Book Report

The History of Mexico, by Amy Hunter. 2009. Mason Crest Publishers, www.masonrest.com. 63 pp. $15.95.
BY: JEANNINE PEREZ

"You can only understand a nation's present by looking at its past." (Blurb on the book cover.) This book, written for teens, is an interesting and easy read, full of photos and illustrations. Although it's geared towards a younger demographic, it still gives travelers and new residents of Mexico a quick rundown on this country's colorful history. I always try to begin by reading young people's books whenever I need to research any new or complex topic, and this book works well for that.

Beginning with an introduction and a brief overview of Mexican history - covering ancient to modern (2009) politics and economics - this book continues with details about the first Mexican culture, believed to be the Olmecs who are thought to have been in Mexico as early as 2000 B.C. The Olmec period of Mexican history gave us many treasures, including those giant head sculptures that combined human and jaguar features (all of them wearing helmets).

Facts about the Mayan and Aztec cultures, complete with colored illustrations, give the reader a tantalizing taste of these long ago eras (including the legend behind Mexico City's beginnings). And then we come to the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico, as Hernan Cortez enters Mexico through Veracruz. Of course, no one at that time realized Cortez was about to change the Mexican culture forever. Next comes the subsequent conquest of Mexico by the Spanish.

The third chapter contains portraits and descriptions of the men who were important players in Mexico's struggle for independence from Spain, and the fourth chapter, "The Unrest Continues," chronicles the struggles Mexico faced as it attempted to establish a government and draft a constitution. The portraits of Santa Anna and Juarez help us understand the people of that era, and the times in which they lived.

The fifth chapter introduces more faces from that confusing era, including Diaz, Poncho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Madero and the others who were all struggling for power. We next read about the revolution, the new constitution that was adopted in 1917, still more unrest and the beginning of reform in 1921. Chapter six gives the reader insight into the future, telling us of Mexico's modern day hopes.

This book is brief, and I've sped through many centuries of fascinating history in writing just these few descriptive paragraphs, but this small book has been valuable to my understanding of Mexico today. It has given me the historical highlights, flavor, and perspective of many different times and personages, and I have now also developed a greater curiosity to know still more details of Mexico's colorful, and sometimes violent, history.

On page 60, there is a glossary of words and terms used in the book, and at the bottom of page 61 there is a list of suggested further reading, along with some Internet resources. I think I will check them out, and try to order some of the recommended books.

This small volume is only a tantalizing taste of the complex history of Mexico, offering basic information that is easy to understand and remember. You can find copies at El Caballo Blanco bookstore in Loreto. That would be my bookstore and I'd love you to come on by! Email me at betojeannine@google.com.