EL MONSTRUO by John Ross
Kirkus Star


Dread and Redemption in Mexico City
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Longtime Mexico City denizen, social activist and journalist Ross (Zapatistas! Making Another World Possible: Chronicles of Resistance 2000–2006, 2006, etc.) fashions a brave, stirring love letter, cautionary tale and travelogue of his beloved city.

Having personally witnessed a quarter-century of the ebb and flow of Mexican revolution, bloodshed and social cataclysm from his lair at the Hotel Isabel across from the National Library, the author possesses a vivid sense of the complexity of “El Monstruo.” Slaughter, invasion and enslavement have dominated Mexican history, as Ross traces in his vernacular, pithy journey from the establishment of the lake city of Tenochtitlán to the devastation by the Spaniards under Hernán Cortés, subsequent incursions by the French and Yanquis and waves of successive revolutionary violence and civil war. The Mexican capital has inordinate and some might say nefarious influence on the rest of the country. Ross characterizes the Mexican Revolution of 1910 (the “cannibal revolution”) as an age-old struggle on the part of the disgruntled peasantry to wrest power from the grasping oligarchs operating in the capital. The author is thorough and engagingly irreverent, and his focus is broad. He doesn’t skimp on any one period or personality, from the lively Anglo writers who flocked to the city after the revolution, such as Ambrose Bierce, to the drug-addled Beats; the reception of Leon Trotsky and his subsequent murder; Truman’s cynical wooing of Mexico as a “bulwark against the red menace” (he was the first U.S. president to actually visit Mexico City); to the rise of the left, drug wars, high-level corruption, NAFTA, Zapatista insurgency, burgeoning of crime and general misery of the masses. From his binational perch, Ross offers a singular, sympathetic take on Mexican history for American readers, especially regarding the mystifying political machinations since the 1968 Olympic Games.

Monstrously entertaining and tenderhearted view of “Chilango” history on the eve of the centennial of the Mexican Revolution.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-56858-424-9
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Nation Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2009


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