The Life and Times of Mexico

Overview

A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2004. "A work of scope and profound insight into the divided soul of Mexico."—History TodayThe Life and Times of Mexico is a grand narrative driven by 3,000 years of history: the Indian world, the Spanish invasion, Independence, the 1910 Revolution, the tragic lives of workers in assembly plants along the border, and the experiences of millions of Mexicans who live in the United States. Mexico is seen here as if it were a person, but in the Aztec way; the mind, the heart, ...

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The Life and Times of Mexico

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Overview

A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2004. "A work of scope and profound insight into the divided soul of Mexico."—History TodayThe Life and Times of Mexico is a grand narrative driven by 3,000 years of history: the Indian world, the Spanish invasion, Independence, the 1910 Revolution, the tragic lives of workers in assembly plants along the border, and the experiences of millions of Mexicans who live in the United States. Mexico is seen here as if it were a person, but in the Aztec way; the mind, the heart, the winds of life; and on every page there are portraits and stories: artists, shamans, teachers, a young Maya political leader; the rich few and the many poor. Earl Shorris is ingenious at finding ways to tell this story: prostitutes in the Plaza Loreto launch the discussion of economics; we are taken inside two crucial elections as Mexico struggles toward democracy; we watch the creation of a popular "telenovela" and meet the country's greatest living intellectual. The result is a work of magnificent scope and profound insight into the divided soul of Mexico.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This threatens to be one more of those hefty tomes that Mexico has a way of inspiring. But fear not: this 3,000-year history not only distinguishes itself in a field of worthy contenders but does so with flair and insight. An essayist, novelist (Under the Fifth Sun), sociologist (Latinos: A Biography of the People) and National Humanities Medal recipient, Shorris employs his Renaissance man-of-letters credentials to great effect here. Eschewing a more traditional political point of entry to the U.S.'s southern neighbor, he structures a series of narratives, vignettes and analysis around the Aztec concepts of head, heart and liver. Tonalli, the center of vital power, is the section on history and philosophy. Teyolia, the soul located in the heart, treats art and literature, family and essential character. Ihiyotl, located in the liver, is the center of survival and covers education, economics, politics, corruption and race. Shorris closes with a look to the future and two oral histories, deliberately contrasting "other, far less edited" voices with his own. Though there are more than a few moments when Shorris's prose veers dangerously close to purple, the overall effect is a beautiful, passionate and powerful account of a nation that American readers can ill afford to ignore. 32 pages of illus., 3 maps not seen by PW. (Aug. 16) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The history and culture of Mexico from prehistory to the present are brilliantly presented in this comprehensive work by respected author Shorris (Under the Fifth Sun). The author points out that the past has always had a pervasive influence in Mexico and that the country looks to its history to define itself. To emphasize this aspect of the Mexican outlook, Shorris skillfully interweaves examples of modern Mexican life with a chronological historical narrative in a seamless exposition of the factors that have led to the modern Mexican worldview and to current trends in its politics, religion, social issues, and the arts. Shorris's insightful and perceptive analysis probes the depths of the Mexican character in a way that brings new understanding of a people who have endured a turbulent past. Through his detailed examination of the many facets of Mexican history and life, Shorris successfully captures the vibrant nature of the spirit of Mexico. Highly recommended for history and Latin American studies collections in academic and large public academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.]-Elizabeth Salt, Otterbein Coll. Lib., Westerville, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A superb portrait of Mexico, a nation still in the process of being built-perhaps, hopes Shorris (In the Yucatan, 2000, etc.), by "inserting freedom and fairness into its past in order to change its future."It is an old trope, old even in Octavio Paz and Alfonso Reyes's time, to suggest that Mexico is a country haunted by history. But so it is, and Shorris points out with reason that "everything that happens in Mexico today has roots in the clash of civilizations that took place at the beginning of the sixteenth century, from the choice of a president to the killing of Indians in the jungles of Chiapas." That clash had improbable results, writes Shorris; the conquistadores, only a few hundred in number, under the lawyer Cortez should not have been able to overwhelm the great Aztec Empire. Yet it happened, and Mexico's post-conquest history has been marked by struggle between Europeans and Indians for political power; the lowliest Spanish arrivals, however poor and disreputable, were socially superior to the best-educated and wealthiest creoles, to say nothing of the indigenes. Shorris's narrative approach is at once journalistic (he's spent a lot of time on Mexican ground over more than half a century) and historical (he's read every book ever written, it seems, on Mexico's past). It is also exquisitely literary, for Shorris believes that Mexico is driven by ideas such as the revolutionary antipositivism of the Flores Mag-n and the quasi-anti-Mexicanism of the newest generation of authors, who call themselves the Crack Generation (which "refers not to 'crack' as 'rock cocaine,' but to 'crack' as in la Ruptura"). He is not so literary, though, as to explain away with metaphor some ofMexico's darkest secrets, among them the Dirty War of the 1970s, when government stooges murdered liberals at a rate to rival Argentina and Chile. Shorris closes by considering Mexico's binational future (one in ten citizens now live in the US), the battle to end corruption, and the struggle to replace creaky authoritarian parties with democratic ones. As useful in its time as Alan Riding's Distant Neighbors was 20 years ago.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393327670
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/16/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 935,441
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 2.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Earl Shorris (1936–2012) is the author of many works of both fiction and non-fiction including Latinos, Under the Fifth Sun, In the Language of Kings, and Riches for the Poor. He was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Clinton for his founding of the Clemente Course in the Humanities®, Inc.

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Table of Contents

Saturday stories
First homage to the memorious old man of Agua Prieta
Bk. 1 The head (Tonalli)
1 Definitions 5
2 In the beginning... 17
3 Realpolitik and dreams 35
4 An imperfect likeness 50
5 The shaman's apprentice 66
6 The god of bread and the god of corn 77
7 Mesoamerican origins of generosity 87
8 The envious origins of generosity 94
9 The chosen people 110
10 The fate of independents 123
11 The conception of the Aztec 137
12 His royal highness 152
13 Centripetal forces 167
14 The defeat of Auguste Comte 189
15 Revolutionary dreams 215
16 The spirit of Madero 227
17 The land of Zapata 245
18 Villa's angels 253
19 Carranza, Obregon, Calles, and the constitution 268
20 The dream of a word 275
21 Totalitarian threads 284
Bk. 2 The heart (Teyolia)
22 The Werejaguar 345
23 Diego Rivera's dogs 355
24 The nationality of the rose 363
25 Once there was a circle 383
26 Real magic 399
27 The reinforcement of the worst 428
Bk. 3 The liver (Ihiyotl)
28 Indio, Lepero, Pelado, Naco : four stages of race and class 459
29 A savage bite 480
30 A dearth of beginners 502
31 Maquiladora nation 527
32 Where the future falls 544
33 The science of dismal prospects 566
34 Alternations 591
35 Doctors 632
36 The ninth Mexican 645
Bk. 4 Tonalamatl
37 The book of predictions 681
App Two oral histories
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