This latest of Lila Perl's sweeping overviews projects Mexico as a land of three cultures--Indian, Spanish, and their modern, Americanized synthesis. From this vantage point she looks backward to the pre-Conquest civilizations, the Spanish influence, and the various changes in government during the 19th century. Of this, the political history could serve as an orienting summary (but then so would an encyclopedic entry), but the material on Indian civilizations is less condensed than truncated and spotty. Later sections (emphasizing the poverty of the majority and the U.S. influence on middle-class customs and buying habits) deal with Mexican holidays, arts, and village and city life today, all in terms of the three-culture ""crucible,"" and with the political system which Perl characterizes as ""technically authoritarian"" but not as bad as the world's ""blatant dictatorships."" Again, precision and intimacy are sacrificed for the sake of Perl's broad coverage, but these later sections are more likely to fill a gap at this level. And overall, like other Perl surveys, this is eminently convenient.