Saturday, July 12, 2014
Distant Neighbors - Authored by Alan Riding
I made a note of his name and subsequently looked him up on the internet. Aah, I discovered he had a book on Mexico and promptly ordered it on Amazon in paperback. If I remember correctly, it was only available in paperback as it was published back in the 80's. Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ordered a book to be sent to Mexico from Amazon!
Usually, reading a book takes a day or possibly two for me to read. THIS one has been a month. At first, I was so enamored with all the information and comments that were so right on that I turned down pages. Let me say, I don't usually turn down pages and never on a hardback book. The next time I picked up the book I realized I had turned down 8 or 10 pages. So, out came the highlighter. It has been at least 10 years, if not longer, since I have taken the time to highlight a book. Again, never a hardback. This book has so much information that I didn't want to forget or poignant comments that I wanted to remember, that the book now looks florescent yellow inside.
My history with Mexico goes back to 1974. My love affair began then. I've read a zillion books during the ensuing years, but, never, have I read a book that has this undercurrent of energy and affection for the Mexican people that this book does. It's hard to explain. Alan Riding is a fantastic writer and researcher.
I can't possibly imagine how long it took for him to write this.
It goes over the pre Conquest history, each ruler of Mexico, various parts of Mexico and the oncoming industrialization instead of agrarian society. He talks about the indigenous peoples of Mexico who fear, still to this day I might add, the assimilation by the Mestizo to dilute their culture. That plus the well meaning missionaries and gringos who want them to learn the ways of the USA, when their cultures are so much purer.
The book talks in depth about the political party PRI and then PAN. In addition the development of various areas of Mexico and the families who were instrumental in that movement.
Since it was published in 1984, which was the cusp of the growth of the democracy along with the huge beginning of industrialization and exportation brought on successfully by NAFTA, I wish a sequel had been written.
In my humble opinion, Mexico has changed more since 1984 and especially since 1992 when NAFTA took effect then it has in all of its history. I'd love to hear Mr. Riding's take on all of this.
It turns out he was born in Brazil but educated in England. He began his career as a correspondent in Latin America - writing for The Financial Times and The Economist. Then for six years he was bureau chief for the New York Times from 84 to 89. He was also The NYTimes bureau chief in Brazil. I checked to see if he had written a follow up but, alas no. He has just published a book on Paris which I want to read.
Interesting as I always equate Mexico City and Paris together. There are so many similarities, again, in my opinion.
Hopefully, you can read Carlos Fuentes comment along with others about the book on the back cover. His enthusiasm matches mine.
As we watch the quagmire at the border, it becomes more and more apparent to me that the US government and the politicians have no idea about their neighbors to the South. It is appalling and embarrassing to observe. IF I had the money, I would order a copy of this book for each and every one of them to read.
Maybe it would help, somewhat.
To me this book was as though the author presented Mexico as a flower. He gently peeled back each petal lovingly as he shared its history, its culture and its people. A lovely, lovely learning experience.