The tumultuous history of Mexico City presents a daunting overabundance of drama, but Kandell has met the challenge in this monumental, thoroughly researched, eminently readable book that will probably shape the American view of Mexico for some time to come. Kandell (Passage Through El Dorado, 1984) grew up in Mexico City as the child of American expatriates; he later served as Latin American correspondent for the New York Times and saw the beautiful, semirustic world of his childhood grow explosively into a sprawling, urban industrialized giant of 20 million souls--a city whose initial success made it a model of development for the Third World and whose terrible flaws (due in part to unique geography) emerged only over time. Kandell makes an all but seamless transition from journalist to historian, telling the story of the city and the people who created it--Indian, Spanish, African, and mestizo (mixed race; now the majority). He points out unsettling parallels between past and present: early Mexican civilizations that fell when they expanded to the point of ecological disaster; collusion between political rivals (both Aztec and contemporary) that led to the bloody sacrifice of their own men. More hopefully, he reports unlikely (often ambiguous) success stories, showing the Mexicans genius for accomplishing what is not supposed to be possible. The historic account focuses on the capital city but steps beyond when necessary: Spain, during and prior to the colonial period, is discussed; in Mexico, important events of the struggle for independence, the Revolution, and during repeated instances of American armed intervention are covered whether they occurred within the capital or not. A major achievement: not only a splendid portrait of the world's largest city, but also one of the best, most comprehensive overviews of Mexican history available in English.