. Also information on foods, history, geography, flora and fauna.
(Chicki Mallan also writes Yucatan Handbook for which the same comments
The People's Guide to Mexico (5th ed., 1979; latest ed. 1998) and The
People's guide to Backpacking, Boating & Camping in Mexico (1981). Santa Fe,
NM. John Muir Publications. Both are unusual and extremely helpful books
for those who want to visit non-tourist Mexico, either know or are willing to
learn some Spanish and are not afraid to confront the excitement and
adventure of meeting strangers on their own terms. Topics include public
transportation, traveling cheap, cooking in Mexico, tourists and the law, and
(in the second work), camping, fishing, diving and foraging, staying healthy
and red tape.
The Buried Mirror: Reflections on Spain and the New World. Boston, MA.
Houghton-Mifflin, 1992. This is a beautiful, elegant book by one of Mexico's
leading novelists which provides a sweeping cultural chronicle of Spain's
considerable influence on all of the Americas, though Mexico is featured
prominently. Also available is the five-part video series of the same title,
personally narrated by Fuentes.
A New Time for Mexico. Berkeley, CA. University of California Press,
1997 (1996, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc. Originally published in Spanish
in 1994). Paperback, 226 pages. ISBN: 0-520-21183-9. Border's price
$12.95. Commenting on current events against the backdrop of Mexican
history, Fuentes likens recent events of "corruption, political
assassinations, economic crisis, drug traffic . . " to the magical realism of
Latin American novels where "fiction manages to beat history." . . and which
"The writer's imagination . . cannot surpass . ."
Hellman, Judith Adler:
Mexican Lives. New York. The New Press, 1994. "This book tells the
stories of fifteen Mexicans-how they live, how they work, and how they view
the future. . . In a series of one-on-one conversations, these men and women
put a human face on the broad processes that usually come under abstract
headings like 'structural adjustment' or 'globalization of production.'"
(From the Introduction.) "Mexican Lives succeeds in giving us an insightful
look into the daily struggle of a cross-section of Mexicans and in drawing
some thought-provoking conclusions." (Andres Oppenheimer, Washington Post,
from the back cover.)
Inside Mexico. New York. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1994 (originally
published asThe Mexicans: An Inside View of a Changing Society by
Renaissance Publications, Worthington, OH, 1993). ISBN: 0-471-08979-6.
Border's price $15.95. A slim but informative little paperback that focuses
on Mexican customs and cultural practices (e.g., relationships between men
and women, religion, manners, dress and appearance, etc.) and contrasts them
with their counterparts in the U.S. (Currently out of print.)
Aztec. New York. Atheneum, 1980 (Avon paperback edition 1982). In
this, an historical novel about the period immediately following the Spanish
Conquest of Mexico, author Jennings uses James Michener's literary device of
creating a fictional character, Mixtli, an Aztec citizen, whom he places in a
series of historical circumstances. Mixtli rubs elbows and converses with
actual historical personages and finds himself involved in numerous of the
momentous events which irrevocably changed the course of Mexican history.
Like Michener, Jennings also researched his subject well, and fills his novel
with excitement, sex, lust, adventure and intrigue. It's a good read and you
learn something of this most important period in Mexican history.
Mexico: Biography of Power.:A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996. New
York. Harper-Collins, 1997 (paperback edition 1998). ISBN: 0-06-016325-9.
Border's price $18.00. Krause is one of Mexico's leading historians, often
interviewed on U.S. television news shows. I haven't read this yet but I'd
recommend it based on the author's reputation.
Mexico: A Higher Vision (an aerial journey from past to present)
La Jolla, CA. Alti Publishing, 1990. Introduction by Carlos Fuentes;
photography by Michael Calderwood. This is a beautiful coffee table book
featuring breathtaking photographs of Mexico from a helicopter; accompanying
text. A 20-minute video is available from the same publisher in Spanish and
English versions (the former narrated by Ricardo Montalbán, the latter by
Mexico NewsPak: A Bi-Weekly News and Resource Update from the Documentation
Exchange, Austin, Texas
This is a digest of newspaper articles from both the Mexican and U.S.
press on aspects of Mexican politics, economy and society. It is heavily
weighted toward the "darker" side of Mexican culture, and documents many of
the human rights violations that occur. Typical topic areas include
rebellion, political graft and corruption, drug dealings and other crimes,
injustices from both sides of the border and foreign policy between the U.S.
and Mexico. Available at US$22.00 for a 6-month subscription (US$42/year)
from The Documentation Exchange, P.O. Box 2327, Austin, TX 78768.
Michener, James A.:
Mexico (a novel). New York. Random House, 1992. "Norman Clay, an
American journalist, arrives in Mexico not only to report on the decisive
duel between two celebrated matadors but also to learn more about his
family's past. As he uncovers the story of his Mexican ancestors-among them
an indomitable Indian queen, a conquistador priest, and a Confederate
expatriate-the dramatic history of Mexico unfolds . . . Mr. Michener began to
write this novel in 1961. After many months of research and writing he put
it aside . . . Thirty years later, he discovered the lost manuscript and set
to work completing it." (From the dust jacket.)
"Emerging Mexico, A Special Issue." Volume 190, Number 2. August, 1996.
A good summary treatment of contemporary Mexico with the magazine's
typically excellent photographs and maps.
O'Reilly, James and Larry Habegger:
Travelers' Tales: Mexico. San Francisco. Travelers' Tales, Inc., 1994.
One of a series from various countries, this is an anthology of writings by
various writers describing their personal experiences while traveling in
Mexico. For example, Alan Riding discusses language usage, Kate Simon
(author of Mexico: Places and Pleasures) describes an experience with
mushrooms and healing. The writings are generally brief, very individual and
The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait of a People. New York. Morrow, 1989.
This is a collection of detailed interviews with Mexicans from many
different walks of life, grouped in three sections titled "Conditions,"
"Politics" and "Values." While each person interviewed represents a common
"type" of Mexican (e.g., a maid, a policeman, a fire-swallower, member of one
or another major political party), each tells a unique and individual story.
The book does not stereotype (for example, the policeman interviewed was
thoroughly honest and did not take bribes, contrary to the common image of
Mexican police). Readers discover for themselves the threads that bind
together Mexican culture as they read each individual interview. The author,
a journalist, served as Mexico City bureau chief for Knight-Ridder Newspapers.
Distant Neighbors:: A Portrait of the Mexicans. New York. Knopf, 1985.
Still a very good general source. Somewhat dated in terms of recent
political and economic developments; contains good summary chapters on
Mexican history and excellent descriptive sections on contemporary Mexican
society (family, social class, ethnicity, internal politics and
demographics). Riding is a journalist and served as Mexico bureau chief for
the New York Times.
Re Cruz, Alicia:
The Two Milpas of Chan Kom: Scenarios of a Maya Village Life. Albany.
State University of New York Press, 1996. This book is an outgrowth of the
author's doctoral research in the anthropologically well-known village of
Chan Kom in the state of Yucatan. To the standard anthropological topics of
migration, factionalism, symbolic systems and political economy, Prof. Re
Cruz adds many of her personal experiences, perspectives and insights on the
ever-so resilient and enduring people of this small village community. She
also sheds light on the dynamic and evolving relationship between the village
and the international tourism industry of Cancún. (Prof. Re Cruz was a DMACC
Mexico Week presenter).
Macho. Houston, TX. Arte Publico Press, University of Houston, 1991
(originally published 1973). This is a social novel set in the 60's that the
author chose to reissue without change because (in his words): " . . . hell,
the 60's were the 60's and that's who I was then . . .It's rough and
sometimes sings as badly off key as Bob Dylan-but what it says is still
important." The novel chronicles a young man's journey from Mexico to the
U.S. and back again, and provides considerable insight into relationships
between Mexican men and women, issues of emigration to the U.S. and the
trials and triumphs of the human spirit. Villaseñor's "spareness of style"
has been compared to that of John Steinbeck.
Wild Steps of Heaven. New York. Delacorte Press, 1996. Technically a
better novel than Macho, this is a colorful saga of the author's family on
the eve of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and depicts the passions, tragedy,
pain, courage, faith and sheer love of life that has always been part of the
Mexican spirit. Told with humor, mythology and poetic imagery, the author's
family story reflects the scope of Mexican history. Villaseñor resides in
southern California where he grew up; he has written other works of both
fiction and non-fiction, including the screenplay for the award-winning The
Ballad of Gregorio Cortez.