Book Report

The History of Mexico, by Amy Hunter. 2009. Mason Crest Publishers, 63 pp. $15.95.

"You can only understand a nation's present by looking at its past" says the blurb on the cover. This book, written for teens, is an interesting and easy read, full of photos and illustrations. It can also (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 economy in Mexico, this book continues with details about the first Mexican culture, believed to be the Olmec, who are thought to have been here in Mexico as early as 2000 B.C. The Olmec period of Mexican history bequeathed us many treasures, including those giant head sculptures that combined human and jaguar features, (and all of them wearing helmets, what's up with that?)

Facts about the Mayan and Aztec cultures, complete with colored illustrations, give the reader a tantalizing taste of those long ago eras, including the legend behind Mexico City's beginnings and then, of course we come to the Conquest; the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico when Hernan Cortez enters Mexico through the port of Veracruz. Of course, no one in that time realizes that Cortez is about to change the Mexican culture forever. Next then, 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 continuing struggles, as Mexico attempts to establish a government and draft a constitution.  Again, the portraits there of Santa Anna and Juarez can help us understand the people of that era, and the times in which they lived.

The fifth chapter shows more faces of the personages in that confusing era; Diaz, Poncho Villa , and Emiliano Zapata, and Francisco Madero and the others who are all fighting for power. We next read about the Revolution, a new Constitution that was adopted in 1917, still more unrest, and the beginning of reform in 1921. Mexico has had a very turbulent history. Maybe that's why they have such a colorful culture.

Chapter six gives the reader an eye to 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 these few descriptive paragraphs, but this slender volume has been valuable to my understanding of Mexico today. It has given me the historical highlights, the flavor, and perspective of many different times and people, and I have also developed a great curiosity to know still more details of Mexico's colorful, sometimes violent, and always wonderful history, and additional stories of "courage and loyalty, violence and betrayal". Of course I can call it a wonderful history since I didn't have to live through it.

On page 60 there is a glossary of words and terms used in the book, and at the bottom of page 61, I also found a list of suggested further reading, and some Internet resources. I think I will check them out, and try to order some of the 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's my book store, do drop in.