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Posted November 26, 2001
This is Dr. Michael Hogan's latest book, a collection of essays written over the past decade while the author has lived and taught in Guadalajara, Mexico. This is quite possibly his best book, displaying a wide range of topics and an incredible maturity and intelligence that only comes when one's perspectives have been expanded. In one essay, 'Letter to a Troubled Student,' he deals with the Zapatista uprising of Chiapas, Mexico, telling his student that it is not scary that a group of Indians are taking on the Mexican government, but that, in any war, the truth is always the first victim. To him, and to a lot of us, that is truly scary. Through this essay, marked for its open-mindedness and its intelligence, Hogan is able to explain how his fears transcend the egocentric level, acheiving a greater understanding and universality. This is the modus operandi for the rest of the book, which is a collection of essays written in Mexico over a period of the past ten years. They relate the expatriate experience, but they differ from other expatriate books because these essays are observations told through the eyes of a person who is committed to the lifelong quest of knowledge, a person who is committed to learning about his surroundings. All the essays are examples of a deep thought process, and one gets the realization that the author is just as much the teacher as he is the student. One of the best examples of this, and also one of the defining elements of the book itself is the obvious influence that Mexican Poet Octavio Paz had and still has on Hogan¿s life. Paz¿s presence is everywhere in the book; the musicality of his poetry helping Hogan the young boy overcome his stuttering problem, the incisive nature of his essays helping Hogan the teacher in teaching the Odyssey to his ninth graders, the profound depth of his social critiques helping Hogan the human being understand humanity and the Mexican better. This book is a deep, insightful study into the psychology of the expatriate. In my opinion it is a peer to that other great book about the human condition, 'The Labyrinth of Solitude.' It is also the only expatriate book that is fully able to document the reasons why a person chooses to leave his home country. It interacts with the reader on many levels, displaying intelligence, while appealing to the poets, the teachers, the scholars, the human beings in all of us. It also displays a deep love for a country that is not the native land for the author, nor for many expatriates. And it is this love that makes the book, and the essays within so compelling. I am reminded at this point, while searching for the place to end my review, of some lyrics from the song ¿Atlanta¿ by the Stone Temple Pilots. 'Visions of Mexico seduce me, It goes to my head so carefully.'
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Posted October 29, 2001
I've read lot of tour guides on Mexico and, of course, Octavio Paz's great book on the Mexican character. But Hogan's book encapsulates so much more. It explores Mexican music, culture, politics and education. But it also takes the reader to secret gardens, dance halls, and the jungles of Chiapas. Fans of Richard Shelton will enjoy Hogan's naturalism and love of the countryside; lovers of history and poitical intrigue will enjoy his take on U.S. interventions, but what I was most fascinated by were his warnings and predictions for the future of this key Latin American country. The introduction, written by the former U.S. Consul General of Guadalajara is a compelling imprimatur for the quality and truth of this insightful book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.