A comprehensive, generously illustrated chronicle of Mexican history from conqueror Cortés to singer Selena.
Following their lucid introduction, editors Meyer (History/Univ. of Arizona) and Beezley (History/Univ. of Arizona) divide their engaging text into five major chronological sections, offering a total of 20 essays written by an impressive cast of experts on a wide variety of subjects. They begin with an analysis of the 16th-century Spanish customs and cultural assumptions that Cortés and his men brought with them to the New World. A fine chapter on the native Mayan, Aztec, and other Mesoamerican cultures follows. Next is a description of the collision of the two worlds that reveals how Cortés was able to succeed against sheer numbers because of his ability to divide the Indians politically. Subsequent chapters deal with the growth of New Spain, the uniquely Mexican character that Catholicism assumed in the region (“the combination of African and native traditions led to interesting religious forms”), and the struggle for Mexican independence (achieved in1821). Although Meyer and Beezley maintain a steady chronological progression, they also offer chapters on such subjects as disease and ecology, relations with the US, and the arts (especially interesting are the accounts of Diego Rivera and of Mexico’s other celebrated muralists). All the contributors are particularly adept at viewing well-known events from Mexican perspectives (the Battle of the Alamo, for example, consumes barely a sentence in Christon Archer’s damning evaluation of President Santa Anna as “the principal inhabitant even today of Mexico’s black pantheon of those who failed the nation”). The disastrous 1846–48 war with the US receives its due, as do the exploits of Juárez, Maximilian, Zapata, and Villa. Later essays deal with the emergence of Mexico as a modern state and its struggles to develop an economy sufficiently robust to provide for its impoverished segments.
A rich mosaic of culture, history, economics, and politics. (180 b&w photos, 16 pages color, not seen)